My public work of art is The Ridgewood Theater that is about two blocks away from my house and is located on Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens that borders the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale, as well as the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick. This community is home of families of diverse backgrounds, including Hispanic Americans (Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Ecuadorians), Eastern Europeans (Polish, Romanian, Albanian), and Arabs. I read in the Bushwick Newspaper, the local newspaper, that historically Ridgewood was a German neighborhood.
The social and ethnic backgrounds in the locality were not the only things that changed. The whole culture around films and movie houses (as they were called in the past), in USA was altered dramatically too, particularly because of the advent of television, Internet, DVD and gigantic cinema companies such as AMC and REGAL. Ridgewood was not the exception, for that reason many people in this area choose chain movie theaters as the Regal multiplex at Atlas Park or AMC theaters in Manhattan.
I moved to this area 6 months ago, and when I saw that old theater mix feelings started to emerge inside of me. The first one I felt was melancholy because my passion in life is film and I know how important was this kind of entertainment for people back in the old days. I did not know the story of the Ridgewood Theater, and when in my class of Art, Politics and Protest, the professor asked me to show an example of public art in my neighborhood, the first thing that came to my mind was the story behind this theater.
I did some research about this place, and I found out important information. The theater was first opened on December 23rd in 1916, for this reason is considered the "longest continuously operating first-run theater countrywide" until its closure in 2008. During the time it was opened, the Ridgewood Theater witnessed the evolution of film and the American cinematic history, from black and white to full vivid color, and from silent to sounded films. The theater was designed by the architect Thomas White Lamb ((1871 - 1942), who was one of the foremost American theater and cinema architects in the 20th century. The Ridgewood Theater exhibited one of the earliest designs of the architect who built more than 300 theaters around the city, the country and around the world, in countries like Canada, England, Egypt, India, Australia and South Africa.
Sadly in early March 2008, the Ridgewood Theatre was suddenly closed without any warning. The banners went up and the marquee advertising of the building was not announcing a movie, but a sign of availability of retail use. Hoping to save the theater, from demolition and reconstruction, a coalition of preservationists and community groups joined together to support the building and in November of 2008, after it was closed the facade has been landmarked by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission's.
Last week I had a chance to see the main level of the Ridgewood Theater for the first time, I asked the person who is in charge of the vigilance of the building and he allowed me to take a look inside. The first thing I saw was a beautiful column near to the door, the Theater looked to be in pretty decent shape inside. It seemed clean and well cared. It was dark inside, and I could not stay too long, but it was nice to see the interior.
In my opinion I would consider Ridgewood Theater to be included in the NYC’s 2010 exhibition for many reasons, first because this theater is part of the film history of New York City, and it is a testimony of the glorious past of the American classic film period, second the facade is a beautiful work of architecture and third because represents the changing times in the evolution of the community of Ridgewood
REGO-FOREST PRESERVATION COUNCIL
TO PRESERVE AND COMMEMORATE THE ARCHITECTURAL & CULTURAL HISTORY OF REGO PARK & FOREST HILLS, & ADJACENT NEIGHBORHOODS OF QUEENS, NY.