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  • Within recent years, Brooklyn has become a place that many artists have flocked to. One such artist is Dianna Carlin, who has been active within the Brooklyn arts scene since 2000. Carlin who is better known as Lola Star, has become a local celebrity through her popular Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Disco. Dreamland Roller Disco first opened in 2010 and combined Carlin’s love of rollerskating and the glamor of Coney Island for a wide audience to enjoy. However, the skating rink sadly closed in 2010.

    After four years of searching for new location, Dreamland recently reopened in Prospect Park’s Lakeside Rink. Each Friday Lola Star will host themed skating parties in the new location. This week’s party will be based on the 1980 film “Xanadu” staring Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly and Michael Beck. With more dance parties on the horizon, Carlin is “excited” to have Dreamland up and running again. The skate parties are scheduled to go through the end of August but Carlin hopes to offer more parties in fall and winter months.

    Lola Star in Prospect Park's Lakeside Rink Photo Credit: Lola Star

    Lola Star in Prospect Park’s Lakeside Rink Photo Credit: Lola Star

    I recently spoke with Carlin about how she got the name Lola Star, how she has adapted to the changing face of Brooklyn and what role community activism has played within her work. Carlin got the nickname because, “I use to skate around my parent’s basement listening to Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana’ on repeat and dreamed of being a rollerskating star. My parents would yell downstairs ‘What are you doing down there Lola?’” This was in reference to the song’s main character, a showgirl named Lola. The nickname became a part of Carlin’s artistic alter ego and she would eventually name her Coney Island boutique after it.

    After Carlin graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in fine art, she moved to Brooklyn. Although she studied oil panting in college, Carlin had always had an interest in screen printing and had been an entrepreneur from a young age. Carlin said, “I was always an entrepreneur. For example, when I was a kid and first learned how to french braid, I made a catalog of the different styles and sold them to my neighbors for a quarter. When my parents gave me a weaving loom, I wove blankets for my friends’ Cabbage Patch dolls. I was always trying to make and sell things.”

    People have fun at the first Lola Star Roller Dance Party on 7/11/14. Photo Credit: Lola Star

    People have fun at the first Lola Star Roller Dance Party on 7/11/14. Photo Credit: Lola Star

    Carlin’s “make and sell things” attitude continued through high school as well. As a teenager, she began to design t-shirts and sell them. Carlin said “I learned to screen print in high school in art class and really enjoyed it. In the summer between high school and college, I opened my first store, The Groovy Rainbow Planet. At the time, I was selling t shirts at raves, clubs and other venues within the electronic music community around Detroit.”

    When Carlin moved to Brooklyn after college, she became fascinated by the history of Coney Island and what it had become. After spending a lot of them there, Carlin noticed “there wasn’t a cute place to buy a Coney Island t shirt.” With her background in screen printing, and prior business successes, Carlin set out yet again to start a new enterprise which specialized in Coney Island themed clothing. Today, Carlin has two shops located on Coney Island’s boardwalk and plans to open a third shop in Williamsburg in the fall.

    Currently, Carlin works out of her production studio in Sunset Park where she makes many of the products she sells. Like Sunset Park, Coney Island has undergone many periods of change. In 2008, after yet another effort to develop the historic Coney Island amusement district, Carlin intervened with the help of others to form Save Coney Island, a non profit dedicated to stopping the development of the area. Although more changes have come in recent years Carlin said, When I first opened my store in Coney Island 14 years ago, I had no idea it was on the cusp of change and resurgence. Since then, it has been a wild roller coaster of change. With Echelon closing and the city rezoning Coney Island, there has been even more developments which have come about.” Through Carlin’s efforts and genuine investment in the Coney Island community, she has helped to make Coney Island a better place in her own way.

    Carlin hard at work in her Sunset Park studio.

    Carlin hard at work in her Sunset Park studio.

    However as a working artist and female business owner in Brooklyn, Carlin has faced many obstacles, “My experience of being an artist in Brooklyn has been really positive. I think Brooklyn in general is really supportive of the arts. Although, I faced a lot of challenges as a female business owner in Coney Island. When I first opened my store, I was met with lot of opposition because I am a woman and was not from Brooklyn.” Although Carlin faced a lot of challenges in the beginning, she has overcome them and is now strong than ever.

    Lola and her sidekick, Shimmer.

    Lola and her sidekick, Shimmer.

    As an artistic individual with a unique vision, Carlin has continued to work on the kinds of projects she is passionate about. And she has done this a community she feels a part of. Carlin said “From starting Save Coney Island, I learned I was extremely passionate about community in general. I see it as a larger component of my art and creativity and it is something that has become a huge part of who I am.” Carlin realizes the importance that community ties have and this has been demonstrated within her work in the Save Coney Island organization as well as being active within animal rights by fostering dogs who are in need of a home. She has also organized free weekly Yoga classes that take place on beach at Coney Island. Currently, Carlin is busy writing a book about her adventures which will have illustrations while also adding to her growing number of products in her boutiques. It is Carlin’s enthusiasm and genuine love for the Coney Island community and it’s history, which will help keep her involved in it for decades to come.

    Lola Star’s fantastic skate parties take place from 8-10 PM on Friday nights in Prospect Park’s Lakeside Rink. Admissions is $15 which includes skate rentals and a list of the party themes can be found here

    –Anni Irish

  • Community Workshop 2013

    As a relatively new member and contributor to Art For Progress I wanted to take this opportunity to explain what drew me to the organization and what it has meant to me over the past year and a half. I also, wanted to congratulate all of those who have helped the organization to serve the local community for 10 years. That is truly an amazing feat! As we look ahead to the second half of the summer, I thought it might also be a good idea to give a little preview of what to expect for the rest of the summer from our local music scene in NYC.

    Firstly, any great organization is made up of great people and I realized early on that AFP was no exception. The dedication of the teachers and volunteers was evident from the first event I attended and has not waned since.  This first event was a workshop at the gallery of an AFP artist called NOoSPHERE ARTS. The workshop was aimed at introducing young children from the LES to music, art and photography. At one point in the day two young kids started making music, one on the cowbell and one on the keyboard. It was at this moment that I truly understood the impact of what AFP was doing and the passion of the teachers who dedicate their time to this organization.

    AFP is a true grassroots effort and that was one of the things that attracted me to it. This past fall and winter we organized a monthly live music event called “Homegrown,” that featured local acts from the NYC area, ten in total. The quality of the music was a testament to the amazing music scene we have in this city. This was one of my first forays into event organization and it was a really positive experience; one that makes me look forward to many more years of supporting NYC artists.

    Below is a short calendar of shows that will be worth catching over the next two months. Thanks for reading!

    July:

    7/7/14:  Glass Animals @ Mercury Lounge – Their song Pyslla has quickly become one of my favorites. This will be a great chance to catch them before they step up to larger rooms.

    7/16/14:  Flume @ Terminal 5 – One of three shows they are playing at Terminal 5. I am still enjoying his 2012 self-titled album.

    7/24/14:  Sun Kil Moon @ Town Hall – Playing in support of their 6th studio album. I have never seen them, but I have heard lead singer and guitarist, Mark Kozelek, puts on a great show.

    7/28/14:  Born Cages @ Mercury Lounge

    7/29/14:  Conor Oberst w/ special guest Dawes @ SummerStage

    August:

    8/14/14:  The Midnight Hallow @ Mercury Lounge

    8/20/14:  Frances Cone & The Novel Ideas @ Knitting Factory

    8/23/14:  Ski Lodge @ Glasslands

    -Peter Trombino

  • Art for Progress Music Programs

    Art for Progress Music Programs

    This spring AFP Arts Education Programs are celebrating the completion of our eighth school year serving NYC Public Schools with exciting, confidence building visual art and music classes and after school programs. AFP Arts Education Programs at the James Baldwin School, Humanities Preparatory Academy, and Hudson High School all expanded this year, and we continue to provide after school music programs at Quest 2 Learn, and at Hudson High School for Learning Technologies. Students at the James Baldwin School asked for an after school program where they could learn music production and beat-making, so AFP implemented a program that brings aspiring producers, rappers and singers together to learn the skills necessary to create professional quality recordings. Humanities Prep’s Music Program had unprecedented success this year, introducing a number of talented students to their first instruments, and fostering the continued development of returning students through after school opportunities.

    In general, AFP has helped to cultivate the creative culture that is now a primary component of the school. Many students and faculty performed in a talent showcase to end the school year on June 6th. Sophomore Abril Tiburcio brought the house down with her interpretation of Lana Del Rey’s “Ride”, while 2014 valedictorian and class president Michelle Bello sang The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” They were backed by Tiana Bush on bass, and Genesis Castillo pounding out the infectious rhythm on the drums. Junior Sean Carey performed a challenging classical piano composition “Openings” by Philip Glass, and senior Aaron Pierre wowed the crowd with his rendition of Matisyahu’s “One Day”, and Rufus Wainwright’s “Oh What a World”. AFP teaching artist and Chemistry teacher Rajni Tibrewala performed Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluia”, and was asked to do a repeat performance at the Humanities Prep graduation ceremony.

    Art for Progress also provided arts education workshops to community events in Brooklyn, at the “Save Our Streets Block Party,” and in the Bronx, at the Urban Yoga Foundation/American Heart Association Health Fair at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Many kids attended and participated with various art projects and beginner lessons on guitar, bongo drums and piano. Stay tuned for highlights from this spring’s after school programs and AFP summer music workshops.

  • Many thanks to Art For Progress for creating this forum to allow it’s artists/bloggers a platform to discuss their  multi -creative disciplines as well as specific works of art . I’ve been a member/artist of AFP for a long time and have happily witnessed their growth over their ten years! As a NYC independent filmmaker for 20 years, I’m glad they asked me to blog about film.  Being new to blogging, I was at first excited then nervous. This was due to the many different directions I could take. So I feel the best way to start is from my own experience in directing my first full length feature film entitled “H.O.M.E.”

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    Not to get into my filmography/resume too much but I’ve been writing, producing and directing short films for 20 years. I’ve worked in the industry on production crews for most of that span which also includes many various other roles I’ve played whether in post production, programming  or even assisting in running film festivals! Let’s just say instead of getting the “ol feet wet” I jumped into the pool and have been swimming ever since. In recent years, I’d been focusing more on my own personal projects to cultivate that “dream career” of being an artist/filmmaker in NYC. Well everyone knows by now how difficult that can be and so you better know how to “hustle” in order to juggle your creative aspirations with the reality of living in the most  artistically competitive places on earth.  With the personal projects, i.e. short films, I was able to hone in on my craft and stretch my projects each time with bigger scripts, budgets, cast and crews. A natural progression one might say  that was also supported by my direct experience working for bigger productions  to support myself. There comes a time though where one must decide for themselves when to take the bigger leap. In my case, I was fortunate enough to have had some great success with the short films I was making hence , I decided it was time to take the gamble.

    H.O.M.E. was never a script or even an idea that I’d had for a long time.  Its permutations came to me in threads particularly the form of it.  As a fan of the short format including the structures of films such as Amores Perros and many others at the time , I really felt close to the idea of multiple story lines. I also felt that after making over ten short films that I might be able to transition to a feature length with more confidence. What I discovered during this period were strong themes that I gravitated towards which dealt with the human condition. There are many approaches to writing a script but in the end we each develop our own- what works for us. This is kind of also the reason why teaching it can be too general.

    Without any intention towards finding the stories for H.O.M.E. , I accumulated pieces and after awhile decided on how to best weave these stories. The themes revealed themselves actually including the story I’d come across several years ago about a young man with Aspergers Syndrome who disappeared in the NYC subways.  Eventually these stories, threads and ideas began to take shape to formulate the narrative structure which would be presented in three stand alone segments. This “felt” right and considering my several experiments in film expressionism on previous short films,  I felt each segment could perhaps have it’s own language. The title could be H.O.M.E.  and when anyone would ask what the acronym meant , I could answer with the question what does HOME mean to you?  ( as you will learn about the characters of H.O.M.E. in the next blog post)

  • As AFP has now launched its new website, I am excited to be the fashion blogger. As the Fashion Director of Art for Progress, I have worked with the organization from our first event over ten years ago. The organization has matured from a small group of local artists and designers, into a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization comprised of an international representation of art and fashion. I look forward to bringing my insight and love of fashion to the AFP blog. I welcome your comments as well.

    Here we are in that time of year where fashion has to stand up to the heat. That usually means style comes in at a distant second to comfort and coolness. With trips to the beach and alfresco dining, everyone wants to be free of complicated ensembles. Now that summer is officially here, lets be cool and comfortable with flair! As artists and art lovers convene here at the AFP site, fashion reflects our sense of creativity and individuality. Here are a few images from some interesting designers who manage to combine ease and versatility.

    Band of Outsiders Spring 2014. Photo by Stephano Masse, indigitalimages.com

    Band of Outsiders Spring 2014. Photo by Stephano Masse, indigitalimages.com

    Opening Ceremony Spring 2014. Photo by Yannis Vlamos, indigitalimages.com

    Opening Ceremony Spring 2014. Photo by Yannis Vlamos, indigitalimages.com

    Zero+Maria Cornejo Spring 2014. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo, indigitalimages.com

    Zero+Maria Cornejo Spring 2014. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo, indigitalimages.com

    -Allyson Jacobs