Happy 20th!

Blue Door Art Center (photo credit: Michele Amaro)

Blue Door Arts Center

About 20 years ago, Art on Main Street, an organization that aimed to bring art and culture to downtown Yonkers, closed. However, it was from those ashes that a phoenix of the Yonkers cultural community arose. Two of the Art on MAin Street’s directors, Luis Perelman and Delma Hairston, along with photographer Julie Cousens, opened the Blue Door Art Center (BDAC). 

The trio envisioned the gallery as a way to continue bringing art to the City and the surrounding Westchester communities.

According to Perelman, the BDAC began “with the mission to serve artists, bring an art venue to a community underserved by cultural institutions, and continue to install public art throughout the city.” He adds that 20 years later, this continues to be the Center’s mission.

Blue Door Art Center holds many exhibitions each year, in addition to monthly open mic events, a writers’ program, children’s activities and adult classes. It has also been instrumental in helping to bring public art to downtown Yonkers. 

Gallery Director Michele Amaro adds: “Blue Door Art Center is a cultural crossroads where art and community flourish.”

BDAC will celebrate its anniversary with a calendar of special events throughout the upcoming months. A new exhibition opening September 2, Takin’ It to the Streets, will be curated by Cousens with photographer Omar Kharem. The show will feature local and emerging photographers who capture the energy of the urban landscape.

An Octoberfest event featuring local craft beer and seasonal food on October 14, a “Paint and Sip” night on November 18, and a Blue Door Member Holiday Party in December will all help to raise funds for the Center. New funds raised through these special events will be matched by the ArtsWestchester Art$WChallenge grant (see page A12). 

In the years to come, Perelman says the Center hopes “to include additional exhibition venues, classes and public art in order to benefit local artists and the community.” 

Jacob Burns Film Center

Jacob Burns Film Center (photo from ArtsWestchester archives)

Jacob Burns Film Center (JBFC) opened with three theaters in 2001. Board President Janet Maslin says that it began “with Founder Stephen Apkon’s dream of building a community through the power of film.”

In 2015, those three theaters became five. Over time, programming has expanded as well. A media arts center made JBFC a film education hub. Its Creative Culture fellowship program nurtures young filmmakers to tell their own unique stories. The center hosts several hundred films and more than 150 special events every year in its Spanish mission-style historic landmark theater in Pleasantville.

Now twenty years after its start, the organization continues its goal of bettering the audience’s movie- going experience. A 2022 theater refurbishment was made possible with a $506,000 grant from the Mid- Hudson Regional Economic Development Council, which the JBFC successfully matched dollar for dollar. The original first-floor theaters will be refurbished with new seats, technology and other amenities.

Says Brian Ackerman, Founding Director of Film Programming: “The JBFC community remained by our side during the 14 months we were closed [due to the COVID-19 pandemic]…Enhancing the theater experience in the original three theaters will be a highlight of our 20th anniversary. It is also a way for us to demonstrate our immense gratitude to our community.”

JBFC also announced that, as part of the twentieth- anniversary festivities, it will rename its largest theater after founding leader David Swope, who passed away in 2018.

Says JBFC Board Chair Lynn Sobel, “[Swope’s] passion for [the center’s] mission, contagious enthusiasm for its programs, his inspiring leadership and incredibly generous support helped to propel the JBFC into the institution it is today.”

JBFC’s festivities will continue through June 2022 with new programming. Next up is the twentieth year of the JBFC Jewish Film Festival, which will take place from September 30 through October 14. This year’s festival features 24 films, including narratives and documentaries, from Israel, the United States and around the world. In celebration, a new book called Breaking Bread: Jewish Stories and Recipes from the JBFC Community, to which JBFC’s community contributed stories, memories and recipes, will become available on October 1.

A version of this article first appeared in the September issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.​​

About ArtsWestchester

For more than 50 years, ArtsWestchester has been the community’s connection to the arts. Founded in 1965, it is the largest private not-for-profit arts council in New York State. Its mission is to create an equitable, inclusive, vibrant and sustainable Westchester County in which the arts are integral to and integrated into every facet of life. ArtsWestchester provides programs and services that enrich the lives of everyone in Westchester County. ArtsWestchester helps fund concerts, exhibitions and plays through grants; brings artists into schools and community centers; advocates for the arts; and builds audiences through diverse marketing initiatives. In 1998, ArtsWestchester purchased the nine-story neo-classical bank building at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue which has since been transformed into a multi-use resource for artists, cultural organizations and the community. A two-story gallery is located on the first floor of ArtsWestchester’s historic building on Mamaroneck Avenue. artsw.org