Roosevelt Island Visual Art Association

Gifts Given to Roosevelt Island: #9, RIVAA

David Stone
RIVAA Brings the Community Together for the Blue Dragon Unveiling
RIVAA Brings the Community Together for the Blue Dragon Unveiling
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Since our founding in the mid '70s, the Roosevelt Island community excelled at blending ethnic diversity, making room for people with disabilities and sustaining affordability. But we also stepped out with something for which the architects and designers never planned: Art. Our painters and sculptors blossomed late as a group but today make their mark all over the island.

Take a glance at the leadership at RIVAA, the Roosevelt Island Visual Art Association, and see that among so much else our community is a magnet for creative people. President Tad Sudol spent his early life and established his career first in Poland while vice president Esther Piaskowski was born in Australia. Founding pioneer Arline Jacoby is a lifetime teacher with roots in Long Island. Ioan Popoiu and Georgette Sinclair migrated from Romania.

On its roster today, RIVAA claims internationally acclaimed artists, Hanne Støvring from Denmark and Valeriu Boborelu from Romania.

In 2001, RIVAA's forerunner, the Roosevelt Island Art Association, played a leading role in Art Frenzy, a festival meant to demonstrate the linkage of creative communities between Manhattan and Queen. Being in the fortunate middle, Roosevelt Island emerged as the "Island of Art," and RIVAA grew from there.

Bolstered by RIOC's ongoing support, the collective set out with an objective of seeding art and art awareness all along Main Street.

In the beginning, much came as a reward from sweat equity. Artists armed with hammers, nails, paint and cleaning solutions transformed the shuttered Bigelow Pharmacy at 527 Main Street into the gallery space that stabilized an uncertain retail zone through fifteen years of up and down change.

Not only has Gallery RIVAA been a welcoming and colorful presence, but its leadership has diligently worked with Hudson, which manages retail development, and RIOC to pursue its mission. Storefronts awaiting next shop owners have been enlivened by visual art displays while paintings, sculptures and installations can be enjoyed in three established spaces.

A surprising gallery finds RIVAA extending its humanizing influence into the cold, poured concrete confines of the Motorgate parking garage. Mural size artwork, picked from RIOC's annual Fall for Arts creations, brighten the ground floor concourse and climb the stairs to improve elevator lobbies. 

The most far-reaching of Roosevelt Island institutions, RIVAA rotates new exhibits through relaxed space inside the lobby at the Octagon and, last spring, launched a project to establish art in public places by recruiting acclaimed Norwegian sculptors Gustav and Ulla Kraitz to bring their child sculpture, The Blue Dragon, to Southpoint Park.

Connecting internationally, RIVAA also hosts exhibits imported from abroad, like Memory-Continuity, in May, which brought the work of legendary Romanian painter Marin Gherasim and his daughter Alina to the main gallery.

You can't go far on Roosevelt Island without benefiting from the creative influences asserted by RIVAA. Materially and spiritually, our local artists make life better for all of us, and in the Roosevelt Island spirit, they do it for free.

We're blessed with an abundance of artists here and leadership at RIVAA that has brought it together with quiet grace.

We owe them our thanks and best wishes in pioneering into 2017. 

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