16 THE QUEENS COURIER • MAY 24, 2018 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Lighting up with friendship in Ozone Park
BY EMILY DAVENPORT
firstname.lastname@example.org / @QNS
A local organization shined a light on unity
and friendship for students at an Ozone Park
On May 18, Jack Giambanco, founder
of Friendship Lights, hosted a presentation
Friendship Light creator Jack Giambanco, MS 137 Principal Laura Mastrogiovanni, Pop Star Domini
MS 137 Student Imani with her Firendship Light Monroe & TV Talk show host Johnny Potenza
Forest Hills woman works to create a community art bus
BY SUZANNE MONTEVERDI
email@example.com / @smont76
A small business in Forest Hills is going
Tiff any Pierce, a North Carolina native,
fi rst moved to the neighborhood in 2011,
shortly before giving birth to her son,
Liam. Seeking a sense of community in
her new hometown, the mom and educator
called upon her background in the arts
to foster connections.
“I threw Liam an art party at 2 months
old,” Pierce told Th e Courier. “He slept
through the whole thing.”
Despite her infant son’s disinterest,
Pierce, a Spelman College and Maryland
Institute College of Art graduate, noticed
that many of the parents in attendance
enjoyed the experience and spoke about
a need for a community art space. Shortly
thereaft er, she established Th e Art Lab
Studio while working full time for the
city’s School Construction Authority and
Department of Education.
Using an “art-on-a-cart” approach,
Pierce brings her art lessons via red wagon
to local parks and facilities or to local
businesses in coordination with owners.
Currently, she off ers classes for children
and adults during the week at shops
including Red Pipe Cafe and Cippolina.
Still, the arts educator sees a demand
“Parents are wanting more access to
the studio,” Pierce said. “We really need
a space that’s dedicated to the visual arts.”
For years, the business owner has scoped
the neighborhood for an aff ordable brickand
mortar location. Facing incredibly
high price tags, Pierce did what she does
best: get creative.
Her next stop to bring creative programming
to the borough comes in the
form of an “art bus,” a traveling studio
that will bring arts education directly into
local communities. She plans to launch a
Kickstarter to make the project reality in
June or July.
“Th is art bus is to connect the community
— especially new parents — to one
another. To come out of Facebook and
connect,” she said.
With the bus, Pierce plans to drive to
New York City neighborhoods and off er
classes, playgroups, open studios and
art parties to residents, as well as programming
for schools. She has already
approached local principals and educators
and taken to local parks, where she off ers
free art lessons in exchange for feedback.
Th e response has been overwhelmingly
positive, Pierce said.
“We will be in diff erent locations: not
only in Forest Hills, but in the other boroughs,
as well,” she said. “But Forest Hills
has my heart. I live here and I’ve done a lot
of work here.”
Resourcefulness has been key in the
business owner’s success. Pierce grew up
in public housing in North Carolina and
attended community college before moving
on to Spelman College. She is the fi rst
in her family to attend college and operate
her own business.
“I’ve always been resourceful and able
to connect with the community,” she said.
Pierce currently home schools Liam,
who, since his art party at 2 months old,
has developed a love for the arts. Th e
7-year-old is her “greatest motivation” to
make a diff erence.
Despite the rent hurdle, Pierce still
hopes to someday open her own studio on
“I really believe that you attract what
you want,” Pierce said. “I really want this
Learn more about Th e Art Table Studio
and the art bus initiative by visiting Pierce’s
during M.S. 137’s (America’s School of
Heroes) annual Career Day.
Giambanco founded Friendship Lights in
2012 during a time when he believed the
world was losing its compassion. Aft er having
a colorful and vivid dream, Giambanco
created the fi rst prototype for light out of an
old credit card and a light diode.
From there, Giambanco has produced
hundreds of Friendship Lights that have
since been handed out at schools and on the
streets of New York City to inspire others to
believe in friendship and spread the joy in life.
Th e legend of the Friendship Light says
that if you wish upon a Friendship Light,
it will come true just like Giambanco’s did
when he created them from a dream.
Th is is the fourth year that Giambanco
has been invited to present to the students
at M.S. 137. Th e presentation, entitled Th e
Friendship Lights UNiTY presentation,
sought to inspire the children and open their
imaginations. Every student in attendance
received a Friendship Light during the presentation.
Th is year, presenting alongside Giambanco
was Johnny Potenza (Johnny P), a late night
talk show host on Verizon/Spectrum TV.
Aft er his opening monologue, Johnny P
sat behind the desk to interview random
students from the crowd. Later, the roles
were reversed and the students interviewed
New York-based singer Domini Monroe
also took part in the presentation. Monroe
pulled students from the audience and taught
them a few dance moves backstage before
putting on a show for the rest of the crowd.
For more information about Friendship
Lights, visit their website at www.
Photo by Suzanne Monteverdi/The Courier
Pierce and her son Liam stand along Austin Street, Forest Hills’ dining and shopping strip.