All along the Roosevelt Avenue, in the shadow of the elevated 7 train, hair salons have proliferated and held space for decades. Mostly run by immigrant women and men, they are spaces for affordable cuts and styles, for keeping tabs with new trends (Japanese hair straightening, anyone?) – but also, for conversation, interaction, a moment away from the rush of responsibilities. Woodside, Queens, may be changing rapidly as a neighborhood, but these salons have so far been a constant.
When I used to teach English in Woodside, I remember asking my students, many of whom were recent immigrants and mothers, what other skills they wanted to learn. A young Korean mother said, “I want to learn how to draw.” I was surprised by her answer. But why? It should have made sense – of course the desire to create beauty and art are not limited to those who live and work as full-time artists.
With a commission from the Laundromat Project – I will be holding art and writing workshops in Woodside, with the goal of producing a ‘beauty’ magazine that showcases the stories of women in the neighborhood- both those who work in and frequent the area hair salons as well as those who pass by, as well as teenagers and young women. Working with an intern, we will be focusing on hair stories, stories of mothers and grandmothers, stories of cultural traditions and beauty, and stories of women’s work.
Home base for our art workshops will be a spot outside Mrs. Kim’s Salon, on 53rd St. and Roosevelt Avenue, during the months of July and August, with additional workshops held in the Woodside branch of the Queens Public Library (54-22 Skillman Avenue).
UPDATE: The project now has a blog! Visit hairsalonstories.wordpress.com for updated schedule of workshops and events.