WHAM! Museum co-founders Harley J. Spiller and Micki Watanabe Spiller. Photo: Nitin Mukul

You heard it here first! This week we welcome WHAM! In lieu of our weekly featured artist, we wanted to highlight the launch of the newest museum on the New York City landscape, which is right here in Epicenter-NYC’s backyard — and quite literally the backyard of the museum’s founders. Though the facilities may appear modest, the folks in charge come with considerable credentials.

Based in Woodside Heights, Queens, WHAM! will launch with an exhibition in a sidewalk window display cabinet constructed by artist/co-founder Micki Watanabe Spiller, adjacent to a courtyard sculpture garden.

Spiller in front of WHAM’s window display cabinet. He holds a Guinness world record for the largest menu collection. Photo: Nitin Mukul

This inaugural exhibition focuses on the arts, cultures, and forgotten histories of Woodside Heights, starting with an explanation of the no-longer-used early name of the six block subsection of Woodside (starting in 1886, the hilly eastern part of the village of Woodside has been called Woodside Heights). The exhibition will include artifacts of local history, contemporary artists’ signs, and an exploration of local fruit, including free refreshments made with peaches grown onsite.

Harley Spiller’s collection of fruit peeling devices, some of which will be on exhibit at WHAM! Photo: Hannah Kathryn Valles

Artist and founder Harley J. Spiller brings more than 40 years of professional museum and curating experience, and currently serves as the executive director of Franklin Furnace Archive. He sits on the board of directors of City Reliquary as well as the Voelker Orth Museum, Victorian Gardens and Bird Sanctuary in Flushing, Queens. His exhibitions, writings and teaching focus on his many collections of everyday artifacts with the goal of enabling the public to find the extraordinary within the ordinary.

WHAM!’s sculpture courtyard. The WHAM! logo mural was painted by Lady Pink, who’s been painting graffiti since 1979 and was featured in the movie Wild Style. She is a cult figure in hip-hop culture. Photo: Nitin Mukul

His collections of handbills, menus, pencils, salt, scissors, spoons, straws, tape and more have been featured in museum exhibitions, collections catalogs and education programs worldwide, from the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City to the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas, Venezuela. Throughout his career, Spiller has frequently exhibited at and taught for the Queens Museum and Queens College.

Among the works in the courtyard is the sculpture Unarmed Black Men by Norm Magnusson, part of a series of public works. Photo: Nitin Mukul

WHAM! is ambitious in its goal to lift up the multitude of international cultures in Woodside, including its established Bhutanese, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Nepali, Peruvian, Filipino, Romanian, Thai, Tibetan and Ukrainian communities. WHAM! will facilitate opportunities for others to submit proposals for future community-centric exhibitions.

Wander & Giggle, by Ilona Granet. Photo: Nitin Mukul

The 7 train station at 53rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue should make it easily accessible. WHAM!’s exhibitions, consisting of historic artifacts and contemporary art highlighting local community history, will be free and open to the public all day every day.

All are welcome to stop by WHAM! for a ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration on Monday, May 29, Memorial Day, at noon. Admission is free. WHAM! is located at 4148 54th St., in Queens. Visit its website here.

Nitin is a visual designer, gallery artist, and community arts activist. Past desk-oriented posts include: PBS, Digitas, K12, Inc., Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and Sesame Workshop International....

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