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Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) proudly commemorates the start of its 50th anniversary season with a residency by acclaimed painter, author and poet Danny Simmons. Entitled “Homecoming” and presented in association with KMW Studio (www.kmwstudio.com), Simmons’ residency will span eight months and include a Jazz and Spoken Word performance with legendary musician and recording artist Ron Carter, a major retrospective of Simmons’ work, artist talks and more. In Spring 2022, Simmons’ residency will culminate in a reunion performance of the original cast of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, and a 50th Anniversary Gala for JCAL with Simmons as the artist honoree. 

“Homecoming” will officially kick off JCAL’s 50th anniversary year with a performance at 8pm on Sat., Oct. 2 at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center (153-10 Jamaica Avenue) pairing Simmons with legendary two-time Grammy-winning bassist Ron Carter, whose appearances on 2,221 recording sessions make him the most-recorded jazz bassist in history. Also joining Simmons and Carter will be Host and Guest Performer Lezlie Harrison, Ron Carter’s Golden Striker Trio and spoken-word artists ursula rucker, Derick Cross and Bonafide Rojas. Tickets are set at $20 and may be purchased in advance.

Danny Simmons

Danny Simmons

On Sat., Feb 5, 2022, the focus of “Homecoming” shifts to visual arts, with Simmons premiering a major retrospective in JCAL’s galleries, including works from the beginning of Simmons’ career and new works created specifically for the residency. The “Homecoming” exhibit will be on view through Sat., June 18, 2022.

Also in Spring 2022, Simmons will participate in two public artist talks so that audiences may get an in-depth look at his process and journey as a renowned multidisciplinary artist and performer.

In June 2022, “Homecoming” culminates in a much-anticipated reunion of the beloved original cast of Def Poetry Jam, the critically acclaimed show co-created by Simmons that aired on HBO from 2002 to 2007. JCAL will then hold its 50th anniversary gala at JPAC, with Simmons as the artist honoree of the evening.

“Homecoming” serves as a triumphant return for Simmons, a Neo-African Abstract Expressionist painter and published author, poet and philanthropist originally from Jamaica, Queens. Simmons’ residency also serves as the capstone to JCAL’s 50 years of service to Southeast Queens.

“If you’re an artist from Queens, particularly Southeast Queens, and you say you’re hosting a residency for Danny Simmons, excitement starts to build,” said JCAL Interim Artistic Director Courtney Ffrench in a statement. “Our community has long been blessed by extraordinary artists, but only a special few can legitimately be called a ‘legend.’ Danny Simmons is a legend. His contributions to art and performance are only equaled by his stature as one of our industry’s great philanthropists. He’s the pride of Queens! Welcome back, Danny! We’re so honored to return you to JCAL as a resident artist of our Golden Anniversary season.”

JCAL Interim Executive Director Leonard Jacobs notes that the idea for the residency arose a year ago, when COVID-19 prevented in-person meetings but offered time to dream. “Danny has been a visionary for the scope of his residency but also what it means for JCAL—where Danny has had so much history. 2022 marks a half-century since a group of visual artists forged an arts institution in a shuttered Jamaica Avenue landmark, motivated by the belief that arts and culture is the birthright of everyone in our community, borough and beyond. Danny is the living embodiment of this spirit—what it means to live the artists’ life, and of the importance of giving back.”