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Queens College unveils new face of Kupferberg Center

Max Kupferberg, (c.) along with friends, lawmakers and members of Queens College, snips a ribbon at the newly renovated arts center that bears his name. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

The head of Queens College predicted Monday that recently completed renovations on campus would usher in a new age of art and culture in the borough.

“There’s no other way to describe Queens College’s vision for the future than what we call the Queens renaissance,” said James Muyskens, president of the college, speaking at the ribbon-cutting for the $13.5 million project.

The epicenter for that renaissance will be the four newly renovated buildings that make up the Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts.

The improvements fortified many parts of the existing buildings with new lighting, seats or sound systems and bathrooms. But the most striking feature of the project was the new facades of the Colden Auditorium, Goldstein Theater, LeFrak Concert Hall and the Godwin-Ternbach Museum.

Before each of the four venues had atheistically separate architectural identities, according to Muyskens.

But the common theme applied to all of the faces, coupled with a new plaza between three of the venues, ties them together into one cohesive arts center.

“It’s branding,” said Iris Weinshall, who works in CUNY’s construction and management department. “Before they looked like four disparate elements.”

More than 100 people gathered to hear Weinshall and others talk about the work that went into the project, which, according to Muyskens, has been on his mind for the last decade.

But most of the words spoken were directed at Max Kupferberg, who sat in the front of the room in a brown suit and calmly absorbed the abundant praise heaped on him.

In 2006, Kupferberg and his late wife Selma gave $10 million to Queens College to unite the separate arts facilities under the umbrella organization that now bears his name, and the family also helped fund the newly completed renovations.

Kupferberg, who is not only an alumnus of Queens College but was a member of its first incoming class, earned a physics degree from the school and went on to work on the Manhattan Project, which researched atomic weapons prior to the end of World War II. He made his fortune after founding the successful electrical supply company Kepco Inc. with his brothers.

“In order to be a rounded venue, you have to have all of the arts — both visual and performing,” he said.

Throughout the two-year construction period, the center continued to host all manner of cultural programming through the four venues that were renovated, along with several other departments at the university.

More than 350,000 people attend programs put on by the Kupferberg Center, but Muyskens hopes that the new facilities will not only draw larger crowds, but that artists will be able to reach beyond the physical boundaries of the campus.

“As part of this renaissance in Queens, we must expand our programs into the community,” he said.

Muyskens hopes to live feed concerts to schools or senior centers and provide more outreach to the community, which might not otherwise be able to enjoy the new construction in person.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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