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Queens Musem of Art thriving in hard times

Tom Finkelpearl, director of the Queens Museum of Art, hopes new renovation and innovation will continue to draw visitors to Queens. Photo courtesy QMA
TimesLedger Newspapers

The arts have always been an important part of New York City’s culture and New Yorkers’ lives and for years the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows Corona Park has served its communities in a big way, while extending its outreach efforts beyond the borough.

Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the museum, was one of eight panelists at an Arts & Culture Breakfast held at Manhattan’s Con Edison building Oct 9.

Thanks to the support of the QMA board, Finkelpearl spoke about the museum’s growing success before an audience of 250 cultural leaders, rubbing elbows with major QMA donors, like Kate Levin, New York City’s cultural commissioner, and Luis Ubinas, president of the Ford Foundation.

“Both have been very generous to the museum,” Finklepearl said. “I was very happy to be on the panel and that they chose QMA. It was a great networking opportunity.” Deutsche Bank and New York Community Trust were among QMA’s other funders.

Some mid-size organizations are having a tough time raising money and “standing out in the crowd” in this rough economic climate, Finkelpearl noted.

Offering his perspective on this issue, Finkelpearl told the panel: “To be successful, you have to be at the right place at the right time. In terms of timing, we were quite lucky. We were able to raise money for our expansion during the boon time.”

All about location

“Queens is an absolutely amazing place,” Finklepearl said. “We’ve really embraced being here. We’re in a park next to a highway, on the Grand Central Parkway, which is a huge advantage.” The new façade facing the GCP will be completed by fall 2013 and can be clearly seen from the highway. “A quarter of a million people pass the museum every day. Nobody’s not going to know where we are,” Finkelpearl said.

“We feel like we’re at the right place at the right time, celebrating Queens and understanding what it is we have that others don’t: Cultural diversity, the Panorama (of the City of New York).”

Friendly neighborhood

“When our neighbors have successful programs (and there are) more people going to shows — it’s better for us. If the Hall of Science and the Queens Theatre are doing better, we do better. (Our audiences have been increasing). We’re not competing against them — we’re competing with them — against people going to Manhattan.”

He added, “Once we reopen, we’ll have two hours worth of stuff to do (a general museum principle): The Panorama, big shows, a café, classes, public events and other activities. That will be the key.” He hopes it will attract Manhattanites, as well.

“There’s incredible creativity here. Let’s be cheerleaders for Queens!”

Based on his public art experience and further research, Finkelpearl published a book, “Dialogues in Public Art” (MIT Press), in 2000. His new book, “What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation,” is being published by Duke University Press with an expected release this season.

If You Go

Queens Museum of Art

New York City Building

Flushing Meadows Corona Park

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