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Museum of Moving Image unveils brand new courtyard

George Kaufman, chairman of Kaufman Astoria Studios (third from r.), cuts the ribbon on the new courtyard named for him. Photo courtesy Thanassi Karageorgiou / Museum of the Moving Image
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), at right, said that the addition of the courtyard will enhance one of the city's greatest cultural institutions. Photo courtesy Thanassi Karageorgiou / Museum of the Moving Image.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Elected officials and representatives from the Museum of the Moving Image gathered Tuesday at a celebratory dedication ceremony for the museum’s newly completed outdoor courtyard, named in honor of George S. Kaufman, the chairman of Kaufman Astoria Studios and a MoMI trustee.

The museum and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who co-hosted the event, were joined by Borough President Helen Marshall, MoMI Executive Director Carl Goodman and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), among others, for the official unveiling of the George S. Kaufman Courtyard.

The project, officials said, cost $2.5 million. Van Bramer, in partnership with the city Department of Cultural Affairs, worked to secure $1.25 million for the courtyard through the city and an additional $1 million contribution was made by Kaufman. Other private contributions were put forward to ensure for the project’s completion.

Kaufman, who has been active in the film and real estate industries for more than 40 years, is on the boards of numerous philanthropic and civic organizations, including the Whitney Museum, the Fashion Institute of Technology, The Real Estate Board of New York and the New York City Partnership. He is also chairman of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District.

The courtyard, designed by Leeser Architecture, is the final chapter in MoMI’s capital expansion and renovation project. The 10,370-square-foot landscaped courtyard garden will provide space for an outdoor café, open-air screenings and exhibitions and special events. The courtyard also offers a unique view of the museum’s iconic rear facade, an almost 200-foot-long surface made up of 1,067 pale-blue aluminum panels, as well as a view into the museum’s lobby straight through to the main entrance on 35th Avenue.

The courtyard will open on an ongoing basis to visitors beginning July 5.

The museum will hold a special courtyard opening for the public this Saturday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the Queens Council on the Arts’ Queens Art Express Block Party, set to take place on 37th Street between 34th and 35th avenues in Astoria. The museum will welcome visitors to the courtyard from 37th Street and will also offer free museum admission during that period. Tickets for screenings are not included.

Marshall commended Van Bramer, Kaufman and those who worked to ensure that the courtyard was completed and said that with the latest addition the museum will attract even more visitors and tourists for programs and events.

“This is a one-of-a-kind museum,” she said. “This courtyard is a beautiful public space that complements the exciting, interactive exhibits.”

MoMI officials also said the opening of the courtyard will benefit more than 50,000 students who visit the museum each year, with an off-street bus drop-off area, a dedicated entrance for school groups and additional space for gatherings.

Kaufman, who noted that the museum has grown over the years into a world-class film and media museum, said he was excited about the addition of the courtyard, and how MoMI would serve the community for years to come.

“My life has led me to Astoria,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful. I think we’ve created a center here which is only going to expand, and I appreciate all of your support.”

Van Bramer, chairman of the Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee, said the addition of the courtyard has enhanced one of the city’s greatest cultural institutions and will cement the museum’s prominence as a world-renowned destination.

“I’m thrilled to be able to support this project,” Van Bramer said. “If you look all around, there are so many apartment buildings and so many people who live in this neighborhood — working-class families, immigrant families — and they now have a place they can be incredibly proud of. This is state of the art, incredibly well-designed and executed ... they will go into this courtyard and say, ‘This is my home, this is my neighborhood.’”

Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at cengelhardt@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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