This is the moment to step off the grounds, too, and explore all of the other wonderful things that are happening in Queens. Our borough has a vibrant and unique cultural scene, but I’m often surprised that even for many native New Yorkers it’s a new discovery.
Queens is home to a plethora of cultural opportunities and fine institutions such as the Queens Museum, Queens Botanical Gardens, PS1 and, many, many more.
While I, too, enjoy traveling into Manhattan to see a Broadway show or a popular exhibition along Fifth Avenue, I would much rather enjoy the vast opportunities in our Queens backyard.
I am encouraged by the Mayor’s recent appointment of Tom Finkelpearl as the city’s new Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs. The tenets of inclusivity and openness embraced at his former institution, the Queens Museum, will now benefit all New Yorkers, and we are excited to see what he will advance in arts and culture across the five boroughs.
Additionally, our new Borough President Melinda Katz – who we plan to honor at our 35th annual gala on May 15 - is a strong advocate for the arts. How could she not be? Her father was the founder and conductor of the Queens Symphony Orchestra and her mother, Jeanne, was the founder of the Queens Council for the Arts.
Their stewardship will elevate interest in and excitement about our institutions.
In my six years leading the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, I have helped bring performers and exhibitions from around the country and world to our 152-year-old Flushing Town Hall, a Smithsonian Affiliate and a member of New York City's 33-member Cultural Institutions Group.
Flushing Town Hall presents global arts for our global New York City community, and brings to Queens local, national and international performances and exhibitions that are often seen only in Manhattan or Brooklyn, or Europe or Asia.
We just completed an approximately $1.5 million, five-month renovation to improve our multi-arts center, a testament to the city’s investment in a high-quality experience in Queens and Flushing Town Hall.
Where else can you, in a short period, watch England's acclaimed theatre company, Tall Stories, present beloved British author Julia Donaldson's “The Snail and the Whale” for family and school audiences, then enjoy hip-hop duo Black Violin’s new spin on old classics and new tunes, and then experience our home-grown Queens Jazz Orchestra?
In fact, Flushing Town Hall conceived of the Queens Jazz Orchestra project in 2008 as a way to keep the legacy of Queens as the "home of jazz" alive and to support the next generation of jazz greats.
Flushing Town Hall brings in an incredible array of master artists from around the world to Queens, all year-long, and admittedly, it’s dismaying when I hear the refrain, “Oh, I didn’t know that happens in Queens.”
Well, I encourage all of my compatriots in the cultural and arts worlds in Queens to join me in inviting not only visitors, but our neighbors and friends to support our borough’s institutions. As summer approaches and we explore this city, why not start with what’s already in your backyard?
Ellen Kodadek is executive and artistic director of Flushing Town Hall.