Shaun Leonardo, Socrates Sculpture Park
by Chase Collum
Jun 04, 2014 | 1833 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From the first time that Shaun Leonardo stepped foot in Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria to help a friend install a piece for exhibition nine years ago, he has been intrigued by the park’s history and mission.

“I’m from Queens, I grew up in Forest Hills and I never knew that this was in my back yard,” Leonardo said. “It just so happened I was returning home from a residency, and assisted a friend of my to install her work at the park. During that time, I discovered there was a job opening. I had just returned from graduate school and I was lucky enough to get the position.”

Leonardo went straight to work with the park, and became immersed in the programming aspect of park management, establishing one of the park’s most popular series in short order.

“I started as a special events manager, and my primary responsibility was overseeing the outdoor cinema, which has grown exponentially,” Leonardo said. “Now we are enjoying roughly 1,400 park goers who come here every Wednesday for that.”

Along with entertainment programming such as the outdoor cinema, Leonardo oversees a whole host of programming geared at hands-on learning.

“What I try to do is introduce educational programming and art-making workshops that, when possible, tie into the larger scope of what we do with our established, international artists,” he said.

As the park continues to grow its mission, Leonardo is focused on raising awareness among Queens residents about the park’s existence and atmosphere in hopes to continually attract new visitors.

“The truth is, there are a number of people in Queens that don’t realize we exist. As the word gets out and our popularity grows, I do think that this sense of pride, not only as an established art institution that does stunning visual works, but how we congregate as a community, how we share the artworks and give people an excuse to create their own experience among the artworks is one of a kind,” Leonardo said. “We’re open every day of the year, and everything we do is free.”

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