Meet QAF 2016 Awardee - Fei Li

1. Can you tell us about your QAF funded project?

My project, “An Apple in Central Park”, is a new series of painting started from last summer in Central Park, which is reflecting my most current efforts as a continuous exploration about the possibilities of creating an authentic pictorial structure on the working surface.  It is an in depth exploration of landscape painting tradition, as well as the contribution to the continuums of art with a simple question: what I can do to the genre of landscape as a contemporary painter?

In my Scotland Artist’s Residency period last fall, I was aware of the influence of gravity in the life force and forms of landscapes. After I came back to New York, I went back to Central Park and experienced enormous visual refreshment. The geography shifts and the intensity of these experiences is now strongly push the project forward. It is expected to be presented in the exhibition in Studio 34 Gallery this October.

2. How do you think this project will impact the community?

The process and the result of the research on this unique issue in painting will be shared with the artist community and the general public through the representing of the works in the fall exhibition. I will be always accessible via email, studio visit or my website to the community in terms of art making. Moreover, as an artist, when we live out our humanity, we are making this world a better place.

3. How has QCA been helpful in the grant process?

QCA is very informative, easy accessible in terms of helping the artists. I attend the information section for the grant and gained much better understanding of the application requirements, its process, and many other aspects. The staffs are all patient, knowledgeable, and efficient. It is a gem in the community.

4. Here is your chance, what do you want everyone to know about you as an artist and your process?

My goal as an artist is through decades of consistent in-depth working with visual language, which is deeply rooted in the history of art, to contribute the new perspective or innovative works to the contemporary art world. The consistent in-depth working is a counter force to the contemporary art trend which privileges breadth over depth and might eventually dilute the culture.  I hope this goal can be achieved through the yearly/biennial project of painting series in an intensive studio practice schedule.



Storyselling: 10 Powerful Ways Storytelling Can Save Your Creative Career

by Slash Coleman

It used to be that we defined ourselves exclusively by our past. Our past personal identity story identified the things we’d achieved to make us who we are. Meet someone at a diner party or create an artist statement and you’d most likely rattle off your resume – where you went to school, where you worked, a list of galleries that represented your work, etc. – unaware that the person you were talking to or the person reading it wouldn’t remember a thing about you ten minutes later. Many of us, out of habit, still trap ourselves with this template when we communicate with others. We feel our credentials are the sole definition of who we are and by sharing this information we’ll feel more connected to who we’re talking to. Often times it has the opposite effect.The truth is, who we are is more accurately defined by our potential. The use of a future personal identity story in which you include yourself as a struggling heroin your own story has the power to change who you are by changing what is possible.  Why? Because by sharing this type of story you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable and as a result your listener will typically respond in kind, helping you and your story be remembered long after you part. I’ve compiled this powerful Top 10 list to inspire you to create and share our own personal identity story:


Advertisers have been using stories to manipulate us emotionally for years: to get us to smoke cigarettes, eat ourselves obese with junk food, buy mountains of stuff we don’t need, quit littering, and stay up at night worrying whether we have ring around the collar. It’s basic Business 101 – buy the story connected to the product and you buy the product. Psychologists and neuroscientists explain this teller/listener relationship using simple biology – great stories trigger large doses of our bodies pleasure chemicals – oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin, the same chemicals released during a massage or falling in love. I liken the experience to the Na’vi tail from the movie “Avatar.”  By literally plugging their tails (an overelaborate hair braid containing a highly evolved nervous system) into another creatures’ nervous system, the Na’vi share an inexplicable bond in the same way the teller and the listener share a bond.  When we become immersed in a story, our brains essentially can’t tell the difference between the line where the story begins and our real-world experience ends. Very few things in life create such a similar bond.


Whether it happens seated in a bar at an open mic storytelling show, in the car while listening to Ira Glass on NPR’s This American Life, from the sofa while watching the latest drama on ESPN unfold, or around your family dinner table, every great story pulls us into another world. Magic happens when we feel immersed in this place. We feel immersed when time escapes us. Stories ultimately replace the critical or evaluative adult mode that most of us spend the majority of our time in and replaces it with a receptive childlike curiosity where we’re less likely to reject new ideas.


When you upload pictures and videos of friends, share links, tag friends in posts and tweets, you become invested in your personal identity story on a much deeper level. Not only does social media utilize your writing skills, but it also calls on your imagination, auditory skills, visual skills and your intra-personal and inter-personal intelligence. As you now play the main character in many of your own stories (with your friends and family representing your supporting cast), your investment in your personal identity story is much greater. In a perfect world, your social media story and your personal identity story are perfect reflections of one another. For example, check out my Facebook page for my upcoming book “The Bohemian Love Diaries.” As you’ll see, I’m not just asking people to buy my book. In fact I never do that. I’m simply engaging my Facebook community in a conversation in an attempt to feel closer and more connected to those in my creative community. Notice I do this by using author quotes, photos of me with engaging captions, and articles that I feel inspired by.


Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be like Bill Cosby or hold a degree in English to make a story memorable. These days, content is king. In fact, the more of you there is in your story the better. You may be known for your awkward pauses, your odd assortment of idiosyncratic social skills and your lack of public speaking acumen, but the truth is, if everyone waited until they felt confident and secure before speaking, no stories would ever be told.  The simple secret to turning a mediocre story into a great story is telling it over and over and over again.  Share a story in an informal setting (around the table, at the local bar, with the postman or at the water cooler) at least 30 times and you’ll find your personal message becomes a clear, systematic exposition of you. As the video of my TED talk demonstrates, telling a story frequently really does make a difference. I originally wrote the beach ball story in 2005, it eventually was one of the stories included in my PBS Special and was performed over 1,400 times.


Before there were viral videos, there were viruses. Before there were viruses there was fire. Before there was fire there were stories about fire, viruses and viral videos. I’m not really sure if this is chronologically correct, but I am certain of one thing – a good story has the ability to replicate and spread without any additional effort from the storyteller and is much better than 10,000 business cards (though the verdict is still out as to whether it’s better than chocolate).


Say what you want to about reality television, but one thing is certain, we are culturally obsessed with these “unscripted” worlds. In terms of entertainment, reality television reveals a drastic shift from entertainment as fiction and escape to entertainment based on true, personal stories. It brings us face-to-face with our own lives and our relationship with intimacy and vulnerability and is a huge smack in the face. The story about you, created by you is about as real as it gets. When we understand the power that our personal identity story has to not only influence how others perceive us but also how we perceive our own lives, our connections to others grow stronger, our personal community grows larger and the sphere of influence we have with our creative voice grows larger.  In effect, the possibility to change the world exists with every single story about you that you choose to share.


Imagine yourself in a job interview. Your potential boss asks you if you’re an honest guy. You nod and say “Yes.” He looks at you for a long time. Does he believe you? Maybe he’ll call some of your references and they’ll give them examples of times you were honest. As artists if we want to demonstrate a quality like honesty, we typically show it through our artwork. We dance it, paint it, sing it, write it, or play it. Showing the qualities you want to convey about yourself through a personal identity story works the same way. If you want someone to know that you’re an honest person, tell a true, personal story in which you’re the hero demonstrating that quality. Notice how in the following story, I launch into a story about the ring that I’m wearing. Although I have over 10 hours worth of personal, true stories, I chose one that was related to something visible- my ring. What do you think this story reveals about me?


Ask my Dad, a sculptor, how a creative, passionate good ol’ boy like himself, who was raised on a hill in a chicken shack in West Virginia became a passionate artist and you’ll likely hear an anecdote rather than a story. As an extrovert who loves to talk, his anecdotes can ramble on for hours. The thing is, most people share anecdotes, thinking that they’re telling stories. An anecdote is something that happens. A story is structured with a clear beginning, middle, and end. which makes it the perfect companion for an artist.


Have you ever heard a story on the news, retold it and had your listener say “Wait, did that really happen to you?” And you say, “No, it was a story I heard on the news.” This unique phenomena which typically happens with stories is common because it activates a part of the brain which automatically turns stories we hear into our own experience.  Play your cards right with your own personal identity story and you could end up looking like Einstein.


Tell it often.

Slash Coleman is a professional writer, performer and storyteller based in New York City. Slash facilitated Storyselling: How to Tell Your Story and Communicate Better as part of QCA’s Build Your Own Business Workshop Series in May 2012.



Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts, Inc - 2016 Queens Arts Fund Awardee

1. Can you tell us about your QAF funded project?

The Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts, Inc. (KGCRA) is so pleased to receive a 2016 QCA Community Arts Grant to fund our project entitled "HomeFull."

The "HomeFull" project in a nutshell: 

5 Queens poets will be commissioned to write a new poem, 14 lines (not necessary to write in sonnet form) responding to the prompt HOME: A place we yearn for, return to and sometimes run from. After the poems are complete and received, Queens artists of different ethnicities (reflecting the demographics of Queens) will be asked to choose one of the 5 poems and then to create a piece of artwork in any medium reflecting their reaction to that poem. KGCRA will be looking to have 5 different artists respond to each poem and at the end of the project we will have 5 poems and 25 pieces of artwork. One of the poets will be a teenager and several of the participating artists will also be teens. The Opening Reception for "HomeFull” will include a poetry reading and music and is scheduled for Wednesday, September 28th, 6-8:30pm at Austin's Ale House (82-72 Austin Street, Kew Gardens). "HomeFull" will be on view from September 21-October 31, 2016.

2. How do you think this project will impact the community?

As always, KGCRA believes that through community art projects amazing things happen!!! 

"HomeFull" will celebrate the talents of Queens poets and artists! Bringing Queens residents of all ages and ethnicities together through the arts, we expect that dialogues about HOME will take place naturally and are hope-full that the sharing of personal introspection, perspective and experience will increase respect and understanding.  The project will give participating artists opportunities to network with each other as well as the young artists currently moving into Kew Gardens, their "new home." We are hoping that these new young artists will collaborate and bring art projects with a unique perspective to our area.

3. How has QCA been helpful in the grant process?

Helpful? Absolutely! 100% Yes! KGCRA appreciates that QCA encouraged us to apply for a Community Arts Grant, answered our multiple questions, before, during and after the application process AND we appreciate their kind patience and good advice. 

4. Here is your chance, what do you want everyone to know about your organization?

The mission of the Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts, Inc. is to serve the community through projects and efforts that enhance the viability and livability of Kew Gardens. This volunteer organization has been active for 40 years and has been responsible for many important improvements in the Kew Gardens area. Key community collaborations include more frequent LIRR service, developing an accessibility plan for East and Westbound sides of LIRR station, establishing an annex for local school PS99 and production of a book about Kew Gardens Kew Gardens: Urban Village in the Big City written by author Barry Lewis. The Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts, Inc. has always focused on arts and recreation for residents of all ages throughout its history beginning with chamber music concerts in the 1970s. The most recent art projects include: The Guardian Gargoyle for Peace (a 6 foot sculpture made of fiber glass and covered with mosaic symbols of peace created by PS99 children/families permanently installed at Maple Grove Cemetery), Kew Gardens Kids Art in the Park, Kew Gardens Community Arts Day, the Kew Gardens Cinemas Park Mural, the 2014 Department of Transportation mural on 82 Avenue and the upcoming Department of Transportation mural on 80th Road to be painted Spring 2016. KGCRA continues to be a relevant creative force in Kew Gardens that reflects and builds on a changing community that appreciates the arts.



Meet 2016 QAF Awardee Kenneth Burris

1. Can you tell us about your QAF funded project?

The project, Invisible Neighbors, involves the creation and exhibition of a series of mixed-media art pieces and the creation and distribution of a no-cost educational pamphlet on the wildlife of Queens.  The venue and exhibition date are TBD, however, I am currently reaching out to the Queens Public Library about an exhibition space (if that does not work out, I will show at THE LOCAL gallery in LIC), and intend the exhibition and pamphlet release to take place in late September/early October 2016.

2. How do you think this project will impact the community?

I hope to use the opening as a place for citizens and arts & environmental community groups to meet and have dialog about what wildlife exists here and what can be done to help promote species survival.  The pamphlet will be aimed at educating youth and any other interested residents on where the Queens wildlife can be found and accessed, at and how best to view and support it.  I hope to reach undervalued youth specifically, by distributing the pamphlet at local public schools and libraries, which is why an exhibition at a Queens public library would be ideal.  Hopefully this pamphlet and art show will raise ecological awareness in the community, and offer a starting point from which community participation can grow.  

The overall project for the grant is part of a larger project to create a children's book on wildlife in Queens, with the intent to raise awareness and participation in conservation efforts among the public.  

3. How has QCA been helpful in the grant process?

The QCA offers many resources, from information to financial support.  They are well-connected among many individuals and organizations in the greater Queens community, and are an invaluable partner to have in my project's development. 

4. Here is your chance, what do you want everyone to know about you as an artist and your process?

As an artist, I have discovered my voice by blending my passion for creating works with my interest in ecological issues.  I approach each art piece as a chance to work through all the thoughts and emotions raised by the reality of our present environmental crisis.  Often, people drown in the information overload of news media, and feel impotent to help create effective change.  Because of the local relevance of my work and educational content of the accompanying pamphlet, I hope that the viewer will walk away with new knowledge that they can find use for in their everyday lives, ideally inspired to take action.


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3 Things Grant Panelists Wish You Would Tell Them

Back when I was a struggling starry eyed author, I made one single decision that changed my life.

I listened to the voice in my soul that said,

“You story is what the world needs to hear.  


And I started to study what I needed to be successful.

And perhaps even more importantly, what obstacles I needed to kick out of my way from being successful because I knew what was at stake.

My success?

That was just a part of it…

I now had more than a goal – I had a mission.

I was driven by a newly focused passion to fulfill my mission to share stories about what connects us as people with the world.

That started me on a path of personal development as a creative soul that has never stopped.  Along the way, I’ve been successfully published and built a happy life never straying from that single mission that guides me every day.

It wasn’t always fast or easy, but it has been an amazing journey.

And here’s the interesting thing…

Over the years I have met hundreds of successful artists and creative people.  Do you know what EVERY SINGLE ONE of them share in common?

They are all serious students of success armed with a powerful mission.


Why this is so important for you

The fact is, you have to get your inner game together before the outer success comes.

To gain success in creating a rich life, you need give the world unique value only you can create.


How do you start?

Writing a grant is the best way to begin.

Consider it “a shot across the bow” into a world of foundations and philanthropies who exist soley to make the world a better place by giving away money to people with passionate missions like you.

Not to workshops…

Not to exhibitions….

Not to projects….

People fund people.

That is, people with passion in their soul for a mission that matches perfectly with their own.

If that basic chemistry is amiss, the workshops, exhibitions and projects are meaningless.

I have worked with hundreds of artists after sitting on international, national and local grant review panels for over a decade and I know what works and what doesn’t.

Successful artists do certain things right.

And when they get a grant, they move up to the next level.  They do what I call “grantstacking” to build successful careers and lives.

Are you an artist looking to grow your career?

Have you ever written a grant?

Did your grant proposal get turned down?

Here’s how to study for success

I want you to be the one clutching an award letter in your hand.

You deserve to have the money and support for your creative project.


Because you are an artist with a vision that can change the world.

The same world that foundations, philanthropies and yes, even the government wants to make better.

The same world that wants my stories.

The world that wants what only you can create.


The Most Important Question

Of all the questions you have to answer in a grant proposal, the one that is not always obvious but is the most important one you need to nail is this:


This is your mission speaking.

And the second most important question is:

Why now?

This is urgency speaking.

Even if you do not see this clearly spelled out for you, answer it.

The answer to Why? is why you are the best candidate for the grant.

This is the answer a grant panelist needs to guarantee that your proposal makes it into the Yes pile.

Your answer will show that you know exactly what the funder’s mission is and what is important to her.  That your missions are aligned.

You will make her confident in your ability to successfully carry out your project and achieve your shared goals.

The answer to Why now? is that you recognize an urgency, a need, a moment and you have a vision for something amazing to happen.

Yes, we need information.

Your proposal will include a lot of that.

But on a deeper level we need inspiration.

Consider this when you put your proposal together:

A stack of proposals towering over a bleary eyed, under-caffeinated group of grant panelists.  A handful will be really great and immediately rise to the top.  Another handful will be really bad and get eliminated.  That leaves a lot of proposals sagging in the middle.

You want to be in the the fistful of winners.


The secret sauce

“God, I just want to be unexpectedly delighted,” sighed one of my fellow grant reviewers at the midpoint of a fellowship panel recently.

“Can you be more specific?” I probed, secretly delighted myself because I, too, was feeling the fatigue of wading through a sea of faintly inspired proposals.

“There’s this great quote by J.D. Salinger –

What really knocks me out is a book that,

when you’re done reading it,

you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours

and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

- well, that’s the kind of feeling I look for in a great proposal.”

That has to be one of the best definitions of delight I have ever heard and it really captures the essence of that unmistakable quality of a great proposal.


How are you going to use this?

Some of you may be newbies at writing grants. 

Many of you are busy and quite overwhelmed thinking about doing another thing like writing grants.

Some of you wonder how you will stand out from your competition if you are not well known.

If this is you, it is great to be you!

You can use these 2 questions to drill down to what your core mission is as an artist and why you need the grant now.  Your answers will position yourself not as an applicant, but as a partner to your funder.


What do funders really want?

Some of you don’t know where to start.

Mission is the bedrock of your inner game.  It is what you build your passion on and what attracts success.

Start by defining and refining the answer to Why? and Why now? to bring your personal creative mission into crystal clear focus.

This internal journey will probably take the most time and effort but will be the most powerful message you can create for yourself.

A little research about recent grantees can tell you a great deal about what a funder’s mission is and what they are passionate about.

If that resonates with your answers to those 2 questions, you have a good prospect.


One last, but very important thing…

You are competing for a scarce commodity: attention.

The one thing that will startle people into giving you another precious moment of their time and attention is –

…unexpected delight.

Convince me you are the best candidate for the grant, persuade me that the time is now…

Startle me with a bit of imaginative thinking, or simply delight me, and you are golden.

You people are amazing artists, you know how to do this better than anyone.

Remember that everything I talk about will be with one goal in mind:  to help you position yourself as the best candidate for the grant from the grant panelist’s perspective.


Don’t miss this!

Hoong Yee


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