Dear Choreographers,

Pictured: Valerie Green, Executive Director, Dance Entropy Inc and previous QAF grantee, performing at Green Space. Photo by Rodney Zagury. 

Pictured: Valerie Green, Executive Director, Dance Entropy Inc and previous QAF grantee, performing at Green Space. Photo by Rodney Zagury. 

There are two things you should know about me.

One: I went into the arts to support artists.

Two: I don’t like it when people get terms wrong. Especially when they are about the arts.

So when I learned that the Artist Commissioning Program, the new initiative I was hired to run, has been erroneously requesting choreographers to produce a “dance notation,” I cringed.

Dancers, choreographers, I need not explain. But for the rest of us, I’ve learned that dance notation is like Latin: it existed, and it continues to exist, but hardly anyone reads it, and one definitely doesn’t publish new works in it. An obscure, vestigial limb of academia, hardly any contemporary choreographers use dance notation, and even if they did, the likelihood their dancers could read it is pretty slim.

To me, this wasn’t just a small mistake, but a painful, glaring omission, an embarrassing artistic faux pas. As an artist service organization, Queens Council on the Arts exists to serve artists (among the arts orgs & the public). To me, it felt like an English Tutor failing to notice their comma splice, or a Chinese restaurant that can’t make dumplings. This is what we do. In a world where artists are systemically underappreciated and undercompensated, who are we if not the one of the few organizations that can get the language right?

It’s not just a term. Language is a part of respect; it’s how we communicate relative importance. Calling someone by the wrong name or the wrong pronoun sends a clear message that obtaining the right identity doesn’t matter, or at least doesn’t matter as much as all the other things that can occupy our time. And this idea of empowerment through language isn’t new to this program, either: we chose the term “world premiere” for the final project presentations because it carries a certain cultural attaché, a validity we want associated with our artists and our borough.

 I will say this: one thing that being part of the Queens Council on the Arts team has helped me realize me is that, sometimes, it’s okay to not have all the answers, especially if you’re creating a new program. Sometimes it makes sense to ask artists for answers, a thing I think we don’t do often enough as a cultural sector or as a society.

So, dancers, choreographers—we come to you seeking answers. Tell us: how do you document your work? When you’re gone, and you want your dances—your unique combination of movement—to live on, what are the tools you’d need to provide to ensure that happens?

Is it a video? Some sketches? A very detailed list of instructions? Some combination of the above? Teach us your language. Help an artist service organization better understand its artists.

You may email me at with an example of a choreographic project and how you documented it by September 28. A selection of choreographers’ answers, including insight into their documentation process and artistic practice, will be profiled here in a follow-up post next month on October 3.



Kelly Olshan
Artist Commissioning Program Coordinator


"Gimme Arts Now" Podcast: QCA & Writers


"Gimme Arts Now" Podcast: QCA & Writers

ArtsNow, an Akron, Ohio-based arts service organization, recently launched its new podcast series "Gimme Arts Now." Host Roger Riddle reached out to QCA to learn what we're doing to support literary artists. QCA Art Service Manager Molaundo Jones spoke with ArtsNow to share many of the great things happening with writers at QCA. Click below to hear the podcast.



Learn about Svea’s experience with the Queens Arts Fund

Are you a Queens community-based organization or artist collective organizing cultural programming in 2018?

The QAF Access Grant, funded by the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs, and the Community Arts Grants, funded by the NY State Council on the Arts, are available to fund projects by organizations that offer distinct arts and cultural programming to the Queens community.

The two grants both range from $1,000 to $5,000 and aim to support community organizations that enhance the cultural vibrancy in Queens’ communities and neighborhoods, and make the arts accessible to all.

Funds support artists fees, marketing fees, administration fees, and supplies associated with producing a cultural project for the Queens public. Funding is provided for projects in the performing, literary, media, and visual arts, ranging from folk/traditional forms to contemporary and socially-engaged artistic practices.

2017 grantee Svea Schneider’s INSITU Site Specific Dance Festival perfectly exemplifies the kinds of community projects we look to support with the QAF. Over the course of two days, 25 different dance groups performed in outdoor spaces throughout Long Island City. If festival visitors chose to, they could have experienced 7 hours of uninterrupted dance in 4 different locations all along the Long Island City waterfront.

INSITU’s goal is to create community through the arts by activating public spaces through dance. The Festival strives to strengthen, bridge and celebrate the diverse communities living along the LIC waterfront by using dance as a tool for deeper community engagement. INSITU aspires to make dance accessible, connect with new audiences and raise awareness of the power of movement. INSITU creates a supportive platform for artists to develop new work and increases the visibility of the arts in Queens.

 Watch the video interview above to learn about Svea’s experience with the QAF, and how it helped INSITU come to be.

 And then check out the QCA website for full guidelines and eligibility for the Art Access Grant and the Community Arts Grant here:



When Does a Little Chinese Girl Get to be Supergirl?


This story originally appeared in Huffington Post.

I can remember exactly how I felt the first time I saw Porgy and Bess and fell in love with the music and the story.

So I asked my mom, "Is there a Chinese Porgy and Bess?"

She didn't think so.  I felt a little left out so I got myself the sheet music for "Summertime" and learned to play it on the piano.  And each time I did, I looked into the mirror hanging behind the piano and saw myself, a little Chinese girl humming this beautiful song and hearing Ella Fitzgerald's voice in my head.

I wondered if the composer, George Gershwin, had written music for other stories, maybe something that had people in it that looked like me.  He didn't. Later on, people would tell me that most stories have basic universal themes and can be everyone's journey.

My brain understood that.  My gut did not.  But I was a kid and believed that was the way things were and you just went along with it.

What really happens

I didn't realize how much I wanted to point to a character on stage and say, "That's me!"  I wanted to see, hear, and feel a story that rang true for me.  I wanted to root for a real person and see myself in their experience.  I wanted the world to see it would understand me.

Of course that didn't happen.  Not even when my parents took me to see Chinese opera movies in Chinatown where every one of them became a blur of rapid fire Chinese, kung fu fighting and monkey kings wreaking havoc on a mountain.  In Saturday morning Chinese school classes, I read primers printed in garish colors on rice paper that featured illustrations of Chinese people next to verbs and nouns.

It sent a message.  My story is about mythical ninjas and people pointing at things.

I didn't bother to try out for my school production of Tom Sawyer.  Me, Becky Thatcher?  I couldn't see myself in that role.  Every superhero I drew was a blond Supergirl.  The good guys, Cinderella, Marilyn Monroe... they were blondes.  Dark hair, dark skin was Boris & Natasha, Snidely Whiplash.  Chinese music that I shared with my class was "interesting folk music", not classical music.  And the classical piano music I was learning was dominated by a closed circle of composers, all men, all European, all dead.  Without a word, I knew my place.

But I still wondered.

If the stories we share are everyone's journey, shouldn't the heros and heroines look and sound like everyone?

Is there room in piano repertoire for other people to create music to be respected and loved?

Why couldn't I try out for Becky Thatcher?

What we can do

Many years ago, my sister took a trip to my mother's home village in China. "Mom's name was not in the family book," she sputtered furiously. "So, if her name isn't in the book, guess what - our names aren't in the book either!  We don't exist."

The explanation was, even though my mom has 18 brothers and sisters and a couple of concubine stepmothers, the book only listed the names of the male children. Now, are you going to tell me I don't have a story worth telling?

That did it.

How many more places can I be invisible, non existent?

I am sure my sister wanted to throttle someone for this terrible omission and out of respect for her elders, she bowed, smiled and hopped on a plane to New York ready to raise holy hell about it.

Meaning, she called me.  "You're a writer, do something about this!"

What I did

I wrote a story about my family.  In my mind, this is the beginning of my family book in America from one of the newest members of this large family.  Rabbit Mooncakes is a picture book that shows many of my aunts, uncles and cousins celebrating the Harvest Moon Festival in Queens. To this day, they still argue over who is who, no, you're the chubby one, I'm the one in this picture, that's me on the right of Auntie #5.

It is everyone's story. Female and male children, aunts and uncles, concubines, first & second wives, library boys governesses and a grandfather whose presence was larger than life.

Exclusion does not right past exclusion.  An incomplete story will not complete itself.

I learned a great piece of wisdom from a copywriter who said that copywriting is the art of persuasion on paper.

And the best way to do this is to enter into a conversation that is already happening in your reader's head.  Listen respectfully, offer a story or another way to be curious about something and then be still, let the reader sit with what you have to offer and make a decision.  Any other approach would be akin to beating up a customer to sell a used car.

Isn't that powerful?  Awakening an awareness to something new without force, creating a space for reflection and leaving the reader with the agency to come to a new understanding on their own.

This helped me to create something meaningful that does a few things: a story you can recognize yourself in, an experience that builds your confidence, and opens new ways to be curious and creative about the things you care about.

What about you

We are all creative beings by nature.  What we share is a lifetime of experiences and emotions.  The stories only you can tell are waiting to be heard by someone else. Someone who wants to feel that they are not alone.

If that person is you, be bold and share your story.

I can't wait for a new Porgy & Bess.

Or Supergirl.

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.
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We are so proud of our graduating High School to Art School seniors!

We are so proud of our graduating seniors!  They are all off to great schools where I am sure they will excel in their arts community. We are excited to share where they are heading next year.  In addition, you can read in detail about three HS2AS students in the attached document: Esmé, Delia, and Deanna.

Esme Bleecker- Adams

Attending Fordham University at Lincoln Center, full ride Accepted with scholarships to School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Alfred University, SUNY Purchase, Maryland Institute College of Art, Fordham University, Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College

About the Artist: My first session of HS2AS was summer 2015, and I love it here. Mostly I like drawing and painting, as well as amateur sewing, and absolutely anything involving bright colors. I am inspired by Sol LeWitt and am in love with Impressionism, and when I grow up I want to be an art teacher.

Delia Cadman

Attending Cooper Union, partial ride
Accepted with scholarships to Rhode Island School of Design, Cooper Union, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Alfred University, SUNY Purchase, Maryland Institute College of Art.

About the Artist: My work often borrows from art history to raise questions about how we live in our own time. I am interested in exploring the relationship between the individual and society. I am very passionate about painting, but often I find that other mediums are more conducive to expressing my ideas.

Deanna L. Cepeda

Attending Pratt Institute, full ride through the High Education Opportunity Program (HEOP)
Accepted with scholarships to School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design, School of Visual Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art

About the Artist: In my work, I concentrate on objects, figures, and spaces. I want to take a step away from creating conceptual work to better understand the physical world around me. I incorporate different ways to make the work seem interesting to me and the viewer whether it be the composition, color, media or technique.