When Artists Unite in a Changing Community….

  Top from left to right: Saliimah Ali, Sherese Francis, Damali Abrams the Glitter Priestess, Natali S. Bravo-Barbee, Shervone Neckles. Bottom from left to right: Lisa Wade, Rejin Leys

Top from left to right: Saliimah Ali, Sherese Francis, Damali Abrams the Glitter Priestess, Natali S. Bravo-Barbee, Shervone Neckles. Bottom from left to right: Lisa Wade, Rejin Leys

QCA’s Community Outreach Coordinator-Samantha Inniss sat down with two members (Rejin Leys and Sherese Francis) of South East Queens Artist Alliance (SEQAA) to talk about how joining together as artists, sharing the same visions, living in the same place, brought them closer to the changes they wish to see in their community.

1) Samantha Inniss: How was SEQAA founded?

Rejin Leys: Four artists and myself had been in a QCA Peer Circle. We got a lot out of the experience, felt very supported professionally and got along well personally. At the end of the year we were not ready to stop meeting, but wanted to extend that support to more artists. That was the seed of the Alliance: we decided to try to develop the kinds of resources we needed that weren’t available for artists locally, while not trying to replicate what an organization can do since we don’t have a budget or a staff. Besides myself, the other co-founders are Margaret Rose Vendryes who is a painter and the Chair of the Art Department of York College; Shervone Neckles is a mixed media artist that works in arts administration at a foundation; Ify Chiejina who is a mixed media artists and art educator; and Elizabeth Velazquez who is sculptor, mixed media artist and also educator.

Sherese Francis: I, then, came along a few months later, after I met Rejin at a meeting about an arts initiative in Jamaica Queens. We felt it was important to think about what the alliance could do for writers as well. The arts initiative was to develop arts and cultures in our community but we felt it wasn’t tailored towards the artists here in SouthEast Queens, so we wanted to do the alliance together to focus more on the specific artists who are working and living here. I joined because, similar to the visual artists, I felt that literary artists here really did not have a platform to voice their needs and wants. The main Southeast Queens’ cultural community is mostly oriented towards performing arts -- dance and music. So I wanted to join other artists in the neighborhood that felt neglected and wanted a bigger platform.

Rejin Leys: And there are a number local initiatives that include arts and culture, but artists are rarely consulted in developing those plans. People who represent organizations were brought to the table, so we thought it was really important to be organized, otherwise our voices would never be heard.

2) Samantha Inniss: What would you say has been the success or challenges of forming an alliance?

Sherese Francis: I feel like people listen to us more now. When we were just individual artists and would present something to cultural organizations in the neighborhood, they would be like “Oh ok…”. They wouldn’t take us seriously because we weren’t “known” to them. So now that we are organized as a group, people are like “Ooh, who is the SouthEast Queens Artists Alliance, ooh what is that?” They want to find out more about us and find out more about what we are doing. They are more willing to hear our proposals that we offer to them because they think of us as organized.

Rejin Leys: When an opportunity comes up, they are more likely to reach out to us. Our biggest success so far was in our first year forming as an Alliance, we were awarded our first grant from QCA for our upcoming festival -(C)Art Festival Pop-Up Art in the Park, which will take place on September 1st at King Manor. That gave us a big boost, and our kickstarter also got fully funded. This all lets us know that people support what we are doing.

Sherese Francis: The other success we had was the Southeast Queens Biennial that was at York College and the Queens Central Library. Most of us had artwork shown in there and as for me I did a reading at the Chapel of the Three Sisters on the York College campus.

Rejin Leys: It was organized by No Longer Empty. A lot of us were included because when the curators asked “Who should we talk to?” we referred them to so many of the great artists we had met through organizing SEQAA. They thought it was amazing how everyone supported each other, helped spread the word, and did the research to find other people. In the past, there had been opportunities that have come up and no one knew who the artists were in the area, or someone knew one person, and there wasn’t a way to identify other people. We really needed this network.

  Standing back from left to right: Wanda Best, Artist, Margaret Rose Vendryes, Artist, Lisa Wade, Sana Musasama, Marvenia Knight, Dominique Sindayiganza, Shenna Vaughn, Chris Smith, Artist, Shervone Neckles. Sitting at table from left to right: Elizabeth Velazquez, Andrea Leslie, Rejin Leys

Standing back from left to right: Wanda Best, Artist, Margaret Rose Vendryes, Artist, Lisa Wade, Sana Musasama, Marvenia Knight, Dominique Sindayiganza, Shenna Vaughn, Chris Smith, Artist, Shervone Neckles. Sitting at table from left to right: Elizabeth Velazquez, Andrea Leslie, Rejin Leys

3) Samantha Inniss: As as an alliance of artists, does that affect your process of working as individual artists when you are working in such a large group? For instance, in your last project was there a certain theme you all were working towards, did that affect individuals as you put together your pieces?

Rejin Leys: We don't currently work as a collective that collaborates on making art. For the Biennial, the curators had a concept and ideas for the show, and they did studio visits and looked at our individual work and selected from that.

Sherese Francis: But it is a chance for all of us to see each other’s work and support each other. Sometimes we get small influences from other artists in the group. For example, when I saw Shervone Neckles’ work, I liked it so much I told her that her art pieces are going to be the cover of my next poetry book. Being a part of SEQAA gives me a chance as a writer to be influenced by visual artists and vice versa.

Rejin Leys: We do have a proposal out for a group residency where we could share a studio and develop some work together. The first space we proposed it to didn't come through, so we are still shopping around for the opportunity to do that.

4) Samantha Inniss: What do you hope to achieve with SEQQA in regards to a community that is going through such major economic changes?  Do you feel that arts and culture in South East Queens will be effected in a good way?

Rejin Leys: Particularly for the initiatives that talk about the need for cultural activities for all the audiences here (local residents as well as commuters and tourists), we feel it’s important to develop funding and other resources for arts and culture, not just pay lip service. We want to be a voice for that and provide an avenue for that to happen, as well as support our community and cultural institutions that are already here. I feel like the Alliance is a voice for how do we not just USE arts and culture but how do we FUND arts and culture for the neighborhood that we want. Also thinking about in a lot of neighborhoods, the arts are used for gentrification purposes. We feel that it’s important for the arts to be funded here because people in the neighborhood need cultural enrichment as well but we feel it’s really important to be thoughtful about how it happens. Just because something may seem good for us as artists we don't want to jump on every initiative that later we may realize is not good for our neighbors, so we feel it has to happen in a thoughtful way.

Sherese Francis: Yeah, our mission is to do more public art programming that is affordable for the neighborhood. So, not just for someone who has the money to access these art programs but everyday people who may not have that money can access art as well. That is part of the reason why we are doing our upcoming festival, because it will be all of our art projects engaging the entire community and it’s free.

5) Samantha Inniss: Based on your experience in SEQAA and with QCA, do you have any advice for other artists outside of your own community that want to engage with the public where they live but struggle in finding ways to do so?

Sherese Francis: I would say get to know your community. For example, I lived in Jamaica, Queens since I was two years old and didn’t know a lot about it. It wasn’t until about a few years ago I started to really explore my neighborhood, explore all of the art organizations and then I realized how much is already here. And that made me want to meet other people, network, find other artists and join together to do more here.

Rejin Leys: I would also say support each other. This is our shared interest…to support each other and to help each other to achieve our professional goals. In making your work and sharing your work, you need to be supported so you can provide what you do for the community. If you’re not supported, then there is nothing you can give for the audience. This is really how we started…by supporting each other. We expanded that to our Facebook group to share opportunities, share advice…if we help people to take their career to the next level then that would bring more attention to where we live and bring more resources. If we are not professionally prepared to go after the opportunities, all the resources will go to other places outside of our community. We need to support each other to get our work done, bring those resources here, as well as share—if your profile goes national, that reflects on the neighborhood too!

For more information on SEQAA and their artists, you can check out their website here, instagram: @southeastqueensartists and their facebook page here:

  From left to right: Elizabeth Velazquez, Rejin Leys, Shervone Neckles

From left to right: Elizabeth Velazquez, Rejin Leys, Shervone Neckles





On Friday, May 4, 2018, the Queens Writers Lab graced QCA with a reading of new works at our LAB program. The writers shared riveting fiction, nonfiction, and poetry with a packed house. After the event we sat down with writers Nancy Agabian, Catherine Fletcher, Mary Lannon, Vaughn Watson, Meera Nair, and Jared Harel, to talk about the value of the LAB program and its impact on artists and Queens communities.


I am originally from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania (the "gateway" to the Poconos).  I've lived in Kew Gardens since 2008. For me, QCA's LAB is important to artist-writers because its an opportunity to share and celebrate my work with my fellow writers and our community.  I am also able to receive responses and feedback to my work that gives me new ways of looking at it, as well as motivation to continue the hard work of writing. I believe the Lab is important to the community because it's an opportunity to come together and hear stories, to hear language put in new ways, and to engage with new ideas.  Sharing in artistic experiences with others can bring us closer to one another and engaged with each other in different registers than in our more mundane interactions. I am currently at work on a satirical dystopian novel (my second novel).


I have lived in jackson Heights (or Momoland) since 2006. LAB fosters a sense of community and in my case, commitment to the artistic practice. The community gets to experience art and meet working artists. I am currently working on a number of essays and short stories. 


I live in Jackson Heights. LAB gives artists a means to test out new work and to find new audience.  It also allows artists to find resources among each other. I am currently working on a collection of personal essays exploring the liminal spaces of identity.


I'm originally from Corona and am still living there, after a brief stint in China and Japan. The QCA LAB provides a space for artists to engage the community with new work. I'm currently revising my first short story collection, Payaos


I'm originally from Virginia and currently split my time between Jackson Heights and Norfolk, Virginia. LAB offers artists that scarce resource in New York City: free space.  For me, LAB offers the opportunity to read works-in-progress in a supportive environment and to get both audience feedback as well as wider exposure for my writing. I'm currently reworking my first manuscript, as well as writing a new series of poems in email format on hacking, espionage, and the cyber bears.


I'm from Long Island, NY and currently live in Rego Park, Queens. QCA's LAB program is an essential component to connecting Queens artists and building a community right here in our borough. Writing (or painting, etc) can be a very solitary endeavor, and so creating a network of artists to support one another, bounce ideas around and share new work is a true gift. My poetry collection 'Go Because I Love You' was published this Spring, and so I'm currently in the process of writing new poems for an eventual next book. Refilling the well, I guess. 



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Meet the Writers Behind Landing Pages

An ArtPort Residency project that fosters community in a transient place

 Lexie Smith and Gideon Jacobs in front of the Landing Pages kiosk at LaGuardia Airport's Marine Air Terminal (Credit PANYNJ - Brian Caraveo)

Lexie Smith and Gideon Jacobs in front of the Landing Pages kiosk at LaGuardia Airport's Marine Air Terminal (Credit PANYNJ - Brian Caraveo)

Gideon Jacobs and Lexie Smith, two writers from Ridgewood, are the first two artists-in-residence for the 2018 ArtPort Residency - a new QCA program in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), where Queens-based artists will work in a public studio space in LaGuardia's Marine Air Terminal (Terminal A).

The ArtPort Residency allows artists-in-residence to create new work while interacting with the thousands of visitors that come through the airport daily, and bring and engaging cultural experience to the space.

Gideon and Lexie's project Landing Pages is a unique opportunity where they will meet with passersby who visit their kiosk in the Marine Air Terminal, and use the experience of the space to write new works of fiction on the spot. 

We sat down with Gideon and Lexie and asked them about their experience so far, and what they hope for the project in the future.

The writers will be in the studio until June 30th - check out QCA's Landing Pages site for open studio hours when you can visit and meet the artists

For those who can't visit the Marine Air Terminal and still want to follow the Landing Pages project - Gideon and Lexie will update their website with the stories that they write during their residency at

Tell us about Landing Pages - how did you come up with the project idea?

When we heard about the residency, we knew we wanted to do something site-specific rather than simply make work that we could have made anywhere. So we came up with this concept of Landing Pages, which is, for lack of a better way of describing it, a kind of literary performance project that uses the experience of the terminal as its constraints. Passengers can visit the Landing Pages kiosk before they get on their flight, and give us their flight number and phone number (or emails). We then have the duration of their flight to write them a "Landing Page" -- a story of some sort that must be delivered to their cell phone before they land. 

Landing Pages has been going for about a week now, how has the experience in that transient environment and constant flow of people been for you so far? Any surprises that you've encountered?

The transient environment of LGA Terminal A has been pretty inspiring, and it's definitely leaking into our stories, in overt and subtle ways. Another thing we like is that there's this low hum of noise -- voices, luggage rolling, air conditioning, etc -- that kind of feels like the soundtrack to our work, but is also not so loud that it's distracting. 

What do you plan on writing about when you meet a visitor?

We decided to keep possibilities of what a "Landing Page" can be pretty open, but we imagine that most of them will be inspired by our surroundings in the Marine Air Terminal, and our interactions with the passengers. 

 Credit PANYNJ - Brian Caraveo

Credit PANYNJ - Brian Caraveo

What made you want to take part in the Residency, especially one that takes place in an airport?

To begin with, neither of us had heard of a residency that married a municipal space with a studio opportunity, and we figured the folks behind it had to have a unique vision of their own to have created anything like it. Airports are totally enigmatic ecosystems where interactions are often strained, frenzied, or nonexistent. The thought of a workspace standing still in that transient environment was compelling. We wanted to figure out if we could synthesize that space into work that travelers could take with them, making the viewer a necessary part of the work’s creation. Any environment that’s characterized by a constantly changing landscape is a dynamic place to pull human stories from, so despite its seeming discordant with a writing practice, the airport as residency is actually, in many ways, ideal.

How does collaborating as a team affect your process?

It holds us accountable, splits the logistical weight lifting to allow more time for creative production, and forces amendments and creative workarounds that wouldn’t come with one unchallenged opinion. Having to vocalize our ideas about the structure of the project helped formalize them, and really gave Landing Pages its final dimensions. Likely the best part is that its simply more fun, and makes sitting in a room for an extended time, prying things out of your brain and onto a page, a lot easier to sustain (and enjoy). 

What do you hope to achieve with Landing Pages, especially with regards to the community that go through the airport on a daily basis?

We hope that Landing Pages can a surprise for anyone visiting the terminal, whether they are about to hop on a flight, or coming from the neighborhoods surrounding LaGuardia. We also hope that it can be a reminder that things like writing and fiction and stories are much more flexible than we sometimes think, capable of appearing nearly anywhere and taking on a variety of shapes. 

This may be too early to answer, but would you have any advice for artists hoping to do a public project like this in the future? Whether in terms of applying to residency opportunities, or actually executing the project?

Our only advice would be to really take into account the experience of those who interact with your project when designing your concept. All public art is a two-way street flowing between artist and audience. It's helpful to put yourself in their position before conceptualizing your own. Also, be flexible, as there are always adjustments that need to be made once a project exits the vacuum of your brain and enters the real world. 

Landing Pages PC Final Bleed1.jpg

The writers will be in the studio until June 30th - check out QCA's Landing Pages site for open studio hours when you can visit and meet the artists

Learn more about the project here

Any questions about grants and residencies opportunities at QCA, email Dan Bamba

The QCA ArtPort Residency is a program of the Queens Council on the Arts, Queens Art Fund that is supported in part by the NYC DCLA, Greater NY Arts Development Fund, in partnership with the NYC Council and in partnership with PANYNJ.

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How We Wrote Our Cultural Equity Statement and how you can write yours

QCA believes that art is a basic human right for all peoples,
and that when all artists thrive at the centrality of our communities, a full life is realized for all of us.

Why do you need a cultural equity statement?

Isn’t a mission statement enough?

The Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) believes meaningful progress towards a better world can be achieved only when an organization takes practical steps forward in addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion internally as well as externally.

Creating a cultural equity statement is the first step to focus peoples’ thinking and, for some, to have their very first conversations around these fundamental human rights.


The Diversity Committee of the QCA Junior Board

The Diversity Committee of the QCA Junior Board came together with the president of the QCA Senior Board in 2017 and spent time discussing what a cultural equity statement means to our organization and how we intend to use it. After further conversation and review, the QCA Senior Board voted to adopt 1 of 2 draft versions presented to them at the following board meeting.

As a result, every decision we make now reflects consideration of this statement whether it is about hiring, board recruitment, fundraising, community development, programming or what we’re serving at our next reception.

  The Creative Conversation at the New York Tibetan Services Center in Jackson Heights

The Creative Conversation at the New York Tibetan Services Center in Jackson Heights

On Friday, April 27th, 2018, members of the Diversity Committee facilitated a Creative Conversation in Jackson Heights where artists came together to talk about what a cultural equity statement means to them and to their work.

  Aryana Anderson, QCA Junior Board Member

Aryana Anderson, QCA Junior Board Member

How to create your own cultural equity statement

 Here are some ways to begin a conversation with a group of people that can open up a space to talk about what cultural equity means to each of us in our work:

Big Group

Together, set some basic ground rules for your discussion. Start by deciding what the group’s shared understandings are.

For example:

·                  Share the air

·                  Step up, step back

·                  Be open to working together

·                  Don’t be afraid to share what scares you

·                  Don’t apologize

·                  Challenge ideas, not people

·                  I statements

·                  Stay engaged, present, actively listening

·                  Respect

·                  Come with kindness

·                  Share your work

·                  There’s a lot of power in “No”

Next, pose some guiding questions to open a conversation.

For example:

·      Why is this conversation important for us to have in our field?

·      How do I represent my core values?

·      How do I as an artist create work that is an expression of human rights?

·      How do you find others to band with you?

·      How do we make ourselves known to our community and get to know them?

·      How can I bring this back to my organization?

Small Group

Within groups of 2-3 people, talk about this further and in more depth. You can use guiding questions such as:

·      How does this affect me and my work?

·      What would this look like for you or for your organization?

Next Steps

Have each small group share out what their top takeaways are. Ask these final questions:

·      What needs to happen?

·      What is one thing I can do tomorrow?

·      What questions do we still have?

We capture all of our Creative Conversations as podcasts and invite artists to do interviews afterwards. You can hear them on Soundcloud.

  The Creative Conversation podcast interview

The Creative Conversation podcast interview

To make you meeting flow well, here is a list of things to bring:

·      Flip chart

·      Markers

·      Index cards

·      Post cards

·      Pizza (if you really want to knock it out of the park)


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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What if grant panels were completely transparent?

 QCA Staff and partners discuss upcoming arts programming 

QCA Staff and partners discuss upcoming arts programming 

Last week, I revealed the structure behind our latest podcast: a 5-part audio series that takes listeners behind the scenes our first Artist Commissioning Program panel. If you missed it, check out that blog.

In short, this new podcast series alternate between excerpts from live panel sessions and interviews from our art producers, who were responsible for reviewing and selecting the ultimate artist awardees.

The latest podcast, How do you tell an untold story? reveals exclusive, behind-the-scenes excerpts of our ACP panels.


Informal poll: Is something lost by taking out the application-specific comments?

In the last blog, I promised to share my uncensored opinion about this approach, so here it goes:

I do like this format. I think it’s interesting and digestible and it will help pull behind the curtain of what takes place in a grant panel. But, listening to the audio itself, so much of the content is specific to the individual applications. Is something lost by taking out the application-specific comments? It’s more universal, sure, and it does a good job of documenting the program in an interesting way. But for the artists that applied, would it be better if:

We just took the audio, spliced it into individual segments (97 applicants, 97 .mp3 files), and sent all the artists their individual comments, recorded live from the panel? That way, you get immediate, unadulterated feedback specific to you and your application.

This is not to say that artists are fragile beings incapable of hearing feedback—quite the opposite. But it’s not hard to imagine how [a completely open panel process] could go wrong.


The problem with this is pretty obvious. When I was in art school, I watched many a classmate cry in critique, devastated from blunt feedback. It became such an issue that our weekly sessions became to resemble a reality TV show. Even when artists called me this year to listen to me relay the panelists’ comments, I could hear some of their voices breaking, their frustration surging.

This is not to say that artists are fragile beings incapable of hearing feedback—quite the opposite. I think it takes an incredible amount of resilience and self-efficacy to make things without the any reasonable promise of security, safety, or recognition. But it’s not hard to imagine how something like this could go wrong. Even if the artists are able to listen to strangers evaluate their work silently and seemingly objectively, would panelists—some of whom have never done this before—realistically be able to talk about the work with this type of audience?


Apparently, it’s been done before. A few weeks ago, our Executive Director, Hoong Yee Krakauer, came back from one of her many arts trips all excited. She ushered me into her office:

     Did you know that Indiana Arts Council conducts their panel live in front of anyone who wants to watch? The artists can come in and watch their applications be scored! People just come and go as they wish.

    Really?, I asked, almost shocked. I pictured an indifferent cast of characters, lined up in folding chairs feet from the panel session, as bored and unaffected as if they were at the DMV.

    Yes, and it works; it’s fine. I think that’s where we should go eventually.

Do you think this is where we should go eventually? Share your thoughts with me by emailing

next up

In this spirit, Our third podcast, What does an exceptional project look like? shares the art producers' reactions to a winning application from the actual panel. Listen to it here!


Daniel Arnow on Affordable Housing in NYC


Daniel Arnow on Affordable Housing in NYC

Daniel Arnow, Director of Affordable Housing Initiatives at The Actors Fund (and formerly of QCA), delivered a comprehensive seminar on affordable housing in NYC at QCA on April 13, 2018. The seminar covered processes of applying for affordable housing and gave artists in-depth insight into how the systems work and how they can make their applications most competitive. We sat down with Daniel and asked him a few questions about his mission to educate artists on affordable housing.


What's one thing that you would recommend to people in their search for affordable housing?

Besides visiting our online Housing Resource Center and attending one of our “Applying for Affordable Housing Seminars”? Since all affordable housing programs are based on annual household income, I would recommend reading this income guide to better understand how to calculate your own income. This will help you to better understand what affordable housing opportunities you might be eligible for.

What impact do you hope that your seminar will have on artists' lives?

We hope that this seminar will help people to navigate the affordable housing landscape. More specifically, the seminar will help people to get organized and prepare to apply for affordable housing lotteries through NYC Housing Connect. While affordable housing can be more of a long-term solution because the process is so competitive, our broader goal is to increase access to affordable housing opportunities for our constituents.


What is one of the most consistent things that you hear from artists across the city when you do these seminars?

Because artist’s income is often fluctuating, episodic and from many different sources, the most consistent thing I hear is how challenging it is for artists to accurately calculate their annual household income. The system is definitely designed for folks with a single employer so this presents a challenge for many artists. To learn more about affordable housing for artists in NYC and what the challenges are, check out this article in Multiple Cities.

What would you tell other artists about QCA?

QCA is a true pillar in the arts and culture community in Queens and city-wide. There are so many valuable resources available at QCA that range from funding to professional development opportunities. QCA is also an important community space for us to gather and share information. It was privilege to partner with the QCA team and to bring this affordable housing workshop to new communities. As a side note, I had the pleasure of working at QCA a few years ago to coordinate the SU-CASA (previously named SPARC) program in Queens.

I wanted to give a BIG shout out to Lynn Lobell, former Grants & Resource Director at QCA, who recently retired to embark on new adventures. Her contributions to QCA and the broader arts and culture community in NYC have been invaluable – thank you, Lynn!



Queens’ Creative Citizen: Greg Mays

 Greg Mays

Greg Mays

Creative Citizen: A talented thinker that combines business insight with artistic creativity, strategy and vision to create, curate and entertain. A Better Jamaica Founder and Jamaica, Queens born and raised resident Greg Mays, discusses his experience as a “Creative Citizen” with our Community Outreach Coordinator Samantha Inniss. Greg talked with Samantha about using his creative skills as a resource in his own community.

1)  Samantha Inniss: Tell us what makes you a “Creative Citizen.”
Greg Mays: I would categorize myself as a creative cheerleader. I take great pride in advocating for and encouraging artists in my community. So for example, an artist that I know is a wonderfully talented person but was not taking advantage of grant opportunities that were particular to their artistic needs, I would guide and go with them to QCA information sessions. If they could not attend all sessions, as some would not be able to attend because of conflicting work schedules or long work hours, I would go on their behalf to find out if they meet the qualifications. I make sure to find out about all the opportunities so I could share it with them. Many haven’t applied for a grant before or were not aware of QCA grants, so I help them through the process and sometimes I apply for the grant myself to hire artists to perform in one of my many program initiatives. So it is a way for me to get artists to apply for grants and learn the process for there own benefit.

2)  Samantha Inniss: Most people think that QCA is for artists only. As a “Creative Citizen,” how did you find out that QCA fit into the mission of what you set out to do?
Greg Mays: I did my research through the Department of Cultural Affairs looking for resources and came across QCA and applied to fund one of my programs. So I then I became a recipient of the Queens Arts Fund. Once I learned what it took for me to get a grant I then encouraged other people. I said, “Look I got a grant, I know the process and therefore I think you can get a grant too based on what I know about you.” So there was a little more creditability having received the grant and it helped to motivate others to apply and utilize the QCA resources when I talked to people.

3)  Samantha Inniss: So what in QCA have you been apart of and how has QCA helped you? Greg Mays: I first received the Queens Arts Fund which helped me when applying to other grants, then the Artist Commissioning Program sounded great, I was accepted and learned about commissioning and how to further support artists, also I been apart of Creative Conversations, attended QCA Galas and I recently paid to become a member and support QCA since they have supported me. Plus, I been apart of the grant panels to review grant applications and choose new recipients. When I didn’t receive a grant I applied for, I was able to receive notes on the reason why to help my chances for other grant opportunities.

 4)  Samantha Inniss: What is one thing you learned through QCA that you would give as a piece of advice to another Creative Citizen?
Greg Mays: Apply for the grants! QCA grant applications are much easier to complete and receive than the city, state and federal level applications and QCA would help you throughout the process. It is great learning experience for first time grant applicants. In advocating for artists, we have also acted as a fiscal agent. We as a non-profit receive the grant and can fiscally sponsor artist projects to encourage them to apply for a grant and develop professionally as an artist.

If you see yourself as a Creative Citizen too, check out all that QCA has to offer to see if your creative project can be developed through the assistance of QCA.

For more about Greg and his organization, you can check out his website here.



SU-CASA: Newtown Italian Senior Center


SU-CASA: Newtown Italian Senior Center

Barbara Westermann, a 2018 SU-CASA Artist-in-Residence, is currently working on a series of collage projects with her senior students. She shared some of her students' work and her own experiences as a teacher at Newtown Italian Neighborhood Senior Center in Elmhurst.

What inspired you to do this project?

I was inspired by the neighborhoods of Queens where I live, with their patchwork quilt of different communities, languages, religions, ethnicity and a rich and dynamic visual appeal. I thought of the music and art that's come from Queens (Long Island City - where I have had a studio for years- Astoria, St. Albans, Corona, the stretch of Utopia Parkway in Flushing where Joseph Cornell once lived) and related it to my own artwork which has so often dealt in historical traditions of collage, constructivism and cutouts.

How do you think SU-CASA benefits the seniors and the community?

In the case of the Newtown Italian Neighborhood Senior Center, the group of ladies who meet each week, some with a love or art that goes back ages, others who are new to it, love to see themselves reflected in the projects we've worked on. This, a love of flowers connected them to artists like Matisse- and craft traditions like the collage - and their Chinese heritage drove an interest in the Chinese horoscope in this year of the dog.

What would you tell another artist about the SU-CASA program?

SU-CASA brings interesting artists with high-quality art and a tradition to an underserved population with its natural gifts and talents and interests and expertise. SU-CASA also focuses on artists who can teach and share their vision and their craft. The programme allows an artist to work in her own comfort zone and tradition, while bringing a gift of visual arts (and music) to a rich and ever-changing community.




Last month, I wrote about QCA’s efforts to make our grant panel process more transparent, and to document our new Artist Commissioning Program. These objectives ended up materializing into a podcast project, which will share live recordings from our October 2017 sessions.


The Artist Commissioning Program’s two panels produced almost 13 hours of audio content: 12 from the panel itself, and about an hour of interviews with the art producers. Now, it’s matter of what to do with all the content now that we have it. Here’s a visual mockup of the situation:


We wanted to take the content we have and reorganize it: specifically, to divorce the audio from its current applicant-response format. Rather than playing the discussion of each application verbatim, we could organize the audio by themes. This format would allow us to exclude sensitive information such as artists’ and panelists’ names, as well as be a length people will actually listen to—i.e. not 6 hours of unedited comments.

The bottom third of the diagram breaks down the audio into categories. The left, artist scoring criteria (see evaluation criteria), represent the pillars of conversation during the panel. These were the factors we asked the panelists, or art producers, to evaluate the applications. After the panel, our recording partner Clocktower interviewed the art producers about their experience. The three questions we asked are listed on the right.


ACP Panel Podcast Draft 1.png

After talking with staff from Clocktower I planned to create one hour-long podcast with four individual sections, or chapters. Each 25-minute chapter would focus on one the four artist selection criteria. Interview questions could be interspersed with these panel comments, like so (see right).

I still wasn’t sold, so I asked our staff, “If you were creating something from this material, how would you organize it? What is the right format, the most important points to hit?” Here’s what they came up with.


The staff suggested making multiple podcasts that unveil the content in a series. This was totally different than what I had been envisioning, which was to create one thing combining everything. The new plan creates a 5-series podcast that alternates between interview spotlights and panel excerpts alongside a conversation with a feature guest:

  • The interview spotlights highlight the art producers’ experience reviewing the applications and selecting the artists.
  • The panel excerpts focus on what took place during the panel: In the latest Podcast, by highlighting the main priority of the ACP, or the capacity to create works not visible in American culture (see evaluation criteria here). This part of the panel is specific to ACP, and is meant to help listeners understand ACP’s selection process.

Podcast 1: What are the gaps in American Culture?

  • Feature interview: Hoong Yee Krakauer, QCA Executive Director
  • Art producer interview spotlight: Art producers answer the question, “How did you decide what works are not visible in American Culture?”

Podcast 2: How do you tell an untold story?

  • Feature interview: Brendez Wineglass, Art Producer
  • Panel Spotlight: Behind-the-scenes panel audio of the art producers discussing Category 1, or the artists' capacity to create new art that tells untold stories

(Coming soon) podcast 3: what does an exceptional project look like?

  • Feature interview: Neil Padukone, ACP Awardee in Music Composition 
  • Panel Spotlight: We hear the art producers discuss and select Neil's project application
  • Interview Spotlight:  Art producers answer the question, "What was it like being responsible for selecting the commissioned artists?"

(coming soon) podcast 4: what is it like to be a cultural gatekeeper?

  • Feature interview: David Johnston, ACP Advisory Council Member & Exploring the Metropolis Executive Director
  • Panel Spotlight: Excerpts from both panels discussing artistic quality, clarity, and project feasibility 

(coming soon) podcast 5: how do you talk about artistic excellence?

  • Feature interview: Mike PrattScherman Foundation (ACP Funder) President 
  • Interview Spotlight: Art Producers' answer the question, "What language did you find most helpful in discussing these works?"

Listen to the latest podcast here, and let us know what you think of the format! Feel free to email me your comments & feedback at

Next month, I’ll walk you through our thought process – what I think this accomplishes, and how we could potentially go further.





Join us on May 4, 2018, 6:30-8:30pm, for a LAB literary reading by the Queens Writers' Lab. The collective's Jared Harel recently published a book of poems entitled "Go Because I Love You." We spent a little time picking Jared's brain on what it was like to prepare for the process of publishing his book. 

How would you describe the life of a writer in NYC?

 Jared Harel

Jared Harel

I’m not sure I’m qualified to describe the life of an NYC writer. There are so many of us. So many lives. What I can say is that being a writer in this city puts me near so many other writers, and readings, and museums, and culture. Of course, that can be a double-edged sword, having so many deliciously-tempting distractions just a subway ride away. Sometimes the best thing for a writer is a laptop, a stack of books, and an empty afternoon.

What impact has living in Queens had on your work?
Living in Queens has had an incredibly positive impact on my writing, but also on my life, and the life of my family. I’d mentioned in a previous interview how Queens residents are united in our diversity. These differences between us means that no one is other, which is a wonderful and lucky thing. More specifically, over the past few years, the Queens literary community has taken leaps forward. Thanks to QCA, Newtown Lit, three independent bookstores and a whole bunch of great writers and reading series, Queens has become a very writer and reader-friendly borough.

book pic2.png

What is your book about?
I had no master plan while writing the individual poems in this book. Still, I’ve come to view my poetry collection, ‘Go Because I Love You’ as a book of arrivals and departures. I think the book title speaks to this tension between love and loss, and how difficult it can be to make this world (and the people we love in it) stay. Certainly, it’s a book grounded in interiors: the domesticity of childhood and parenthood, and it builds out from there. One of the things that startled me about becoming a father was how absolutely terrifying it can be. Suddenly, every street and staircase and string of spaghetti can seem downright hazardous, and this fear of losing that which I love is a theme I’ve noticed in my work.

What is something that you hope people who read your book will walk away with?
I write to the dictum that specificity is universal, and that one’s personal experiences, if rendered in an honest, articulate manner, might resonate with others. That isn’t to say that everything in my poems “happened to me”, but I do try to make sure that my work is genuine and written with sincerity. So, I guess my hope is that people connect with the book and find something of themselves in it. I also hope readers find aspects of the book funny, even if that humor is backlit by something more serious. The poetry world could use a bit more humor.

What was the hardest thing about writing and finishing your book?
Oh, everything about poem-writing is hard for me! The poems themselves. Finding the time to write them. Finding the time to write poorly, so that I can eventually dig through to the good stuff. I’ve always been envious of writers who seem to bang out page after page of good work. Being a parent to two small children has helped me become a more efficient writer though. The next impromptu art project or scraped knee emergency can strike at any time.

What advice do you have for other emerging writers who would like to have their work published?
Be persistent. Don’t send out work until it’s ready, but once it’s ready, don’t sit on it. Read widely. Aim to get a sense of what journals and presses might be a good fit for you. Also, I find that the part of my brain that’s good at poem writing is NOT the same part of my brain that writes cover letters and organizes spreadsheets, so I aim to send work out over a short period of time, maybe a week or so. Then I get back to the more interesting stuff.

How has QCA helped you?
QCA has been a great friend to my work. I mentioned earlier that finding time to write can be a major hurdle as a parent, so being awarded QCA’s ‘Individual Artist Grant’ in 2015 really gave me the financial support to complete the project that is now my full-length collection. Further, QCA is a fantastic resource for Queens artists, and helps to foster a community between us. It’s through QCA’s ‘Artist Peer Circle’ that I met some of my very best readers and writer-friends. What began as a one-year peer circle commitment is now in its fourth year of meetings, workshops, LAB readings and support.