On a quiet street in Astoria, just a blink away from the Kaufman Studios and the Museum of the Moving Image, a new art space opened its doors as a place to create things by hand. AlterWork Studios, opened by Tina Stipanovic, an artist and arts leader in Queens, is a place where artists can rent studios, collaborate, exhibit, work independently or learn a new skill, came into being in the summer of 2017.
Tina is an artist, a graduate of Parsons School of Design with an MFA in Fine Arts, and a restless collaborator who actively looks for people to work with “to better the place I live in” by bringing in new artists.
In this interview, I asked Tina the following questions:
What has given you the greatest joy in your work and why?
I think it’s important to give a platform to others who may not have one. And by platform, I mean a place to work, perform or exhibit such as in the Kaufman Arts District (KAD) Backlot Art Festival that I created last year, the events I have been curating at RaR Bar and now at AlterWork.
What have been your greatest challenges?
Finding your voice as an artist is getting more difficult. On social media, you find that everyone is claiming to be a creative. With so many people making so much noise, it is hard to be heard.
Another challenge is synchronizing the way I approach the world as an artist and as a business person. It is not easy to survive, to stay true to your art and to be creative. I have been navigating this for the past 10 years and the finer the distinction between the two, the more successful I feel I’ve become. Art is very personal and RaR, even though it is a business, it is also a platform where great things can happen, too. The kitchen and the stage are places for performances where my creative thinking and love of art can benefit others as well.
For everything I do, whether it is running AlterWork Studios or the KAD Backlot Art Festival, I have to approach it with a pragmatic eye of a business person in order to benefit others but it also has to be something I, as an artist, can be proud of. It’s a lot of juggling between my left and right side of the brain.
What would make my job easier would be to delegate work and to keep reminding myself that it does more harm to me if I take on too much myself. Sometimes things may not work out. At the end of the day it is about balancing the workload with the quality of the work and that is the most important thing to maintain as a priority.
As you grow, what are your thoughts about the arts field at this moment in time?
Queens is really big. The size of the borough is a challenge. There are many hubs of artists and creativity but we are all disconnected. The role of artists and their needs haven’t changed. Artists still flock to places they can belong but these sites are silos. We need to find ways to create more connections and opportunities to collaborate across the borough. For example, how great would it be for the KAD Backlot Art Festival to work together with the Queens Museum or the Flux Factory to be part of what we all are doing and create even bigger things?
There is a lack of connective tissue.
People need smaller spaces where they can be heard. I come from Pula, a town in Croatia with a population of 500,000. Whenever there is a film festival or art event, the whole town attends. Everyone knows about it. This is harder to achieve in big cities but smaller hubs can collaborate with each other to create bigger events with great content. While working with the Kaufman Arts District, my motto is simple: residents must be given improvements and visitors to the District must be given good content. In other words, good reasons to visit and good reasons to stay.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to your younger self?
I say, don’t worry.
Mind your business.
Keep at it.
Keep the quality of what you do high. Don’t give in.
I believe it is important for people to create. Humans are, in essence, toolmakers who create ways to survive and to improve their surroundings in an ever evolving world. Whether these tools are ideas or physical objects made with your own hands, we make life better for people when we think and create.
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.