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“I have said many times I have the best job in the world.”

With more than 30 years of business experience at the Port Authority, Lysa C. Scully is the chief executive of LaGuardia Airport, ranked the United States 20th largest airport.

She is also someone who looks for poetry on the subways which, in addition to providing an unexpected moment of delight, takes away stress.

It is no wonder that Lysa understands the transformative power of the arts to affect people in ways that reaffirm our humanity and connection to each other.

Queens Council on the Arts will be honoring Lysa as Queens leader at the upcoming Caribbean Carnival 2018 Gala.

In this interview, Lysa shares her thoughts about the intersection of the local Queens artist communities and the new LaGuardia Airport.

 Tell us about your work

The focus of my work, which touches 30 million travellers and 12 thousand employees, is to provide the safest and most secure environment by ensuring the construction and improvements to develop a 21st century airport.

Managing 400 day-to-day airport operations staff members is like being a CEO of a company or a mayor of a city. It is my job to make sure the infrastructure is in place to support our travellers and constituents, delivering service like a well oiled machine, to make LaGuardia Airport a 21st century airport deserving of Queens and New York City.

 Why is my job wonderful?

I enjoy interacting with customers, employees and to be out in the community and I think it is a wonderful opportunity to work with the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) to “bring the community into the airport” so that the world can see artistic talent in the airport.

What is your interest in the arts?

Personally, I enjoy and appreciate the arts tremendously.

Professionally, I understand the value the arts can bring into the transportation arena to enhance the user experience for millions of customers, not only end to end, but as a full experience that is more personal and engaging. This could be done with a painting, the creative work of an artist in residence, a performance.

I am excited about working together on these kinds of experiences so that customers can have an actual connection to the airport.

With QCA, we can bring in unique art activities.

We have an opportunity for customers to see how art evolves over time and sample some of the vibrancy of the borough as they travel through the airport. Some of our travellers just make connecting flights and may not go into the borough so this is a way they become aware of the diversity that exists in Queens and experience different forms of art that are not simply “window dressing”.

Do you think art can change the world?

I would hope so.

When I think about art, I think about movement through world history, how it has separated and brought people together.

Without question, art creates a dialogue giving people a chance to engage with others and share their own personal experiences. There is so much diversity in this borough embodying many viewpoints.

Bringing this together can bring about emotional and thoughtful change that can transform the way we think.

I love how artists think differently.

When I get on a subway, I always read the poems and look for the artwork – like the little caricature figures climbing out of a box.

 So, instead of anxiety, I have none. This personal experience left a great impression on me.

I hope to leave this kind of impression on our customers so they leave with a great feeling thinking, “Wow, Queens has so much to offer!” or “I had a great experience travelling through this airport.”

When people see the WPA mural at the Marine Air Terminal, I want people to think, “LaGuardia Airport took the time to restore and preserve this work of art. It really cares about the community and its history.” Now, with new Queens artists, people really have something to look at.

Traveling can be stressful and daunting for people. My hope is that LaGuardia Airport will impart a calmness and a serenity for people.

As you grow your business, what are your thoughts about the arts in Queens at this moment in time?

LaGuardia Airport is experiencing a planned evolution.

We are working towards developing an arts program. The Marine Air Terminal is a historic landmark famous for its Arts Deco style. It has a WPA mural that was done by James Brooks in the 40’s. At Hangar 7, you can see a metal sculpture of an eagle. There is a lot of history at the airport that is evidenced by art.

We are excited about bringing in a new art scene with QCA by designing art activities and to work on longer term projects for the future terminal to involve other partners such as Gateway and Delta and to look ahead to the Central Hall as a showcase for art.

 You can think of us as historic, transitional and futuristic – in dynamic movement.

Queens, too, is a dynamic experience of the arts, food and entertainment. There is so much opportunity here to move travellers to experience more of Queens and New York and to move all of us forward into the future.


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 insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

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