At the end of March, Lynn Lobell, the Grants & Resource Director at Queens Council on the Arts, will be retiring to embark on a new phase of her life.
For someone who has spent a great deal of time around local Queens artists, emerging arts organizations and the endlessly changing neighborhoods around the borough, Lynn has developed a deep passion and understanding for the creative people who care about the well being and vibrancy of the borough, especially emerging artists and cultural leaders.
In this interview, Lynn shares some thoughts and observations from her vantage point at Queens Council on the Arts.
What has give you the greatest joy in your work and why?
It is working with artists, to have worked with so many, to have been part of helping them realize their ability to take risks over and over to achieve what they are trying to do. I love being part of the process where they being with an idea, we have a conversation to develop it, it translates into a proposal to get funding and then watching it come to life.
Every artist is different and comes with a unique approach which makes the work so exciting.
What have been your greatest challenges?
To be able to help artists as an arts administrator by providing relevant resources, staying on track with constant mindfulness and the willingness to take a moment, think, assess and in order to give an artist the best and most helpful information.
My greatest challenge in managing the Queens Arts Fund has been to get people to embrace the idea of creating work for building community and not art for arts’ sake. At the same time, the challenges that come with getting artists to understand the true value of working in the community have made my work exciting. About 90% of the artists who approach this for the first time have found this work to be a great experience and very rewarding.
Outreach and not having enough funding to go around are always challenges. It is difficult ensuring the Queens Arts Fund dollars go into every community borough-wide. It requires consistent trust and relationship building and getting community based organizations to understand that they can work with artists to enrich their communities.
As you retire, what are your thoughts about the arts field at this moment in time?
Over the years, the Queens art scene was known as being homegrown and homespun. Now that scene has matured and there are so many great things going on. Many Queens arts institutions like the Queens Theatre and the Queens Museum have really stepped up their game for local audiences, offering a wider range of art offerings, and presenting more emerging artists and arts groups. For example, 5 years ago, literary readings were scarce, the dance community was very small. Queens has become a place people want to be a part of. In this moment in time, artists don’t have to leave Queens to be validated. Organizations like the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning offer artists many opportunities like exhibition space, work spaces, and residencies so they can feel comfortable working in their own neighborhood.
I see a change in energy on the national level. Many places like Chattanooga and San Diego engage artists in interesting ways such as in airport residencies, exhibitions, and creative place making. There is a movement away from thinking only in terms of a “white box” and “butts in seats”.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give an emerging arts leader?
To listen to the artists, to hear what their needs are. You are there to help them work through their challenges. What is lacking for them to produce their work – is it space, connecting with others, etc.? You need to be able to connect them with good resources and with their communities, to contact other artist leaders and organizations to collaborate and pool resources.
I think arts administrators coming out of MFA programs have deep conceptual knowledge of knowing how to work with artists but there is no substitute for hands on experience.
I plan to stay active, change direction and pursue my own practice which is photography and explore different art forms such as weaving and ceramics.
It has been a great ride.
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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