On April 23rd, the Queens Memory team welcomed Queens Museum visitors for an afternoon of hands-on activities exploring the themes of migration and diversity in Queens.
Participants could find their neighborhoods on our giant puzzle map of Queens, write love letters to their neighborhoods, and have free portraits taken. Our activities were led by Bridget Bartolini of the Five Boro Story Project, Fernanda Espinosa of People’s Collective Arts/Colectivo de Arte Popular, and Annabel Short, creator of the 30th Ave: A Year in the Life of a Street blog.
There was also a display of archival photos relating to the history of diversity in Queens.
This was the final event in a programming series that ran from November 2016 to April 2017 conducted by Queens Memory/Queens Library, in collaboration with the Brooklyn Public Library. The series was funded by a Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The series was called 50 Years of Integration: Personal Impacts of Demographic Changes on Shifting Neighborhoods in New York City. It focused on six distinct neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn, and asked residents both old and new to share personal histories, photos, memorabilia and artifacts through digitization events and community history programs. Earlier programs in the series featured speakers and engaged more deeply in the specific histories of Astoria, Corona and Flushing, where the Queens events were held. This culminating event was for all of Queens and focused on engagement with about 100 Queens Museum visitors who passed through the program space.
LocationQueens Museum, Queens, NY, United States
The Queens Museum is an art museum and educational center located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in the borough of Queens in New York City, United States. We did this program on the museum's second floor, just down the way from another activated programming area where families could take part in a creative painting activity. We found that many families made a stop to visit us after they completed their painting activity, and some even included their artwork in their portraits.
How the audience/participants were reached or discovered
We handed out about 100 of these postcards to museum visitors to invite them to visit our program area and then find their portraits afterward. The design comes from a project conducted by Annabel Short where she videotaped Queens residents saying “I Live Here” in their native languages. This translated phrase was then the inspiration for designs created by Professor Ryan Hartley Smith’s graphic design students at Queens College, CUNY. We used one of them for this postcard, but designs are in the Inspiration section below.
Back of postcard:
Front of postcard:
How it was done
Writing and Drawing
We provided these simple instructions in English, Spanish, Chinese and Hindi:
- Grab a piece of paper and a colored pencil
- Write “I live in …” and your neighborhood
- Write a message or draw a picture to express your feelings for your neighborhood
- Hang up your note and read other messages
then we provided some prompts to spur the imagination:
I live here and I remember…
I live here and I love…
I live here and I wish…
I live here and I miss….
I live here and I don’t like….
I live here and I worry…
It’s unclear how much people really saw/used the above prompts. They were translated into Spanish, Bengali, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Thai, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, Russian, Polish and Hebrew and then taped all over the windows in brightly colored paper as people entered the space.
How it went
Main lessons learned
Our team enjoyed having the opportunity to work together to plan this event. We wanted the day to inspire conversations about people’s relationships to the places where they live, and we heard a wide variety of stories from people who had just moved to Queens the week before, to people who were actively involved in their communities as life-long residents and advocates for local issues. Having a way to capture more of these stories would be the main way we could improve this event model. All of the substantial sharing happened between participants and individual team members, but those conversations weren’t recorded and other participants didn’t necessarily get to hear them. Next time, it would be fun to find a way to engage participants in more and lengthier interactions.
Annabel Short, Fernanda Espinosa and Bridget Bartolini were our guest artists who inspired the three main activities of the event: the map puzzle, the pop-up portrait studio, and the I Live Here writing/drawing activity. These ideas were inspired by their ongoing community engagement projects.
Guido Garaycochea and Nung-hsin Hu provided assistance from the Museum, including event promotion and logistical support.
Natalie Milbrodt, Lori Wallach, Richard Lee, Grace DeSagun and Deslie Promesse were the Queens Memory team, responsible for hiring the guest artists, purchasing supplies, preparing the historical image slideshow and organizing the team.
Aneeta Mitha served as our photographer.
Special thanks to Ali Toxtli from People’s Collective Arts who helped us plan the event activities and introduced us to the wonderful Fernanda Espinosa.
Event team met at the Court Square Diner to plan event and then followed up with lots of emails!
Met at 12:30 pm to set up for the day and closed up around 4:30 pm.