New directors bring change to boro arts venues

By Tammy Scileppi

Queens’ arts and cultural venues celebrated an exciting chapter in 2011, replete with renovation and reorganization.

In the first month of 2011, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria reopened after a major face-lift and a three-story addition. The museum unveiled its bejeweled, mirrored and transparent glass portal to visitors Jan. 15.

As a result of its transformation, MOMI has doubled in size from 50,000 to 97,700 square feet.

The film museum’s $67 million capital project — which was given $54.7 million from the city — resulted in several new program spaces: a 267-seat theater, a 68-seat screening room, a video screening amphitheater, gallery for changing exhibitions, an education center, on-site collection storage, courtyard garden, café and museum store and an upgraded, reinstalled, 15,000-square foot, interactive, permanent exhibition, “Behind the Screen.”

Former museum director Rochelle Slovin, who retired in February, said “the inauguration of this new building, almost 30 years to the day after this institution was founded, brings to a close our early history, while opening a major new chapter.”

The current executive director is Carl Goodman.

“It’s been almost one year since we reopened the museum in our expanded facilities,” Goodman said. “Since then our attendance has nearly tripled as the public, locally and beyond, embraced not just the new building but the exhibitions, screenings and education programs that take place here each day.”

The museum extended the current exhibition, “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World,” until March 4 due to its popularity.

Further east in the borough, Queens Theatre welcomed a new executive director in late March. Ray Cullom came to Queens from the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn., where he was managing director.

“The first eight months of my tenure have been a period of great discovery and transition. We’re changing from being primarily a presenting theatre — that pays/presents outside performing artists — to a producing theater, a company that produces and builds its own work internally with a real focus on Queens and Queens-based artists,” he said.

“CHIX6,” a co-production, was the largest ever to appear at the Flushing Meadows Corona Park theater and turned out to be the best-attended show in its 21-year history.

“I was guilty of underestimating our audience’s appetite for new and different programming, which for the past many seasons had become rather static,” said Cullom. “The response from our audience base — and from the media — to all the exciting changes here has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Collum even advocated for a tweak to the theater-within-a-park’s title.

“We’ve dropped the ‘in the park’ from our name because our cultural partner in Manhattan, ‘Shakespeare in the Park,’ has done such a grand job of branding the phrase that many believed we were an outdoor summer theater,” he said.

Back west along the East River, Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City announced the appointment of its next executive director, John Hatfield, who will officially start in his new role Jan. 18.

“Assuming the leadership of the park on the occasion of its 25th anniversary is absolutely thrilling. The genesis of Socrates was to create a park for artists to present public sculpture. Today, it’s an example of how culture and the arts can lead the way in providing a vision for improving civic life.”

This spring, Socrates will join with The Noguchi Museum to open “Civic Action: A Vision for LIC,” inviting renowned artists to re-envision their shared neighborhood.

Under Hatfield’s new leadership, the park will unveil several milestone initiatives: a new architectural residency with The Architectural League of N.Y. and an online visual archive of exhibitions and artists.

Also in Long Island City, PS1’s new entrance kiosk, though operational and near completion, will not be finished this year. Museum of Modern Art officials said it will be completed in January.

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