Van Bramer: Will Keep It Premiere Cultural Venue
City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, was joined by Western Queens cultural leaders, and elected officials last Friday, Mar. 28, as he announced the designation of the Kaufman Arts District in Astoria.
Since being appointed as chair of the City Council Cultural Affairs Committee in 2010, Van Bramer has worked with Western Queens cultural institutions and arts organizations to nurture local emerging artists and to draw world-class talent to his childhood home of Astoria.
The district was established in partnership with Kaufman Astoria Studios, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the Queens Council on the Arts. Anchored and surrounded by Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Museum of the Moving Image, the Kaufman Arts District’s mission will be to advance and promote the area as a world-class vibrant cultural destination and home for creative industries. More information is available at www.kaufmanartsdistrict.org
“This corner of Queens has quickly become a vibrant community of cultural venues and arts organizations that have attracted some of our generation’s greatest artists,” said Van Bramer, chairman of the New York City Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee. “Today we solidify the Kaufman Arts District as one of New York City’s premiere destinations for arts and culture. Within the borough’s first official arts district, our goals will be to nurture the existing artists and arts organizations, to draw additional, cutting edge arts groups here, and to create an environment in which artistic work will flourish. As a borough resident who was born and raised only a few blocks from here, I am proud to say that I helped play a major role in working with the partners to make this day a reality.”
“The Kaufman Arts District appropriately captures Astoria’s vibrant and culturally diverse community. This neighborhood has always placed a large emphasis on the arts and promotes its importance through Kaufman Astoria Studios, the Museum of the Moving Image, the Frank Sinatra School and more. Once again, George Kaufman has gone above and beyond to improve this thriving neighborhood. With its close proximity to Manhattan, I am confident this designation will benefit New York City as a whole,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer.
“I am thrilled by the creation of the Kaufman Arts District, which recognizes the importance of arts in Western Queens, and the centrality of Kaufman Astoria Studios, the Museum of the Moving Image and the Queens Council on the Arts as anchors for the neighborhood. This designation will help attract more arts-related projects, organizations and professionals to this dynamic community. We all owe Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer our thanks for moving forward with this concept,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney.
The Kaufman Arts District is bounded by 31st Street to the west, 34th Avenue to the north, Steinway Street to the east and 37th Avenue to the south. The founding partners of the Arts District are Kaufman Astoria Studios, the Museum of the Moving Image and the Queens Council on the Arts.
During the ceremony, Van Bramer made the announcement official when he presented the partners with a proclamation on behalf of the New York City Council.
“We are very proud to call this community home for so many years, and are thrilled that it is being recognized this way for its unique contributions to the creative spirit,” said Hal Rosenbluth, President of Kaufman Astoria Studios.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said, “I am pleased to support the efforts of the Kaufman Arts District to bring focus to this neighborhood which has delivered some of the biggest blockbuster movies enjoyed around the world, while at the same time afforded emerging artists who are the backbone of New York City’s reputation as a global center of creativity the opportunity to practice and develop their art. I am very excited that all this activity is happening here in Queens.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris said, “The arts have always been at the heart of Astoria’s cultural heritage, thanks in no small part to the presence of Kaufman Astoria Studios. Over the years Kaufman Astoria and western Queens have blossomed side by side into a citywide landmark and a neighborhood that doubles as a world-class destination for the arts. It is only right that the Kaufman Arts District will officially proclaim that our community is home to one of the great cultural centers in the world, something all who live here have known for a long time.”
“The new Kaufman Arts District is a wonderful opportunity to showcase and foster western Queens’ continued rise as an arts and culture destination,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas. “The designation will recognize that the area surrounding Kaufman-Astoria Studios has been transformed by the hard work of so many into a world-class, vibrant cultural and arts district in the heart of Astoria.”
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, chair of the Assembly Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development, said: “Establishment of the Kaufman Arts District is recognition of the strong concentration of important cultural and creative resources that have emerged over recent years in the area surrounding Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Museum of the Moving Image. The arrival of the Queens Arts Council, with its strong connection to cultural groups and individual artists here and across the borough, further enhances the creative future this alliance will generate for audiences as well as media and performing artists.”
“The creation of Kaufman Arts District highlights the growing arts industry in Western Queens,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, chair of the Assembly Education Committee. “From Kaufman Astoria Studios to the Museum of the Moving Image and the wonderful schools such as Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Western Queens has become a cultural destination for residents of all ages.”
Within the Kaufman Arts District is the Museum of the Moving Image, the only museum in the city dedicated to the art and history of film, television and digital media; The Astor Room, a restaurant that is housed in the former Paramount commissary with much of the original interior still intact; Studio Square NYC, an enormous 30,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden that is also used for film and TV shoots; the Queens Council on the Arts, a non-profit organization that supports and develops artists and arts organizations throughout Queens; the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, a public school founded by Tony Bennett; UA Kaufman Astoria Cinemas, a 14- theater multiplex; the Theater Development Fund’s Costume Collection, a repository of costumes available for use by theater, film and television productions; and the Astoria Performing Arts Center.
The Museum of the Moving Image is also presenting a special exhibit, Lights, Camera, Astoria! that traced the history of film production in the neighborhood from the early days of silent film to modern classics such as The Age of Innocence and current productions such as Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. The exhibit will be on display through April 27.
“We are pleased to serve as the cultural anchor of the Kaufman Arts District,” said Carl Goodman, executive director of Museum of the Moving Image. “Hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and around the corner come to the Museum each year, and the creation of this arts district opens the community to more opportunities to experience the extensive creative activity in our midst.”
In May, Kaufman Astoria Studios has partnered with LIC Flea & Food to present Astoria Flea & Food At Kaufman Astoria Studios. The market will be located on the Studio’s newly opened backlot, and will allow visitors to experience the best of the Flea-including food vendors, antiques, collectibles, art, crafts, fashion and more-within the unique setting of New York City’s most historic film and television studio.
In June, the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) will host a Block Party in the neighborhood that, in addition to festival food and entertainment, will feature opportunities for attendees to participate in group public art projects. QCA provided $210,000 annually in grants to support arts and culture throughout Queens, and in the Kaufman Arts District it has funded 18 grants to seven organizations and eight individual artists. QCA also served 271 artists this year through 3rd Space, a program of professional development workshops.
“QCA is looking forward to working with Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Museum of the Moving Image in creating the Kaufman Arts District, a unique arts hub that artists from all parts of Queens can become a part of,” said Hoong Yee Krakauer, executive director of the Queens Council on the Arts.
Built in 1920, Kaufman Astoria Studios was the original home of Paramount Pictures, and over 100 silent films were made on its sound stages. Today, top Hollywood film, television, and digital on-demand series are made at the studio, including the Netflix hit Orange is the New Black, Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, Amazon’s Alpha House, Starz’ Flesh and Bone, the NBC pilot State of Affairs, and Sesame Street, which has filmed at Kaufman Astoria Studios since 1992. Recently feature film productions include The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Men in Black 3, and The Bourne Ultimatum.
Kaufman Astoria Studios recently opened a backlot space- the only outdoor stage facility in New York-complete with a Hollywood-style gate designed by David Rockwell, and with demand for studio space at an alltime high, it has plans to build an additional stage in the near future.