Ellen Kodadek: Flushing Town Hall director champions global arts

By Madina Toure

When Ellen Kodadek first arrived at Flushing Town Hall, she inherited financial problems brought on by funding cuts.

But nearly eight years later, Kodadek, 61, who is both the executive director and artistic director of the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts at 137-35 Northern Blvd., is credited with a number of accomplishments.

The organization matched and even exceeded funding of $35,000 from an anonymous donor, completed capital projects such as the restorations of the theater on the town hall’s second floor and the exterior garden and continued to run a variety of programs that highlight the diversity of Flushing and the city at large.

“Our mission is to present global arts for a global community,” Kodadek said.

The Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, a nonprofit, was founded in 1979 to present arts programming such as dance, puppetry, theater and visual arts that represent the diverse groups in the borough and the city.

The organization also presents curriculum-based programs at the town hall and in schools throughout the city.

Kodadek, whose parents are from Eastern Europe, grew up in the Inwood section of Manhattan.

She studied psychology at the City College of New York and studied abroad at the University of Jerusalem during her second year of college. She then got married and had two children.

She worked at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island for 15 years. Her family was poor, but there was always money for books, theater and the arts, said Kodadek, an Astoria resident who stays abreast of the latest trends in the nonprofit arts field.

Her two roles as artistic director and executive director sometimes conflict, she said, with the creative side clashing with the more realistic and finance-focused side.

“Sometimes the creative artistic director part of myself and the executive director part of myself have to have serious conversations with each other,” she said.

In July 2008, nonprofits started experiencing major cuts at the state, city, foundation and corporation levels as the economy collapsed, Kodadek said.

“The cultural community took many, many hits from multiple sources,” she said. The town hall’s budget is about $1.5 million, and the organization is looking to grow its budget.

Since 2009, the nonprofit has been offering a Space Grant, which allows emerging and mid-career artists to use the town hall’s facility, such as the theater, to develop or complete new work.

She is also proud of the Global Mashup, a program in which artists from different cultures are brought together on stage.

“We, like everyone else lost some funding and treaded water for a while, maintaining the highest quality programming,” Kodadek said.