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Queens Council on the Arts celebrates its golden anniversary

By Tammy Scileppi

The Queens Council on the Arts is still fab at 50.

To mark QCA’s 50th birthday, a celebration of Queens’ cultural vibrancy is set for May 26 at LIC Landing.

Since its inception, QCA has made the arts accessible to all Queens residents by expanding cultural opportunities—from concerts to dance performances and live theater—in neighborhoods throughout the borough.

It all started in April 1966, thanks to visionary and arts lover Jeanne Dale Katz.

“My mother founded the Queens Council on the Arts with the objective of supporting our borough’s artistic community and promoting the development of the arts right here in Queens,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “The council’s mission remains as important today as it was when it was established nearly 50 years ago.”

Jeanne Dale Katz knew she couldn’t transform Queens’ arts scene on her own. So, she teamed up with the borough’s leading organizations to help emerging artists and arts groups present diverse cultural resources.

The QCA chairwoman was a constant presence throughout the borough. In September 1967, a Long Island Press photo showed her at a tape-cutting ceremony with local officials to celebrate the launch of a new service at Macy’s in Elmhurst, the NYC Queens Cultural Information Center booth. Sponsored by QCA, it provided the public with info on music, art, theater, lectures and other events in New York City, especially in Queens.

Another L.I. Press photo that year captured Katz chatting with two members of QCA’s steering committee during the planning of a fund-raising kickoff at which many different kinds of artists would be performing. The event was held a week before the council’s first boroughwide arts festival.

The fest boasted a full production of Carmen by Messina Opera Company and a students’ opera appreciation presentation of excerpts from the same work. The Queens Symphony Orchestra, the Jamaica Symphony Orchestra and the Queens Festival Orchestra all had scheduled performances.

The 1970s saw Queens’ early transformation into an arts and entertainment hub, as the council fostered the development of the Queens Museum of Art, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning and Colden Center, among other vital institutions.

Great things started happening in 1977, when QCA began to administrate the city Department of Cultural Affairs’ Greater New York Arts Development Fund, to which it soon added the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program funds. QCA has always played a key role in directing city, state, federal and private funds to Queens’ emerging artists and organizations for the benefit of the community.

Serving local communities over the decades, QCA has been an inspiration to thousands of creative New Yorkers and community-based nonprofit organizations who have benefited from its services. More than $2 million in grants have been awarded to local artists and arts organizations since the Council’s inception.

A key element of the council’s raison d’etre is supporting diversity in the arts, as it reaches out to emerging immigrant artists who need a helping hand. In recent years, QCA has offered a variety of programming and events, including Project Diversity Queens, the Individual and Teaching Artist Initiatives and the Arts in the Schools grant program.

“Queens Council on the Arts is thrilled to be celebrating 50 years of supporting the arts in Queens at ‘FAB@50,’ our 50th anniversary dance party on the Long Island City waterfront,” Executive Director Hoong Yee Krakauer, said. “Kick off the next 50 years of great art in Queens with local artists, creative professionals, art lovers and people who are part of the growing cultural scene in the borough.”

If You Go

50th Anniversary Dance Party

When: Thursday, May 26, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Where: L.I.C Landing

52-10 Center Blvd.

Long Island City

For ticket prices and info, visit: www.queenscouncilarts.org/calendar/qca-50th

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