Long Island City resident takes over the helm at Socrates Sculpture Park

Socrates executive
Long Island City resident Tamsin Dillon is the new executive director at Socrates Sculpture Park. (Photo by Thierry Bal)

Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City has a new leader.

Tamsin Dillon was appointed as executive director last month succeeding Suzy Delvalle, who served as interim director after John Hatfield stepped down last year after nearly a decade at the helm of the waterfront oasis on Vernon Boulevard.

Dillon brings more than a quarter-century of experience as a champion of public art, curating and commissioning contemporary art projects across a range of contexts and settings, from public squares to parks, railways, hospitals, and forests, as well as galleries and other, cultural, and non-cultural, organizations.

“As a Long Island City resident, I am honored to serve the Queens, New York City, and greater cultural communities in this role, especially at such a time where we’re thinking more deeply about the value of our arts institutions as public spaces,” Dillon said. “Socrates has a unique and special history; established by an artist for other artists, for the community, and as a vital natural resource, it has grown to be an institution of both cultural and civic importance.”

Socrates has hosted extraordinary pieces of art since a coalition of artists and community members transformed an East River landfill and illegal dumpsite into an open studio and exhibition space in 1986.

“The pandemic showed us how critical places like Socrates are to the artists whose work we commission, our mental and physical health, to the wellbeing of our communities, and to our ability to stay connected to one another,” Dillon said. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with our incredible, creative and committed staff, board, artists and community partners on advancing the way we engage with our art, our natural environment and with each other.”

More than 1,000 artists have created and exhibited new works on the five-acre waterfront park and outdoor studio facility.

“Though there are many institutions willing to collaborate with artists and community partners, there are few that have the capacity and expertise to actually see that intention through and to make sure that artists are brought in at the beginning of conversations rather than along the way.” Sculptor Paul Ramírez Jonas said.

Dillon will be responsible for the vision and leadership of Socrates, which serves more than 200,000 visitors each year. It is one of the few parks that both serves one of the largest multicultural and multi-ethnic populations as well as one of the largest concentrations of public housing residents in the nation.

“With its unique emphasis on art and art-making, Socrates Sculpture Park is like no other in our park system,” NYC Parks Director of Arts & Antiquities Jonathan Kuhn said. “We’re confident that the park will continue to nurture and showcase innovative creative talent, serving as an anchor in the Queens community while attracting visitors from around the globe drawn by its transformative power.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards thanked Delvalle and Hatfield for their “deep commitment to the park and to the families of Queens” throughout the years.

“New York City’s greatest, most engaging parks are right here in Queens, with Socrates Sculpture Park being a shining example of how an accessible, interactive public greenspace should function,” Richards said. “I have the utmost confidence in Tamsin Dillon’s ability to lead the serene Socrates Sculpture Park into the future while entering western Queens families in her inclusive vision of high-quality programming for all to enjoy.”

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