QUEENS_020712

Queens Art Express is a spring arts festival of exhibitions, events, performances, and food in the vibrant cultural communities of Queens, NY, along the route of the No. 7 train and beyond.

This year, in addition to promoting cultural activity across the borough, QAX will commission 12 creators to develop new collaborative work that imagines how public policy on Economy, Health Care, and Housing might look if re-made by artists. The multimedia artworks created for this initiative, called “What If We Made A New World?”, will be presented at three galleries: Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning in Jamaica, Crossing Art in Flushing, and Artists Wanted in Long Island City.

The festival will also feature a special dining promotion called the Moveable Feast, that pairs local artists will pair with local restaurants to produce short videos on neighborhood hot spots.

QAX 2012 is co-developed and produced by Brian Tate, president of The Tate Group, a strategic marketing firm. Brian discusses the work that goes into planning a project of this scope.

ARTPLACE: What unexpected challenges have you encountered?

BRIAN: The greatest challenge is in laying a solid foundation upon which to build. That means developing a clear and shared understanding of mission, audience, message, budget, and stakeholders. Easily said, but it’s an organic process that requires quite a bit of research, analysis and brainstorming. In our case we held a half-dozen meetings to review QAX’s past shape and accomplishments; and discuss how we could retool the event to heighten its relevance to artists and audiences in Queens and beyond.

In planning QAX, we wanted to strengthen its core identity as a vehicle for packaging and promoting cultural activity across the borough. So our first step was to broaden the festival’s reach to new neighborhoods, to create a truly borough-wide initiative. Next, we wanted to create a seat for artists at policy-making tables in discussing the role of citizens and government in times of economic disparity.

Our new component to QAX, “What If We Made A New World?”, is intended to help do that. And to make the case that Queens – home to artists, entrepreneurs and people from around the world – is a natural backdrop for that discussion.

ARTPLACE: Have you had any happy surprises in your work to date?

BRIAN: The response from artists and venues alike has been hugely positive. Folks are excited. We’re now conducting research to identify and select the 12 creators we’ll commission to create new work. It’s been amazing to discover just how many artists are creating powerful work around issues of Health Care, Housing and the Economy.

ARTPLACE: Are there things you’ve learned that others in the creative placemaking field can learn from?

BRIAN: Define the audience you want to reach, the story you want to tell, and the action you want folks to take in response. Every place has a unique identity – neighborhoods, cities, states, countries. If you’re going to invest time and money to produce a festival, then leverage those resources toward some greater good. And involve others in your planning. Building community is key to building audiences.

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