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Tyra Emerson: Arts Award

“At the time we were like, ‘Oh, not, not another cultural event,’” recalled Emerson, a Queens Village resident honored by the borough president for her devotion to the arts in Queens. “But that’s why I have an appreciation as an adult for culture, for art — and that’s where I’m going.”

Emerson now serves as the executive director of Cultural Collaborative Jamaica, an organization made up of 14 art and business groups including York College, Black Spectrum Theatre and the Queens Symphony Orchestra.

Her childhood memories of accompanying her mother to performances and galleries have shaped her vision for the collaborative, which mounts some of the borough’s most prominent events like the summertime JAMS festival and Arts in the Parks.

“We’re trying to strengthen the arts in that way, where we’re getting kids interested in art,” Emerson said. “They do arts and crafts, they see the performance, so later when they’re adults they’ll have an appreciation for the arts, as well.”

Emerson came to Cultural Collaborative Jamaica eight years ago, after having served as the grants coordinator and then the program director for the Queens Council on the Arts.

The collaborative is now housed in the offices of the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, one of its 14 partners, but plans are underway for it to move by late 2004 into the vacant First Reform Church of Jamaica, a landmark building that is being transformed into an arts center.

Although the collaborative’s staff is tiny — made up of Emerson and only one other employee — their work is grand.

“The organization itself is unique in itself because it’s linking the arts and business endeavors in downtown Jamaica,” Emerson said. “We make it exciting — we promote the culture and the stores at the same time.”

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