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Earlier this week, Queens took another step out from the long shadow cast by Manhattan and the ever trendier borough next door, Brooklyn.

Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Queens Museum Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl to run the city Cultural Affairs Department.

Finkelpearl, who trained as a sculptor, has led the borough’s pre-eminent art institution for the past 12 years. He has been the museum’s — and by extension Queens’ — biggest cheerleader, reminding New Yorkers that the Queensboro Bridge does not lead to a cultural wasteland.

He worked to drum up political and financial support for the Queens Museum of Art’s recently completed eight-year, $69 million renovation that doubled its size.

Finkelpearl’s career revolves around his Queens portfolios. He started as a public affairs officer at Long Island City’s P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1, then worked as program director for an art school in Maine before returning to P.S. 1 and eventually the Queens Museum.

De Blasio’s choice is good news for Finkelpearl, who will soon run the arts office in arguably the most important city in the world for art. But the mayor’s selection also says a lot about Queens within this art-centric city.

It is easy to point to PS 1, Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image and Flushing’s Queens Theatre in the Park as longstanding success stories of the borough’s commitment to the arts.

But Queens continues to grow as a place for creativity in less obvious ways.

That may have to do with artists being priced out of trendy Chelsea and Williamsburg and finding their way to Sunnyside and Flushing. Once here, the creative set is finding local audiences to support their work.

Long Island City leads Queens with theater pieces at The Chocolate Factory, dance performances at The Green Space and artworks at spots like The Artist Group and Eduardo Anievas galleries.

Stay on the No. 7 train past Queensboro Plaza and you’ll discover theater, dance, music and art to make you rethink your perceptions of the Queens artistic scene.

From Sunnyside’s Thalia Spanish Theatre to Jamaica’s Black Spectrum Theatre to Flushing’s Korean Performing Arts Center, you will find people creating, displaying and performing works to rival DUMBO or the Village.

None of this is news to anyone who’s been paying attention to Queens’ artistic progress during the last decade, but with this week’s appointment, word appears to be spreading.

Posted 12:00 am, April 12, 2014
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