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Queens Impact Awards: Arts enthusiast spreads her passion for performing

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Susan Agin believes she has been destined for her current job since the day she was born.

From a young age, she has been involved in the arts, studying music, dance and even becoming a member of an actors’ union. As a student at Queens College, she also discovered her love for education and working with children.

Now, in her role as executive and artistic director for the Queensborough Performing Arts Center, Agin spends her days combining her passion for both industries.

“I was working for another cultural institution when I was solicited for this job, but I think having dual degrees in theater and education really made this the right fit for me,” she said.

Agin was born and raised in Flushing and always knew she one day wanted to turn her passion for the arts into a career. Since 2004 she has helped QPAC develop and carry out programs that teach the public about the wonders of the performing arts.

In an average year, the non-profit serves about 95,000 people, many of whom are students across the borough who take advantage of the many cultural education programs Agin runs.

Eight years ago, she started a program called Children’s Book Club, where actors present live adaptations of popular children’s books, and Agin said the program is now one of the most popular ones at QPAC.

Agin also spearheaded the center’s popular Festival of Sign-Interpreted Performances in response to a growing number of deaf or hard-of-hearing community members who expressed interest in the arts but were not able to experience it in the same way as others.

The festival features shows where sign-interpreting artists communicate stories and performances to the audience.

“We’re constantly sensitizing ourselves to the community and to their needs and what they want,” Agin said. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to put together a very diversified program that reflects the diversity of the borough.”

On a daily basis, Agin’s regular tasks include marketing, program development, fund-raising, artist negotiations and management, to name just a few. For the number of people QPAC serves, Agin said any comparable organization would have around 15 employees to carry the workload, but Agin oversees just two other staff members — an assistant and a technician.

“We’re really committed,” she said. “This is not a job for the weak of heart. You have to be really committed to wanting to bring the community the cultural resources they deserve.”

Now in her 11th year as QPAC’s director, Agin said she believes her job encompasses everything she has been studying her entire life. When she learned she had been awarded for the work she has done to promote the arts throughout Queens, she said: “I was flattered and humbled, but also really happy to see that the arts in the borough are getting some attention.”

Agin added, “That’s really the key. It could have been me or it could have been one of the other arts enthusiasts in Queens, but I’m just happy that it’s being recognized.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

Posted 12:00 am, May 13, 2014
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