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Tom Finkelpearl carves a name for himself in NYC arts

Tom Finkelpearl to be named to top cultural affairs post
The New York Times

Tom Finkelpearl, 58, has been tapped by Mayor Bill de Blasio to the top spot in New York City arts. Currently the president and executive director of the Queens Museum, Mr. Finkelpearl is expected to be named the cultural affairs commissioner by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday, added The New York Times today (April 6). For more on this appointment visit

The mayor’s office confirmed this appointment of Mr. Finkelpearl in charge of a $156 million budget and "making him the point person on the arts for a city widely considered the cultural capital of the world," added The New York Times.

"The appointment is in keeping with the new administration’s emphasis on the disenfranchised; in his 12 years at the Queens Museum, Mr. Finkelpearl, 58, has hired community organizers to professionalize outreach efforts and emphasized the diversity of the local immigrant population. (He frequently cites the 138 languages spoken in the borough.)," added the report.

At Queens Museum Finkelpearl completed $68 million renovation

"This was largely aimed at making the museum more inviting and connected to the neighborhood," added The Times.“Tom believes that art is for everybody, and has developed an exceptional record of fortifying the city’s cultural institutions across all five boroughs,” Mr. de Blasio said. “That’s exactly the kind of energy, leadership and creativity that we want.”

Tom Finkelpearl has served as the executive director of the Queens Museum since 2002, and is scheduled to be named New York's cultural affairs commissioner on Monday, added the report in today's New York Times.

"In his meetings with the mayor, Mr. Finkelpearl said, the two have mainly discussed shared principles, like making art available to every child citywide and improving arts education in public schools," added The Times. “It wasn’t that he created a mandate; it was, do we agree on these core values — openness and inclusiveness, engagement?” Mr. Finkelpearl said in a phone interview to The Times. “In terms of exactly how that is implemented, that is something I need to develop.”

"Some cultural leaders have questioned whether the arts matter to the new mayor, given that he has taken three months to name an arts commissioner," added the report. However Mr. Finkelpearl disputed this claim by telling The New York Times, “He was aware that this is not the first appointment he made. It’s not that he hasn’t been thinking about this,” he added in the report. “It’s that he hadn’t found the right candidate.”

"The Queens Museum has been something of a template for Mr. de Blasio’s philosophical direction, offering courses in various languages targeted at its borough’s diverse population, like digital sound design in Spanish and Mandarin, along with classes like traditional Korean brush painting," according to the article.

Mr. Finkelpearl worked in government for six years, from 1990 to 1996. He has been in charge of New York City’s Percent for Art Program, which requires that 1 percent of the budget for city-funded construction be spent on public artwork. The program is managed by the Cultural Affairs Department.

"Mr. Finkelpearl began his career in 1982 in Long Island City, Queens, at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center — now MoMA PS1 — which he joined as a public affairs officer. After serving as the executive director of programs at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine from 1996 to 1999, Mr. Finkelpearl returned to P.S. 1 in 1999 as deputy director, and helped manage its 2000 merger with the Museum of Modern Art," added The New York Times. "He became executive director of the Queens Museum in 2002, overseeing the upgrade of its building, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which was completed last fall."

Mr. Finkelpearl will be involved with the new performing arts center planned for Wall Street

“If there’s an arts organization that’s struggling in one way or another, I think that’s a role for the commissioner on behalf of the administration,” Mr. Finkelpearl said to The Times. Mr. Finkelpearl began his classical training as a sculptor, graduating from Princeton and receiving a Master of Fine Arts from Hunter College. He is married to Eugenie Tsai, the contemporary art curator at the Brooklyn Museum, and they have a son who is a senior at Carleton College in Minnesota. Mr. Finkelpearl lives in Lower Manhattan, and has a summer home in Rockaway, Queens, adds The New York Times.

“People are thirsty for the arts everywhere,” he said to The Times. “When you see kids learning the violin in Corona, you realize that these are families that might have all kinds of challenges, but they believe in the power of art.”

Staten Island arts fans, what do you think of this new cultural affairs appointment? Do you feel this is a case of a local boy who made good. Looks like Mr. Finkelpearl, a former sculptor, is poised to carve a niche for himself in the larger New York City arts scene. Let's hope that there will be a new emphasis on the arts within the five boroughs as a result of Mr. Finkelpearl's appointment to this post.