In February 2021, the Queens Museum (QM) embarked on a Year of Uncertainty (YoU), a framework for strengthening connection among the Museum, our communities, and constituents, focused on creating new possibilities for culture, kinship, and mutual support. Centered around themes of Care, Repair, Play, Justice, and The Future, this program responded to hyperlocal and international states of precarity that have been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the crises of inaction and unaccountability toward racial justice and xenophobia, climate reparations, and income disparity. QM dedicated resources to becoming a center for learning, research, collaboration and production; its public-facing efforts were opened to internal processes, and vice versa. Taking indeterminacy as an invitation, YoU explored new ways for institutions to support individuals and publics navigating a world that is always and increasingly shifting.
At the center of YoU was a cohort of creative interlocutors that became a part of the fabric of QM: six Artists-In-Residence (AIR) with diverse research-based and socially engaged practices encompassing discursive and participatory forms as well as object-based work; nine Community Partners (CP) from across the borough, tackling issues such as gender-justice; mental health; environmental justice; youth enrichment; gun violence prevention and intervention; LGBTQ+ activism; and civil rights for TGNB people and sex workers; and twelve artists, designers, scientists, writers, architects, and activists were invited as Co-Thinkers to share their expertise and knowledge with AIR’s, CP’s, and the QM staff.
As we contemplated the present and imagined possible futures, the history of QM’s building as a site of significant convenings and world-building events as well as its archive and collection provided fertile guidance. With a critical contemporary perspective, YoU extended the legacy of these events while further centering the concerns of artists, advocacy organizations, and our audiences. YoU intended to build upon QM’s long history of connecting art and culture to civic participation and urban life via commitments to engagement, education, and partnership in our local communities and beyond.
Starting Fall 2021, outputs of this learning and co-creation process were shared through public conversations, activations, and presentations across all spaces and platforms of the Museum. YoU concluded with collective reflection on this period of experimentation, leading to new, flexible, working methods that helped QM sustain and grow our commitments to culture, accessibility, equity.
The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.
— Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969
Six Artists-In-Residence (AIR) with diverse research-based and socially engaged practices—encompassing discursive and participatory forms as well as object-based work—were provided with rent-free studios and financial support to work with education and community partners and to incubate exhibitions and programs.
Nine Community Partners from across the borough were provided resources to co-create content and deepen connections between their stakeholders and Queens Museum. They included organizations tackling gender-justice; collectivity around mental health; environmental justice; youth enrichment; gun violence prevention and intervention; LGBTQ+ activism; and civil rights for TGNB people and sex workers. Both the Artists-In-Residence and the Community Partners were selected from a robust open call and evaluation process.
Twelve artists, designers, scientists, writers, architects, and activists were invited as Co-Thinkers to share their expertise and knowledge. They were mentors and facilitators to AIR’s, CP’s, and the QM staff, helping to shape and extend the work of YoU.
The Year of Uncertainty artist residencies and community partnerships are made possible by generous support from the Mellon Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Lambent Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation.
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