The Queens Museum is a well-regarded establishment in New York City, and the Queens International is its biannual exhibition of artists living and/or working in Queens, presenting the artistic vibrancy of the borough though contemporary cultural productions in all media. In 2016, the show will contain a short film showcase titled “A Frame Apart” and the Queens Museum is currently seeking submissions to this aspect of the program. Recently Prerana Reddy, the Director of Public Programs & Community Engagement, spoke to the Examiner about the short film program and her experiences working with the Queens Museum:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How and when did you get interested in art?
Prerana Reddy (P.R.): I went to boarding school for high school. For the first time, I had access outside of formal class time to a really great art studio where I would go to relax and try my hand at things like pottery and batik, and black and white photography. I really enjoyed taking pictures as well as developing and printing my own work; the darkroom was a great sanctuary. Later in college I discovered my love of film and video, and ended up with a film and video certificate and went on to get a graduate degree in Cinema Studies at NYU. Aftr graduating I worked as line producer and 2nd camera for some documentary works. But I realized that beyond making work, I really enjoyed sharing media work with the general public. I loved world cinema but felt that so few people had access to it, so I went on to work at the New York African Film Festival where I helped organize festivals, outdoor screenings, discussions, art exhibits of digital video, and developed middle school curricula. I also was part of a South Asian film & video presenting collective called “3rd i NY” and went on to co-direct the NY Arab & South Asian film festival with Alwan for the Arts. I also was on the board of the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective for three years. I cared about social justice issues and was interested in expanding the access and opportunities for immigrants, people of color, women and QTPOC communities to practice and develop their artistic and curatorial work.
M.M.: How did you get involved with the Queens Museum?
P.R.: In 2004, I was first hired to manage “Leadership Through the Arts” an intensive arts and social justice program for Queens youth that combined political education with artmaking workshops which was a signature program of a newly formed Public Events department at the Museum. This program was crucial in the Museum’s long-term goal of engaging with local communities in a deeper and more accountable way. Later when the director of the department left to pursue her graduate studies, I moved into the directorship role in 2005 and have since been expanding the museum’s community engagement and social practice activities while at the same time organizing events such as concerts, cultural festivals, screenings, and talks for the general public.
M.M.: Why did the Queens Museum decide to start a short film program?
P.R.: We started this in 2007 for the 3rd edition of Queens International. I wanted to provide opportunities for film, video, and animation artists to be highlighted alongside the visual artists that were featured in the biennial of Queens Artists.
M.M.: Generally speaking, what kinds of films do you seek most?
P.R.: I look for work that I think either reveals something about the unique characteristics of Queens and how it allows for encounters with diverse physical landscapes, architectures, and international communities. I also want find unique talents and styles of film/video making by folks who live and work in this borough more generally, even if they are making experimental, non-narrative work.
M.M.: Do you accept animation?
P.R.: Yes, I love animation. I accept all media that unfolds over time (as long as we can screen it from a digital file).
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving working with the Queens Museum and/or the short film program?
P.R.: We have so many creative people in Queens who are often unrecognized by mainstream film festivals or the art world, perhaps because they have come from other places and don’t have the networks built yet to find venues to present and be in supportive environments where they can grow their craft. We hope that Queens Museum and the Queens International biennial is a way to provide that platform.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about submitting a film to this event?
P.R.: There is no reason not to apply; it’s quick, easy, online and free. Think about which work feels most personal and which best represents your aesthetic approach rather than just something that’s polished but perhaps doesn’t really represent your artistic vision.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
P.R.: Well we have several new exhibitions, including Queens International 2016, opening on April 10th. These include an exhibition on the punk pioneer band the Ramones who are from Forest Hills Queens, as well as political cartoonist William Gropper. We will also present two new commissions that are inspired by the upcoming publication of celebrated writer Rebecca Solnit’s New York City Atlas. Solnit brilliantly reinvent the traditional atlas by mapping the city from many different subject matters in collaboration with visual artists, cartographers, and writers to illuminate the city as experienced by different inhabitants. The third and final atlas by Solnit—Unstoppable Metropolis—takes New York City as its subject and is forthcoming in Fall 2016. Queens Museum will host a series of onsite programs and offsite walking tours leading up to the launch of this exciting publication. Signaling the coming events, two installations created in response to essays in the book will be on view beginning in February. Enveloping the Museum’s Watershed model gallery will be a project by Duke Riley inspired by Heather Smith’s contribution to the Atlas, “Water and Power.” Smith’s essay chronicles the development of Manhattan as a history of exploitation of the city’s surrounding natural resources—chief among them, water. In a second iteration of QM’s Large Wall series on the Panorama exterior, artist Mariam Ghani has been commissioned to create a project the based on writer Suketu Mehta’s Atlas essay “Tower of Scrabble,” which describes New York City as an refuge for languages—the heart of which lies in the cultural and linguistic diversity of Queens.
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To learn more, see here and visit the Queens Museum website.