A day in the life of a Public Ally: a walk in the park

3 May

7:30am – I start my commute from Brooklyn to Mets-Willets Point, home of the Mets, and also the train station for the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.  My walk through the park to the museum starts with the boardwalk below. Any unusual feature in the park like this just makes me assume it’s a leftover from the 1939 or 1964 World’s Fairs.

Much like this seal at the end of the boardwalk, next to several Time Capsules (containing really weird items like Pacific Ocean water.  Why not Atlantic? And why do they think that’s a good idea to keep for 5,000 years?).

That’s me with my coffee in hand as I keep walking through the park to the museum.

Once I see this – the Unisphere (which you may find familiar after seeing Men In Black) – then I know I’m almost at the office.  The building where I work is the old New York City Pavilion of the 1964-65 World’s Fair, showcasing the best of the city including the Panorama of the City of New York, the largest architectural model in the world (more on that later).

Welcome to QMA!

This is the lovely lobby area where our front desk staff greets us every day. After signing in I enter this:

What our educators tell the children who visit is the “World’s Largest Elevator”! And it might be, because it can house the entire park within itself. Don’t believe me?

This is the inside of the elevator which is bigger than my New York City apartment and houses a model of the fair and the park. We are big fans of models here at QMA (again, more on that later).

The 2nd floor, waking up just like I am. Lights are still off in the Tiffany case at this time in the morning, which usually looks like this…

…and houses part of the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany glass. Tiffany lamps were made in Queens and are apart from being beautiful, are a perfect learning tool for our younger students learning their shapes and colors.

Finally I arrive at the Education Department, where I set my coffee down at my desk, cluttered with art supplies and papers, and even propped up against my back wall is an old piece of the Panorama.

I then check on the studio for that day’s class. Empty and spotless – a very rare sight.

9:30 – The first of the educators start to roll in to prepare for their morning’s classes that will be arriving shortly. Most of the visits come to the Panorama with an accompanying art workshop to reinforce what they are learning in the Social Studies classroom. Why do I keep rambling on about the Panorama? Oh because it looks like this!

All five boroughs of the city of New York are represented in this model that was built by 100 people over 4 years for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. School groups can take a bird’s eye view of the city they live in and understand their place among the entire scale of the boroughs. My favorite part of the day is coming in before anybody arrives and just checking it all out, sometimes even before the lights come on. We are in a building under renovation so sometimes there are construction issues that need to be resolved before school children arrive.

Here’s Kimberley prepping 2nd graders for their tour and workshop.

10:00-12:30 School groups flood the museum before we officially open our doors and it’s usually a cacophony of questions about the Panorama, Tiffany collection, World’s Fair collection, our temporary rotating exhibitions, and the downstairs model of the New York Watershed. As the School Programs Assistant I am often the one to call on if a laser pointer has lost its power or a museum educator needs to find the visiting school on the Panorama. I am also usually in and around school groups taking photos or videos for our podcast project. After the glue is dry, collage materials are put away, and the dust clears I can finally sit at my desk for an extended time and start working on other projects.

1:00 Lunch time! The Education Department is big into Twitter and we recently found ourselves tweeting about our Fresh Direct lunches to @freshdirect pretty regularly – and getting responses! How could you not respond to a picnic lunch that looks like this?

2:00-5:30 I sit down to work on flyers for upcoming events – like Professional Development sessions for public school teachers to teach them how to incorporate art and the museum into the classroom.  At the same time I’m scheduling more groups for the year and fielding phone calls from teachers about best pre-visit information resources for their classes. Interspersed between all of these tasks I’m helping to plan for Queens Teens that fellow Public Ally Harley Jones works on, ordering art supplies, and working on partnership school events and upcoming exhibitions.


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