The Queens Museum of Art, the exhibit and education center located in what had been the New York City Building during the 1939-40 and 1964-65 World’s Fairs, is in the midst of an expansion that, upon completion, will double its size to 105,000 square feet.
Throughout the museum’s history in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, where it was established in 1972, its crown jewel has been the world-famous Panorama of the City of New York, a 9,335-square-foot model built for the 1964-65 World’s Fair and featuring some 895,000 miniature structures. The little Big Apple still draws crowds of amazed onlookers today.
Also currently on exhibit are the long-running Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass and, through June 1, the Arte Util Lab, a presentation designed to test hypotheses on the usefulness of art.
When the expansion is complete, there’ll be room for much, much more.
According to Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl, preliminary work on the renovations began four years ago, with a groundbreaking held in April 2011. The ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the expanded museum’s reopening is scheduled for October of this year.
The QMA, which is also rebranding itself as just the Queens Museum, has remained open throughout the expansion process so far. “We did everything we could to keep it open. My gut was to stay open as late as possible. We’ve been very busy,” Finkelpearl said.
But beginning June 2, the building will be temporarily closed as the finishing touches are applied to the $68 million project.
Upon reopening, the museum will boast a suite of new galleries, artist studios, flexible public and special event spaces, classrooms, a cafe and other visitor amenities.
The west facade, facing the Grand Central Parkway, has been redesigned with a new entrance and drop-off plaza. A 200-foot-long glass wall 27 feet high will announce the museum to the hundreds of thousands of motorists passing by each day.
Several exhibitions and performances are planned to coincide with the opening of the expanded space, which will include the former site of the park’s ice-skating rink: Pedro Reyes’ “The People’s UN,” which will feature mock assemblies and performances which reference the building’s history of hosting the United Nations General Assembly between 1946 and 1950; “Peter Schumann: Black and White,” the first solo museum exhibit of the Bread and Puppet Theatre founder; “Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao: The New York City Building,” which will feature a series of large-scale photographs chronicling the edifice’s transformation; and “Queens International 2013,” the sixth edition of a biennial exhibition of artists from around the world.
Finkelpearl is particularly excited about the museum’s plan to open eight artist’s studios beginning in August, allowing them to ply their crafts during one- or two-year residencies.
“People love to see artists working,” he said. “It brings tremendous energy to the building.”
Staffing will also grow. The museum has 37 full-time employees, as well as 15 part-time educators and an additional 15 volunteers. Finkelpearl said he plans to hire 10 more full-time employees once the museum reopens.
“We are going to have a place to execute our mission much more efficiently and on a bigger scale,” he said.
According to project manager Ken Petrocca, some 50 individuals have been working both on site and off to make the construction plans a reality.
During a recent advance hard-hat tour, Finkelpearl pointed at the construction workers pouring fresh concrete — perfectly — and said, “These guys are real artists.”
The museum’s hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Admission is by suggested donation: $8 (adults), $4 (seniors, students and children). For more information, call (718) 592-9700.
Other museum highlights around the borough this spring include:
The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, founded in 1985 in a converted industrial building, presents through April 28 “Hammer, Chisel, Drill — Noguchi’s Studio Practice,” an exhibit that explores famed Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi’s work practices in his studios from the 1940s through the 1980s. It includes photographs and select sculptures as well as a selection of the artist’s tools.
Located at 9-01 33 Road in Long Island City, the Noguchi is open Wednesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. General admission is $10; $5 (seniors and students); children under 12 free. The number is (718) 204-7088.
Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, in conjunction with the Noguchi Museum, presents Kite Flight, the park’s 11th annual kite-making workshop, on May 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Using recycled materials, children and their families will build and decorate kites, then fly them in the park. Supplies will be provided. Artist Miguel Luciano will lead a workshop on Caribbean kite traditions. Performances of opera, dance and theater will be presented throughout the summer.
Located at 32-05 Vernon Blvd., the park is free and open every day from 10 a.m. to sunset. The office can be reached at (718) 956-1819.
The New York Hall of Science in Flushing, built as a pavilion for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, is a hands-on science and technology center featuring 450 interactive exhibits. Now through June 30, the museum offers 3D Theater Presentations, including “The Last Reef,” “Space Junk 3D” and “Legends of Flight.” Visitors also may explore the Science Playground, an outdoor exhibit that explains the principles of motion, balance and simple machines, as well as Rocket Park Mini Golf, an attraction themed around the science of space flight.
The hall is located at 47-01 111 St. in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Hours (through Aug. 31) are Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $11 (adults); $8 (children, students, and seniors). Some attractions require additional admission fees. It can be reached at (718) 699-0005.
The Museum of the Moving Image, in Astoria, the country’s only museum dedicated to the art, history, technique and technology of the moving image in all its forms, offers, in addition to its core exhibits, a new attraction through June 16, “Spectacle: The Music Video,” which celebrates the art and history of the music video and features 300 videos, artifacts and interactive installations.
Located at 36-01 35 Ave., in Astoria, the museum’s hours are Wednesday and Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $12 (adults); $9 (seniors, students); $6 (children 3-12), and the number is (718) 777-6888.
The Queens County Farm Museum, in Glen Oaks, dating back to 1697, is the only working historical farm in the city. Spread over 47 acres, its attractions include historic farm buildings, a greenhouse complex, livestock and orchards. A children’s carnival will be a special attraction on April 20 and 21, with rides, games, hayrides and more. On May 5, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., “Celebrate Queens Farm” will include special tours highlighting sheep shearing.
Located at 73-50 Little Neck Parkway in Glen Oaks, the farm’s outdoor visiting hours are Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Farmhouse tours are offered Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. General admission is free. Fees are charged for special attractions, and details can be had at (718) 347-3276.
MoMA PS1, in Long Island City, an exhibition space that highlights experimental art, presents “Michelangelo Frammartino: Alberi,” from April 18-27, exploring the Italian filmmaker’s take on the theme of eternal transformation and reincarnation. The film takes audiences on a journey “through reveries of mystic appearances.” Beginning May 12, the space presents “Expo 1: New York.”
Located at 22-25 Jackson Ave., PS1’s hours are Thursday to Monday, noon to 6 p.m. Suggested admission is $10; $5 (students, seniors), and it can be reached at (718) 784-2084.
The Louis Armstrong House Museum, in Corona, maintains the jazz master’s home and furnishings as they were when he and his wife lived there. Visitors may tour the house, see exhibits, hear recordings and stroll through Armstrong’s Japanese-inspired garden.
Museum goers can celebrate “Jazz Appreciation Month with Louis!” through April 30, highlighting his famed concert at Freedomland USA and featuring artifacts and photos that paint an intimate portrait of the artist.
Located at 34-56 107 St., in Corona, the house museum’s hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10; $7 (seniors, students, children). Operated by Queens College, the museum can be reached at (718) 478-8297 — which, aside from the area code, was the Armstrongs’ number when they lived there.