There are over two million stories in Queens. Everyone who lives or works here, or is just passing through, has a story to tell.
And Briarwood resident Amy Wu wants to share as many as she can via “QNSMADE” — one human at a time.
The School of Visual Arts grad student is eager to get the word out about her budding website — a homage to her favorite borough.
When it’s officially launched, QNSMADE will offer its visitors a fascinating glimpse into the lives of people — artists, workers, business owners, students, families — who live or work in Queens, or even are just visiting.
Candid interviews and captivating photos will put real faces to the many neighborhoods, and a listing of vendors, manufacturers, and businesses will be provided as an added feature.
“My hopes are that these interviews, photos and resources will help put the borough on the map,” said Wu. “My friend Jaina Teeluck and I go out to different neighborhoods in our free time, and I’ll talk to people while she takes pictures. I’m a horrible photographer.”
It takes an artist’s touch to create a digital tapestry of faces and lives.
Bits and pieces of the colorful Queens mosaic are starting to pop up on the site, as a portrait of the borough emerges. But it takes time. It’s a work of art in progress.
Wu recalled watching her parents, who came to Richmond Hill from India and then moved to Flushing, struggle to make ends meet. Their story is part of that portrait.
A former graphic design student, Wu, 28, now majors in interaction design and will graduate next year. She said she got the idea for her site while taking a five-month entrepreneurial class after she was asked to come up with a business model.
“So, I was thinking, ‘What can I do that won’t bore me? Why don’t I interview interesting people in Queens and meet some people in the community?’ I’ve lived here all my life. There are 80 different neighborhoods that I want to go and take pictures of,” she said. “Why don’t I take that model of Humans of New York and bring it here to Queens?”
Getting a website up and running is no easy task, and the QNSMADE founder soon realized she would need help.
“I couldn’t do everything; I could only do pieces of everything. So, my professor said, ‘You can become the producer. Basically, you’re setting the foundation for visuals, and what questions you want to ask in interviews. And, you can have people collaborate with you; become your team.” Wu said she needs more than 20 people and 20 have signed up already.
The next step is to raise money with a Kickstarter campaign; it will run for 21 to 30 days. Wu, who is very excited about her new venture, has already submitted her video for it.
Wu hopes QNSMADE will become the go-to place for folks interested in finding out more about the borough and an educational experience for students.
“With the actual site, you’ll be able to filter through different neighborhoods, and every nabe will be represented,” Wu explained. “You’ll click on the one you’re interested in and on a variety of resources for different needs.”
In time, the online scrapbook that is QNSMADE will promote a community vibe and may even have historical significance, providing viewers with a thought-provoking look at who we are, where we came from and where we’re headed.
As a kid, Wu recalled just wanting to get out of Flushing. But now, she appreciates living in Queens. She said family ties are strong and she has many friends here. And, rents are lower compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn.
When she’s not growing her site, Wu said she likes to eat authentic Asian dishes in Flushing, and fusion fare in Forest Hills; she often frequents Sage General Store in Astoria, and is a movie buff who enjoys watching films at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria and during the summer at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City.
The eager artist said she visits and has friends in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but feels a different vibe here. “Queens people, they’re protective and pretty tough. There’s no BS here. That’s why I like Queens. It’s real.”