A Little Known Secret About Creating Artist Awards


Admit it, you are curious.

What else could we, a local arts council in Queens, do for artists that we aren’t already doing?

You are a struggling artist looking for some money to frame your work.

Or you are a writer seeking a place to do a live reading of your newest novel.

Maybe you don’t need financial support  but you need moral support, a salon to share your latest work with other artists.

Without money, a performing space or a tribe in your corner, being an artist can be a lonely and difficult life.

Queens Council on the Arts can help with many of your pressing needs as a creative professional with grants, workshops, and events.

Here are 5 other ways we get artists out in the spotlight:

1. We bring artists to our board meetings

2. We take artists to national conventions


But wait, there’s more!

Did you know we throw block parties where:

3. We give artists a huge platform to be seen

4. We feature artists in blogs, guest blogs and all kinds of social media visual eye candy

5. We commission artists to create awards

Let me repeat:

We commission artists to create awards

This is something we have done in the past realizing how people truly value a specially created piece of art that is given to them as a symbol of recognition.

We asked Pablo Tauler, a Queens artist who lived in Astoria for many years, to create the awards for our Neighbohood Stars –  Mackenzi Farquer of Lockwood Shop, George Anza and George Rallis of William Hallet.

They will be presented with these one of a kind art pieces and publicly recognized as this year’s Neighborhood Stars at the QCA Block Party on Saturday, June 21, 2014 to acknowledge how much we appreciate their creative energy in our community.



 me, the awards in process & Pablo


They are made from local woods and there is a story behind the assemblage of each one.

Here they are, finely sanded by hand and ready to have a custom black commemorative plate affixed in the lower left hand corner.

Pablo is a meticulous and sensitive craftsman as well as a noted artist.

In the back, the fastening screws reveal a history of how the piece was put together, picture framing hardware is countersunk so the piece can lay flat against the wall and there is Pablo’s seal.

Makes me wish I was one of the lucky and well deserving honorees.

Commissioning an artist to create pieces like this is one of many ways we can infuse creative energy into memorable moments of our lives.

Its secret power is that it honors the artist who created the award as well as the person receiving it.

Who wins?

We all do.



3 awards on Pablo’s piano 

    headshot compressed for web 9-28-08 About the Author:  Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer is the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts and is on a mission to help you create a rich life by doing work that matters with people you love.  Get her new ideas, drawings and the inside scoop on the art world here.

The Most Valuable Thing You Keep Forgetting You Possess

“But I ‘m no expert.”

Funny how people go into instant confidence annihilation as soon as opportunity knocks.

And here’s more ammo:

“Who is going to listen to me?”

“There are so many other people out there doing this already.”

“What if I fail?”

“I have to go back to school.”

At a recent New York literary event, I was talking to the woman who put everything, and I mean everything, together.

This room was filled with best selling, award winning authors, their friends, family, a Nobel Laureate, philanthropists, screenwriters, producers and people who love literature.

Hors d’oeuvres were passed.

Drinks were clinked.

Money was raised.

Great buzz. Great event.

And yet, she was worried.

“I’m thinking of going back to graduate school.  I really need to learn more about grant writing and fundraising,”  she confided.  “What do you think?”

I put my drink down before I dropped it in disbelief.

Should I put a gun in her hand and tell her to shoot herself in the foot?

That is so not me.

My right brain was ready to explode with reasons why this was not a good idea:

  • You will learn theory, not practice
  • Nobody gets hired because they know theory
  • Nobody deserves your valuable time and money without giving you a job in return
  • Nobody gets hired because they have a fancy diploma

But true insight comes from self awareness.

She needed to arrive at the answer herself.

So I said, “Do you need to go into debt to learn how to beg for money?”

Then I leaned in with a meaningful wink, “Bad idea.  Bad for you skin.”


She took a moment before she answered me.

“Let me get you another drink and introduce you to someone I think you will love talking to,”  she smiled and we did a shoulder samba over to a young French filmmaker with soulful eyes sipping a flute of Veuve Cliquot.

Confidence is the only pedigree you need.

You go grasshopper!

You Are Not Alone: 5 Ways To Find Your Tribe and Flourish

It’s lonely in your atelier, isn’t it?

You want to hear the music play, you want to be part of life’s cabaret.

There are thousands of people like you who have a deep desire to do something they are passionate about.

To paint, to make a film, to write the Great American Novel, to be a successful artist.

So, you huddle over their kitchen table to work on your painting, your screenplay, your book.

Maybe you have space in your home or have rented a studio.

But you are alone.

And after hours of working on your art, you wonder, “Is this any good?  Who else is doing what I’m doing?  Does anyone care?” Who can you ask?

Your mom will love everything you do.

Your neighbor might lean over the fence and nod appreciatively but does he really know anything about what you do?

You need to talk to creative people who are passionate and excited about their work.  You need people who care about what you are doing.

You need to get out and hear the music play.


What you really need


– American poet Charles Bukowski.

You need your tribe.

The members of your tribe are your allies on your remarkable journey.  

Your tribe will lift you up, help you grow, recharge you, inspire you to go after your goals and pursue your dreams.  To celebrate with you, and be in your corner when you need them.  

The need to belong is one of the most fundamental human instincts.

Abraham Maslow, a noted psychologist, identified it as one of the five basic needs.  We want to be part of a group and to feel loved and accepted by others.

That is, we want to be a member of a tribe.

But how do you make that happen?



Michelle Handelman, Elisabeth Subrin, moi, Sue Vaccaro, Mel England


I was part of this year’s Women & Fashion FilmFest, an organization whose mission is to give voice and to create opportunities for women and girls and invited to be on a panel with really smart people for Disruptive Filmmaking in NYC: a discussion on opportunities in NYC for independent filmmakers.   

Really really smart people.

The kind of smart that made me feel like I didn’t study for the spelling test.

In the Q & A that followed the discussion, aspiring filmmakers did not ask about things like how to get money to make a film, where to find a crew to work with or should they go to film school.

Here is their big question, “How do I find my place?  How do I find my tribe?”

My co panelists had great suggestions and personal stories about how they found their network of like minded creative spirits early in their careers.

Here are the top 5 ways to find your tribe that impressed me the most from that discussion:


1  Be In The Room 

Put down the knitting,
The book and the broom.
Time for a holiday.
Life is Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.

Go to that local film festival and meet the people doing cool and interesting things.

Congratulate the filmmakers and present yourself as a sincere fan of their work.

Sign up on their mailing list and follow them on social media.

Building a fan base is really important to a creative person. Believe me, they will remember you.

Chat up the other people in the room who are part of the event – the director, the actors, the tech crew, the musicians.

Artists work from project to project and who knows?

Yours may be the next one everyone wants to work on.


2  Connect With Your Council

This one I liked a lot.

Check out your local arts council.

I happen to run one so I can tell you that this is the quickest way to immerse yourself in local creativity.

Look for events that offer networking or an opportunity to share work with others like slide slams, open dress rehearsals or readings.

If there is an opportunity to volunteer for an event or activity, do it.

There is nothing more appealing than a pro active and generous artist.  More on this in #3.


3  Give Something Away 

I am on my way to an important meeting with a business owner.

She calls to say she needs to reschedule because it is her son’s 11th birthday and she is trying to get things ready for his party.  Not another delay, I think to myself.

“No problem,” I say cheerfully.  “His birthday is more important.”

I pick up a gift card in a video game store and drive over to her shop.

She is surprised to see me.  “Didn’t we reschedule our meeting?

I smile and say, “Yes, but I’m here to say happy birthday to the birthday boy.”

His eyes grow wide as I hand him the gift card.

His mother says, “That was really nice of you.  Thank you for doing that.”

I am thinking, “My meeting just got cancelled.  Let me be generous.”

Several weeks later, I have forgotten all about it.  But when I realize I need some extra help with a project, she immediately volunteers to do it.  No questions asked.

The Rule of Reciprocity

What just happened? What happened is the Rule of Reciprocity in play.

The Rule of Reciprocity states that we human beings are internally wired— even driven — to repay debts of all kinds. If someone does something for you, you do something for them.

Sociologist Alvin Gouldner says that there is no human society on earth that does not follow the Rule of Reciprocity.

Reciprocity is a deep and powerful principle that, under the right circumstances, is all but impossible to resist.

So give and give often.  Generously.

For extra impact, do something totally unexpected for someone.   blogger-image--217745408

Offer to create a short sizzle reel for a local dance group.

Or donate your services as a raffle gift for an upcoming fundraiser.

How about offering to create a unique one of kind award to be presented to someone?

When you start a relationship, deliver more than is expected.

And continue to give, before, during, and after every opportunity you can.

When you naturally apply the Rule of Reciprocity, the more you give, the more you will receive.

What can you give?

4  Share what you know

I know what you’re thinking:  What? What could I talk about in front of a roomful of people?

Let’s think about the psychology of this for a minute.

You want to meet creative and remarkable people who are doing things you want to do, right?

Chances are people like that are constantly being approached by people looking for something – advice, a favor, conversation. How do you stand out from the rest?

Volunteer to sit on a panel discussion about what you are interested in.

By being the expert, you have subtly changed the dynamic of the room.

Now people will seek you out as someone they want to connect with because you are the one with knowledge and authority.

Reposition the focus.

Rock this opportunity and not only will the audience want to meet you, the other panelists will be lining up for your card.

Marketing guru Seth Godin says that you create your tribe by helping others to achieve their goals.


By connecting people you know who have common interests, by giving them information and resources that they need, and letting them know that you are there to help.


5  Own The Room

Come taste the wine,
Come hear the band.
Come blow your horn,
Start celebrating;
Right this way,
Your table’s waiting

 OK, this is the secret sauce.

What will draw the people you want to meet to you like bees to honey?

Your rock star reputation?  Your amazing sense of style?  Your uber the top good looks?

If you possess this one thing, all of those other things don’t amount to a hill of beans.

Own this and the power of attraction is yours.  Every single time.


Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit. – E.E. Cummings


Walk in the room knowing you have something remarkable to say.

Smile.  Stand tall.


Let people see how comfortable you are in your own skin, in your own story, in your success.

There is nothing more attractive than a winner.

It’s a Wrap, people!

Let’s go over this fistful of fabulous advice in finding your tribe:

  1. Be in the room – Get out and meet the people you want to know where they gather
  2. Connect with your Council – Local arts councils exist to help local artists. If you are in Queens, come by and say hello.
  3. Give something away – Be generous in spirit.  The more you give, the more you will receive.
  4. Share what you know – Become an instant authority by helping others achieve their goals.
  5. Own the room – Confidence is the most attractive superpower.

Start by admitting
From cradle to tomb
Isn’t that long a stay.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Only a Cabaret, old chum,
And I love a Cabaret!  




Hoong Yee

2015-03-28 22.09.37


What Are You Willing To Do For What You Love?

OK, I confess.

I was totally seduced.

The invitation was respectfully intriguing.  I like that. But what really did it was how it made me feel.  Like an A-lister. Desirable.  Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could join us but we totally understand you are so fabulously busy because you are so, well, fabulous. It took every iota of restraint for me not to immediately punch back a reply.  Take your time and compose yourself.  You are a very busy and important person, remember?

Lunch at the Knockdown Center

Alanna Heiss, the force behind PS1 and the Clocktower Productions, invited a few people for lunch to see the beautiful show of Joel Shapiro and Richard Nonas, which closes the following Sunday, June 8th. 20140603_140040

Joel Shapiro’s work

We were also treated to hear Joe Ahearn, the  Clocktower Curator for the next show, Anxious Spaces, tell us about the installation and performance artists who will be in that upcoming show, and Michael Merck, Knockdown’s Director of Visual Arts, who gave us a tour to discuss the upcoming art projects planned for the summer and fall season. This is a sleeping giant of a space with potential rippling from every crevice, every wall of leaded windows, every exposed beam. And with its charm come great challenges. We were invited for lunch and to be champions for this space especially in the aftermath of being denied a liquor license.

20140603_163638 Alanna Heiss of Clocktower Productions, me and John Hatfield of Socrates Sculpture Park

Food for Thought

20140603_143915  I love a team that’s artsy, cute and able to cook.   Go Mike & Tyler!

Alanna told a story about how art can exact a great sacrifice from an artist.   Marc diSuvero, the iconic Long Island City sculptor was in an elevator bringing his art, which is a lot of heavy welded metal, which was a highly risky operation but he was so determined to move his pieces that he put himself in a very dangerous position which resulted in an accident crushing his legs.  In the art world, to “do a diSuvero” is code for “giving your life to art”.

Art, great art, can change lives.  Does it have the right to take a life, or to take away from life?

Here is a sideways video of Alanna Heiss’s vision for the Knockdown Center:



Transition Team: Not For The Faint of heart

I just noticed that the word “transition”  appears quite frequently in the obituary section. “Our dear Aunt Betty has transitioned into the afterlife…  We are at peace knowing dear Grandmother Anna is transitioning into the next part of the eternal cycle…” As a member of the Mayor’s Transition Team, I am excited to be at the beginning of a new phase of life for New York.  Transition means forward movement, growth, and future.  With each appointment, the structure of city government emerges more clearly, a  distinctively progressive architecture defining its growth. This weekend, I received the following phone call: “Hello?”

“Oh, hello, may I speak to Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer?  This is Melissa Mark-Viverito.”
I stared at the phone and said, “This is she.  Como esta?”
OMG, did I really just say that?  She laughed and said, “Muy bien, gracias!  The reason I am calling is that I am putting together my transition team and you came highly recommended.  Would you consider joining my efforts to set up house?”
The last time I got a call like this I became part of the mayor-elect’s transition team which has been a fascinating experience.  The call caught me off guard and I somehow got it together quickly enough to express that I would be happy to help the mayor-elect build a new city administration and said,
“Of course, it would be an honor.”
Muscle memory is a great thing.  I expressed my gratitude for being considered to join her transition and to assist in helping her build her team to the best of my ability.  I have been told that in addition to her own Speaker staff, there are several key positions and approximately 237 jobs at the central agency of which half need to be filled by new staff that “looks like the city it serves”.   This sounds like a page from the Mayor’s playbook for his transition team.
The next time I see Melissa, I will be sure to say, “Por supuesto!  Seria un honor.”
 This is my second  transition.  I have stopped reading obituaries and I remain wary of my next transition request.  The way I see it, three strikes and I am out.