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.

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


How To Create Cool Awards



Does this sound familiar?

You think someone is really great.  So great that you actually want to tell the world and present them with an award in front of hundreds if not millions of people.

You bustle over to the local trophy and award shop and get a plaque they can hang on the wall next to another plaque and fire extinguisher.


You rethink the plaque and go for a trophy with a stand that would look nice on a shelf.  Between the microwave and the toaster oven.

Really lame.


What’s an award presenter to do?

Let’s think this through. The two people being honored at the upcoming QCA Block Party on the backlot of the Kaufman Arts District are Mackenzi Farquer, the owner of Lockwood located at 32-15 33rd Street, Astoria, NY 11106, and George Rallis and Gary Anza, the owners of William Hallet, located at 36-10 30thAve, Astoria, NY 11105 .

These are active, creative people doing amazing things to make Astoria, Queens a great place to live and work.

How do you capture that in an award?

Talk to an artist.

Hey Pablo!

There are artists who are able to create work that is inspired by and for a community.  Some of these artists have been commissioned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to make art for commuters to enjoy on the subways and in the stations.  These pieces are thoughtful and site specific, relating in design, theme or colors to the neighborhoods they are placed in.

Pablo Tauler is an artist who lived in Astoria, lives in Jackson Heights and surfs in Rockaway.  He has a lot of experience in doing this kind of work.  His pieces can be seen in several sites in Queens and in Philadelphia.

We were sitting on his bungalow porch admiring his newly rigged surfboard rack that looked like an intriguing sculpture.  After I told him about these awards, I asked him,

“What do you think?”

Pablo looked around the bungalow porch we where we were sitting and said,

“I’m thinking wood.”

Several sketches flew between us and just yesterday, these images of the awards in process came in.






These are some models he is working on.  I love the movement I sense in these pieces. They will be sanded and polished with an area for an elegant onyx rectangle where we can inscribe a dedication.  He will also recess a picture hook in the back so that the piece lays flush against  a wall surface.

Quid pro quo

It makes sense. To honor someone for being a creative force in their community, have another creative force – a local artist- capture that in a piece that is in essence, a work of art.

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:



How Eight Days A Week’s Worth of Writing Tips Can Make You Memorable, Fundable and Unique

Do you have a project you  are passionate about?

Chances are you will need other people to fall in love with what you are doing to make your project a success.  You will need a bigger pool of supporters and fans to rally and believe in your work.

How do you convey what you know so well to a prospective patron or supporter?  With so many people competing for funding for their projects, do you ever wonder if your letter of inquiry has a chance?

According to a recent grant panel I participated in, the funder awarded 20 grants out of a pool of 1700 applicants.   Pretty competitive.

Foundations, philanthropies, and government funders are overwhelmed with requests . You probably are just as frustrated by the process.

So how can you make your next letter of inquiry jump out of the slush pile into the yes pile?  Where do you start and is it worth the effort?

You bet it is. And it’s easier than you think.

Chances are, your letter is one of many similar letters that land on the desk of a grant officer slowly drowning in a sea of paper.  Now, if you were that person, what would be the first thing you would want to do to make your life easier?

Here’s a hint:  Hunting for a reason to keep a letter in the slush pile is not the answer.

The truth is, that first thing that reader wants to do is whittle down the pile of letters to consider by eliminating the weak ones.  You don’t want to give them any reason to toss your letter out of the pile.

You work hard for what you love and now you need to that love to come back to you.


I sat on a panel with three very smart people from a foundation, a politician’s office and from the artist community.  After spending time reading drafts of letters of inquiry from attendees seeking financial support, we came away with a handful of advice.

Eight tips, to be precise.  I paired them with some images in this quick little video.  They are also here with some of my thoughts.

The following are eight ways to get Eight Days A Week  worth of love for that project you love.  They are easy to use and can double your letter’s appeal and chances for getting to yes:


1.  Be Clear

Arthur Schopenhauer

Be simple and clear about what you need.  The clarity of your request will be greatly appreciated by people who do not have to go digging through pages of text to find out exactly who you are, what you want and most important of all, how they can be helpful.


“I respectfully request $10,000  (WHAT)  to support three productions of original plays about seeking identity as second generation immigrants  (WHY and WHY THIS MATTERS)  by emerging Bengali playwrights  (WHO)  to take place in September  (WHEN) at the XYZ Theatre  (WHERE).”


2. Be Short & Sweet


short and sweet
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Use short sentences.  Choose simple words, not jargon.


  • children under 5, not constituent
  • make friends, not outreach
  • work with people, not implement a program
  • understand, not seek common ground
  • see if it works, not assess the metrics

Your writing should follow The Mini Skirt Rule and be:

Long enough to cover the basics and short enough to be enticing.

3. Do Your Homework

do your homeworkSamuel Taylor Coleridge

Nothing is worse than a letter requesting apples from someone that has oranges.

Take the time to find out what projects your local legislator has funded in your district to see if your project is something they would be interested in.


“Your support of the ABC reading series for seniors at local library branches is a greatly needed and appreciated community program.  Our intergenerational open mic workshop has been carefully designed to build upon this success and to give local seniors more ways to become involved with the rapidly growing literary community in your district.”


You have shown your knowledge of a project that has been recently funded.  Rather than duplicate efforts, you are enhancing this  program’s success by collaborating with other local resources.  This shows you understand how to build working partnerships and how to leverage support in a deeper way.


4. Update Your Website



The first place people will go to find out more about you is your website.

Make sure there is fresh content on your homepage and that your contact information is up to date and easy to find.  Add images to make your pages more attractive.

A ghost town website will undermine your credibility.

5. Love Your Layout

written text

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone

Dorothy Parker

Most people skim before they read.  A wall of text is sure to make someone’s eyes glaze over.

Why not break up your text into two or three short paragraphs and add white space to “let your words breathe”?

Use bulleted lists to make it easy for your eyes to focus on important points.


6. Get Another Set of Eyes

get a second set of eyes

Abraham Lincoln

Not your mom.  She will love you no matter what you write.

Get someone unfamiliar with your field to review your letter and see if your message is clear to them.   Ask a colleague to proofread your work.

Then ask your mom.

7. Make it Easy

make it easy

Zig Ziglar

If you are sending work samples such as a video or an audio recording, make sure everything is clearly marked and cued up ready to go.  This is actual proof that you are an expert in what you love to do and promise of your potential.  A little attention to the technical details will prevent glitches from preventing people from seeing you in action.

Send your letter out as a PDF and as an attachment.

Having your document in both formats makes it easier for people to access no matter how old or temperamental their computer is.  People will appreciate having options.

8. Follow up

follow up

Rose Kennedy

Now that your letter has been sent,  you have an opportunity to check in.  If you are successful, say thank you.  A lot.  You can never express your appreciation enough.

If you are not successful, you can call and say thank you for their consideration.  You can also develop a relationship by asking for panel comments and where you fell short so that you can do a better job the next time.

No is not no.  It is not yet waiting to become a yes.


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Hoong Yee