In 1985 I was busy: I worked on ART/new york, an educational videotape series about contemporary art; wrote monthly columns for the East Village Eye; co-edited the book ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery; exhibited my own art; and taught art history at St. John's University. All of these activities, together with my PhD from New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, made me the winning candidate for the curator position at the Queens Museum that I spotted in the want-ads section of the New York Times.
The Queens Museum was located next to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the site of both the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs. The museum occupied half of the building that once housed the New York City pavilion, and it featured as its main attraction the Panorama of the City of New York, a giant architectural model of New York built by Robert Moses for the 1964 fair. Founded in 1972, the museum was located in a historic but remote spot far from the nearest subway station. Getting people to come from Manhattan was difficult, but the museum was always active, thanks to its energetic director, Janet Schneider, and its principal patron, Queens Borough President Claire Schulman, an unlikely Medici who generously supported all of the borough's cultural institutions.
I've often said that being curator at the Queens Museum was like the episode of "I Love Lucy" at the chocolate factory where the conveyor belt moves a little too fast. Each of the museum's curators worked on three or four exhibitions at a time, wrote catalogs, and helped plan public events. We had a great amount of freedom to do what we wanted as long as it fit within the museum's mission and could attract funding. I continued to work with many of the downtown artists I knew from the Bowery, but also got to expand my reach into other areas. Increasingly, I was attracted to the richness of the museum's Flushing Meadow Park site, formulating exhibitions around the Panorama and the two World's Fairs. For the French Bicentennial in 1989, Jan encouraged me to put together an exhibition based on my doctoral dissertation about the art connected to Lafayette's 1824 tour of America. I was also able to organize a large exhibition about one of Queens' most illustrious residents, the jazz musician Louis Armstrong.