Bookmark and Share

Curator at the Queens Museum, 1985-1994

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.

The west façade of the New York City Building that faces Grand Central Parkway, 1980s. The museum occupied the north end of the building while the south side contained an ice-skating rink. In the background is the tower of the New York State pavilion from the 1964 World's Fair.
The west façade of the New York City Building that faces Grand Central Parkway, 1980s. The museum occupied the north end of the building while the south side contained an ice-skating rink. In the background is the tower of the New York State pavilion from the 1964 World's Fair.
Queens Museum exterior, c. 1980s
The main entrance to the Queens Museum as seen from the parking lot to the north, 1980s

A Queens Museum Album, 1984–1990 Thanks to assistant curator Phyllis Bilick who doubled as staff photographer, there are many photographs from my years at the museum. During those pre-digital days photographs were made from negatives and since only a few negatives were actually printed, most of the pictures below are blow-ups from proof sheets. Special thanks to David Strauss, Director of External Affairs, and the Queens Museum for making these photographs available.

Marc Miller at his IBM Selectric typewriter in his office at the Queens Museum, c. 1986
Marc Miller at his IBM Selectric typewriter in his office at the Queens Museum, c. 1986
Examining a Keith Haring T-shirt for the exhibition Television's Impact on Contemporary Art, c. 1986
Examining a Keith Haring T-shirt for the exhibition Television's Impact on Contemporary Art, c. 1986
Administrator Barbara Sperber, Director Janet Schneider, and guard Willie Ed Guy
Administrator Barbara Sperber, director Janet Schneider, and guard Willie Ed Guy
Guard Willie Ed Guy, administrative assistant Doretha Moorer (third from left), chief of security, Anthony Kemper, and others
Guard Willie Ed Guy, administrative assistant Doretha Moorer (third from left), chief of security, Anthony Kemper, and others
Laurie Anderson at the opening of her exhibition Laurie Anderson: Works from 1969 to 1983, 1984. The first time I visited the Queens Museum was when Paul Tschinkel and I taped this show for the video series ART/new york.  Paul eventually used the footage in a 1999 program he made on Anderson.
Laurie Anderson at the opening of her exhibition Laurie Anderson: Works from 1969 to 1983, 1984. The first time I visited the Queens Museum was when Paul Tschinkel and I taped this show for the video series ART/new york. Paul eventually used the footage in a 1999 program he made on Anderson
A school group lines up to experience a sound piece in the Laurie Anderson exhibition, 1984
A school group lines up to experience a sound piece in the Laurie Anderson exhibition, 1984
Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and Queens Museum director Janet Schneider at the opening of George Rhoads: Audio-Kinetic Sculpture, 1987
Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and Queens Museum director Janet Schneider at the opening of George Rhoads: Audio-Kinetic Sculpture, 1987
William R. Blake II, chairman of the Queens Museum board (second from left), director Janet Schneider, and funders for New New York, 19877
William R. Blake II, chairman of the Queens Museum board (second from left), director Janet Schneider, and funders for New New York, 1987
Anne Edgar, public information officer (left) and Ileen Shepard, director of exhibitions, c. 1985.
Anne Edgar, public information officer (left) and Ileen Shepard, director of exhibitions, c. 1985.
Luis Cruz Azaceta with his son at the opening of his exhibition The Aids Epidemic Series, 1991
Luis Cruz Azaceta with his son at the opening of his exhibition The Aids Epidemic Series, 1991
Ileen Sheppard with Marvin Heiferman (left), guest curator of the photography exhibition, The Real Big Picture, 1985.
Ileen Sheppard with Marvin Heiferman (left), guest curator of the photography exhibition, The Real Big Picture, 1985.
Ileen Sheppard talks with art dealer Holly Solomon (center) in the Judy Pfaff room at   the opening of Ileen's exhibition, Sculpture of the 1980s, 1987.
Ileen Sheppard talks with art dealer Holly Solomon (center) in the Judy Pfaff room at the opening of Ileen's exhibition, Sculpture of the 1980s, 1987.
Paul Tschinkel videotaping Tom Wesselman atTom Wesselman, Tom Wesselmann: A New Approach to Drawing, 1987
Paul Tschinkel videotaping Tom Wesselman at Tom Wesselmann: A New Approach to Drawing, 1987
Tom Wesselman and Ileen Sheppard at the opening of Tom Wesselmann: A New Approach to Drawing, 1987
Tom Wesselman and Ileen Sheppard at the opening of Tom Wesselman: A New Approach to Drawing, 1987
Collector Norman Dubrow (left), guest curator Barry Blinderman (center), and Martin Wong (right) at the opening of Keith Haring Future Primeval, 1990
Collector Norman Dubrow (left), guest curator Barry Blinderman (center), and Martin Wong (right) at the opening of Keith Haring Future Primeval, 1990
Guest curator Barry Blinderman, Keith Haring Future Primeval, 1990
Guest curator Barry Blinderman, Keith Haring Future Primeval, 1990
Curator Marc Miller receiving a donation for the purchase of World's Fair artifacts
Curator Marc Miller receiving a donation for the purchase of World's Fair artifacts
Marc Miller and Donna Tuman, curator of education, examine the never-installed Far Rockaway section of the Panorama, 1987.
Marc Miller and Donna Tuman, curator of education, examine the never-installed Far Rockaway section of the Panorama, 1987.
>Louis Grachos, director of exhibitions, 1990
Louis Grachos, director of exhibitions, c. 1990
Phyllis Bilick and curator Barbara Matilsky, The Expressionist Surface: Contemporary Art in Plaster, 1990
Phyllis Bilick and curator Barbara Matilsky, The Expressionist Surface: Contemporary Art in Plaster, 1990