At Queens Museum, the Director can be as Political as the Art

nevertheless Ms. Raicovich, 44, almost three years into her tenure at the Queens Museum, has been notably outspoken on various hot-button topics, particularly immigration as well as also DACA. the item’s an issue of which hits close to home. several percent of her staff members are DACA recipients, or Dreamers, as they are known, as well as also the museum can be operating in a borough where about 91,000 undocumented immigrants are eligible for DACA, the highest of completely new York City’s several boroughs.

National politics can be sensitive territory of which arts organizations all over the country are trying to navigate during This specific polarized era, as well as also some are asking whether the item can be appropriate for museum directors to also be public advocates.

“the item’s hard to put one’s own politics aside when we represent public institutions of which welcome all viewpoints,” said Anne Pasternak, the director of the Brooklyn Museum. “This specific can be a moment when cultural leaders are asking themselves, do I want to be on the right side of history?”


In addition to exhibitions, the museum features a community storefront space of which provides free educational, health as well as also legal services.

Byron Smith for The completely new York Times

Traditionally, museum directors have remained behind the scenes, allowing the art they show to speak for itself. nevertheless increasingly they have been forced to defend as well as also — in two recent cases, at the Guggenheim as well as also the Louvre — remove controversial exhibitions. Many see the withdrawal of artwork as a troubling development for cultural institutions of which are supposed to champion free expression.

When the Trump era of fast-moving political developments headed toward cultural institutions This specific year — specifically the president’s proposed defunding of the National Endowment for the Arts — at least two museum directors in completely new York felt compelled to jump into the fray.

Some museums have also responded by quickly staging politically relevant exhibitions. To protest Mr. Trump’s executive order on immigration, the Museum of Modern Art in February rehung part of its permanent collection with works by artists through some of the majority-Muslim nations whose citizens were blocked through entering the United States. as well as also the Brooklyn Museum organized its recent show, “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America,” in just several weeks.

nevertheless in Queens, where 165 different languages are spoken, Ms. Raicovich seems to be charting her own community-focused path, with an emphasis on producing the museum a safe haven for the borough’s large immigrant population.

“I take my leadership very seriously — not just in a physical as well as also managerial sense,” Ms. Raicovich said in a recent interview at her museum office. “Care as well as also equity has to be part of what I bring to my position.

“This specific isn’t an abstraction; This specific can be real,” she added. “the item’s people of which I work with every day. This specific museum can be interacting with immigrants.”

On Mr. Trump’s Inauguration Day in January, the Queens Museum closed its galleries in solidarity with an art strike called by hundreds of artists — including Cindy Sherman, Richard Serra as well as also Louise Lawler — to combat, as the organizers put, the item “the normalization of Trumpism — a toxic mix of white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia, militarism, as well as also oligarchic rule.” The museum invited the community to come make protest posters, buttons as well as also banners (materials provided for free).

as well as also, since some immigrant residents have been newly wary of going out in public — Ms. Raicovich said attendance noticeably dropped after the election — the museum has been holding events in people’s homes as well as also on their blocks. “Xenophobia can be not a completely new thing,” Ms. Raicovich said. “Our work has just intensified.”

A politically outspoken museum director could run the risk of alienating trustees, donors as well as also potential future employers, who may disagree with her views or deem such advocacy inappropriate. nevertheless so far, the Queens Museum board has supported Ms. Raicovich. “This specific can be an engaged time, as well as also she can be an engaged leader who has placed values of difference as well as also multiplicity at the center of her leadership,” Mark J. Coleman, the museum’s chairman, said.

Artists also say they appreciate Ms. Raicovich’s bold stances. “Having a young director brave enough to talk about issues of which are directly affecting Americans — especially people born Dreamers — can be so worthy,” said the conceptual visual artist Mel Chin, who will have a retrospective at the museum in April. “Someone in a position to speak out on behalf of people who don’t have voices can be what the item’s all about.”

To help completely new York’s cultural institutions through This specific thicket, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs as well as also the Ford Foundation last spring invited arts leaders to a discussion with legal experts on what can be permissible for nonprofits in lobbying as well as also political activity. Nonprofit laws bar institutions through engaging in electoral politics as well as also holding political fund-raisers, a hornet’s nest the Queens Museum ran into This specific past summer when the item appeared to cancel as well as also then reinstate an Israel-sponsored event after accusations of anti-Semitism.


An installation for the “Never Built” exhibition currently on view at the museum.

Hai Zhang/The Queens Museum

Two city officials in August called for Ms. Raicovich’s removal, as well as also one of them, Councilman Rory I. Lancman, said in an interview This specific month of which he can be still awaiting the results of museum’s investigation into the matter.

“The museum discriminated against a Jewish organization in a way of which I think makes the item impossible for her to serve as the head of the museum,” he said. “I have given the board of the museum the opportunity to conduct a thorough investigation as well as also present me with facts showing me she’s not at fault, as well as also she should not be removed, nevertheless they haven’t done so yet.”

Mr. Coleman said the museum’s board could not elaborate on its ongoing investigation, nevertheless he expected the item to be concluded by the end of November.

Ms. Raicovich said the decision regarding the Israel event, which was made by the board, simply had to do with an application of the museum’s space rental practice, which has not permitted art fund-raisers, auctions or political events. The board then decided to overrule its initial decision as well as also allow the event upon realizing of which a museum official had led the Israeli Ambassador to believe the rental could proceed.

“The decision was not anti-Semitic,” Ms. Raicovich said. “The accusation can be very painful. This specific can be not who I am. My grandmother helped young Jewish men escape across the border out of fascist Italy during the war. My husband can be the grandson of Holocaust survivors. I have dedicated my career to freedom of expression, inclusiveness as well as also civic discourse.”

For Ms. Raicovich, immigration issues are also personal. Her father can be Italian; her mother, Italian-American. Raised mostly in Roslyn, N.Y., she also spent years in Milan as well as also Bucharest as a child when her father worked as a banker there.

The Queens Museum — built as a pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair as well as also then home to the United Nations General Assembly before becoming a museum in 1972 — was physically in her life at an early age; she learned to drive a stick shift nearby, often stalling in front of its entrance.

After a brief stint at the Guggenheim, she spent 10 years at Dia Art Foundation, before joining the nonprofit Creative Time in 2012 to expand the organization’s international presence.

Because the Queens Museum features a collaborative quality as well as also loyal staff similar to of which of Dia as well as also Creative Time, Ms. Raicovich said she felt “at home” in becoming director. Nevertheless, she said there has been a learning curve in “understanding what the item means to be in Queens.”

“What can be hyper local here can be intrinsically linked to what can be international,” she said.

In addition to mounting exhibitions like the artist Patty Chang’s multimediaWandering Lake” or “Never Built completely new York,” about unrealized architectural plans, the museum offers Immigrant Movement International, a community storefront space on Roosevelt Avenue of which provides free educational, health as well as also legal services. as well as also the museum will inside next few years house a branch of the Queens Public Library.

“The highest-level curatorial program also has to be rooted inside realm of the real,” Ms. Raicovich said.

“To be a responsible citizen in a democracy, one has to be involved in a kind of civic engagement,” she added. “Culture features a huge role to play in of which. as well as also museums have a huge role to play in of which.”

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