Feb. 22, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
The leaders of two western Queens art organizations were presented with a $5 million check for capital funding on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
The presentation was made by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, whose office allocated the funds to The Noguchi Museum, a gallery and sculpture garden located at 9-1 33rd Road in Astoria, and The Chocolate Factory Theater, a performative arts center located at 38-33 24th St. in Long Island City.
The Noguchi Museum was apportioned $3 million to preserve Isamu Noguchi’s former studio building, as well as the construction of a new collections lab and a study center at the museum.
Noguchi was a renowned Japanese-American artist and landscape architect who was known for his sculpture and public artworks. He established his studio in 1961 and lived there in the years before his death in 1988.
Meanwhile, The Chocolate Factory Theater was issued $2 million to renovate its current premises, situated in the Dutch Kills section of the neighborhood.
The presentation took place inside Noguchi’s former studio — across the road from the Noguchi Museum — where Richards handed over a large joint check to Brett Littman, the director of the Noguchi, and Sheila Lewandowski, the executive director of The Chocolate Factory Theater.
Richards said the funding would help strengthen the local arts community, and he encouraged all residents to visit the borough’s various cultural institutions.
“We shouldn’t have to leave our borough to visit the greatest cultural institutions, the greatest food scene and to be around some of the greatest people in the world,” Richards said. “Even at the height of this pandemic, culture never closed in our borough… these institutions kept our communities going.”
The presentation marked the first event of Richards’ week-long initiative called “Borough Hall on Your Block: Western Queen, during which he’s made funding announcements throughout the neighborhoods as well as taking part in public programming, town hall meetings, employment fairs, a senior services day and youth events.
Littman said that the funds being provided to the Noguchi Museum will help stabilize and preserve Noguchi’s former studio building. Once the work is completed, the studio will be open to the public for the first time, he said.
Furthermore, Noguchi’s artwork and archives will be kept in a newly constructed building next to the studio, he said.
“I think the impact of this cultural investment will be felt for decades to come,” Littman said.
The museum has also been allocated $1.5 million from Mayor Eric Adams’ office to go toward the project, according to ARTNews, an art publication.
Lewandowski said that the funding provided to The Chocolate Factory will also benefit the local art scene, with her organization aiming to renovate its current premises by building.
The upgrades, she said, will transform the space into a state-of-the-art theater and double the capacity of the venue, which was formerly used as a dye-making factory.
“This investment will be the capstone of the funding we need to get our renovation done,” Lewandowski said.
“This is our front yard, this is our back yard, this is the geographic and heart center of New York City. This is where we live, work and invite others to experience performances that they will not experience anywhere else.”
With additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.