shutterstock_78564322“Remember old New York, where immigrants strived, cultures collided, grit outshined glamour and ethnic restaurants were filled with ethnic crowds, not Instagramming foodies? Before Manhattan commerce was diluted with H&M and Starbucks, and Brooklyn became half hipster playground, half suburb substitute? That city lives on in Queens…”

~Seth Kugel for The New York Times

Queens, New York, has long been one of the city’s most culturally rich boroughs. Unlike Brooklyn or Manhattan, as Kugel suggests, Queens has been able to maintain its unique identity, preserving the culture that thrives within its diverse neighborhoods. This borough isn’t overflowing with independent galleries, but at the same time, there is just enough of an institutional art presence to lend the area serious artistic credibility.

Here you’ll find incredible street art, performance, and dance companies that have strengthened Queens’ cultural identity over time. This borough is also home to a couple of the most prominent museums in the city. MoMA PS1 and SculptureCenter are two incredible contemporary art spaces, and the Queens Museum of Art is a reputable and beloved institution. The Queens Museum of Art’s mission statement expresses its commitment to presenting the highest quality visual arts education and programming to Queens residents, which it describes as “a uniquely diverse, ethnic, cultural and international community.” 

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Image: Dan Nguyen via Flickr CC

Residents of Queens are proud of their borough’s unique identity, but encourage growth that reflects their resilience. For example, the Jamaica Center, which has recently undergone development from Queens-based Carl Mattone Real Estate group, is indicative of efforts being made to revitalize the community. Executive Officer of the Business Improvement District (BID) explains, “All of it is about promoting Jamaica in a very positive light…We want to create an electric experience that visitors can sense immediately,” of her neighborhood’s ongoing development. With more economic stability and job creation, Queens can continue to thrive as the cultural hub it is beloved for.

It seems as though the residents of Queens have found a cultural balance that other boroughs haven’t quite mastered. Here you’ll find a coupling of dynamic graffiti and fine arts institutions; economically developing areas like Jamaica Center are as prominent as the much-loved family-owned eateries and small shops. Old New York is truly living on in Queens.

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