The Lunar New Year is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in Flushing and many Asian countries. It’s a time for families and friends to get together. For many people who moved away from their hometown, it can also be a time to contemplate their relations with their roots. The time of the holiday also marks a turning point where the season returns from the bleakest and harshest winter days to a new period where lives are gradually brought back.
Celebrating the Lunar New Year with the community, Flushing Town Hall presents “A Good Beginning, Here,” a cross-cultural exhibition – now on display through February 16 – that illuminates 8 diaspora artists who can trace their roots back to China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. Their works embody unique life stories and ideas rooted in the East yet evolved in the West.
More than 20 artworks from a wide array of visual styles, approaches, and mediums are on display in the gallery. Some artists find inspiration in traditional art techniques.
We asked curator Stephanie Lee – a Flushing Town Hall Teaching Artist – about her craft and the exhibition.
Tell us about your background.
Through my early education at Pusan art high school and Pratt Institute, I studied art focusing on graphic design. Worked for more than 6 years as a graphic designer in marketing and the corporate firms after graduation, I experienced how art utilized in the business world.
However, while I was taking a break to raise my daughter after resigning from the work to focus on family, my stands in art faced a slight change. Adjusting in the new lifestyle gave me a nudge to find the real desire embedded in me. Time was very limited as a full-time mom, but I started to paint and continued making a time to do it. Though this was a slight turn of the direction, I was still living in art, and it sent me to explore another side of art that I didn’t think of doing it before.
With a graphic design background, my painting evolved into curation and freelance exhibit design. While I worked as an independent curator and designer, I was overseeing comprehensive tasks—create a press release, design promotional materials, install and de-install artworks, artwork selection/handling, plan floor layout, and event coordination. I’ve curated many exhibitions for the public venues including the ‘Mono Prismatic Wave’ at the Art Center in Queens College, the ‘East meets West’ at Islip Art Museum, and the grant awarded exhibition from Queens Council on the Arts, ‘Threads and Pigments’ at Flushing Town Hall.
Working as an artist-curator, I found myself a better suit for public institutions than commercial galleries and this encouraged me to study further in the Museum field. In addition to having a BFA in Graphic Design and MS in Museum & Digital Culture at Pratt Institute, I received an Advanced Certificate in Conservation and Digital Curation, which trained me to do cataloging and collection data management, as well as proper artwork handling.
While pursuing my MS degree, I started working at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College. At the Museum, I have managed multiple projects, including designing both print and online promotional pieces for exhibitions and related programs, and working on social media channels and websites. While building more effective audience engagement, I’ve also managed digitizing and accessing archival data of the museum collection to serve faculties and students as well as the general public. In 2019, I founded a non-profit art organization called ‘The Garage Art Center’, and promote art in the local community of Queens by providing exhibitions and workshops.
In addition to this, as a DOE registered teaching artist at Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts (FCCA), and a founder of KoreanFolkArt.org, I’ve been teaching paintings to the general public and performed art workshops at public schools and institutions. I communicate and collaborate with people of all ages from elementary school to seniors while teaching.
My painting career developed into curation and freelance exhibit design naturally with my graphic design background. After a few years of experience as an artist, I found that not many galleries have efficient and correct marketing materials even though they charge high to artists. I wanted to present my work properly, with the artist I admire, at the place I want – without paying a fortune. So I searched for a public place where I can present our work together in a nice manner. And by doing that, we hope we can promote the enjoyment and value of art to the general public.
At your exhibition, what will audience members experience?
Through artworks that depict individual life stories in various materials – from furniture to hand-stitched fabric – the audience can see a wide array of views of 8 diaspora artists. Besides the interesting visual element, the audience can experience cross-cultural art that has both Eastern and Western culture embedded.
What audience members will your exhibition appeal to?
It’ll appeal to any art lovers who are willing to learn and enjoy the Lunar New Year tradition. It’ll be more meaningful to immigrants or the second generation and beyond who understand Asian culture and background.
What do you want people to take away from your exhibition?
I want the audience to be exposed to different cultures through this exhibition. I hope this will be a chance to know about art from other cultures. I think it’s essential and valuable to recognize and understand other cultures living harmoniously in a global world. I believe that understanding art and culture will also enrich and expand one’s life.
Is this your first time presenting at Flushing Town Hall? What does Flushing Town Hall mean to you?
I’ve done many exhibitions at the Flushing Town Hall gallery since 2014, when I did a three-person show there. Ever since, I was assisting the installation and curated exhibitions. The organization has been providing quality arts to our community for more than 40 years. I deeply appreciate and respect their support for artists. I feel lucky and proud of having a nice cultural center with decent gallery space in Queens.