The New Cultural Capital of Queens

By Lenina Mortimer

There is a surprising amount of cultural capital to be gained in Bayside, Queens. The residential northeast corner of Queens — far from the trendy Chelsea galleries, Museum Mile and the famed Great White Way — is home to Queensborough Community College where there are three acclaimed cultural centers.
The highly celebrated campus centers include the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center & Archives, the QCC Art Gallery and the Queensborough Performing Arts Center.

QCCCultural sophistication aside, the campus has an interesting blend of academics and history. The community college offers transfer and career degree programs through 17 academic departments, with associate degrees in the arts, sciences and applied sciences.

The College also has several dual/joint degree programs with its sister CUNY institutions: nursing with Hunter College and York College; biotechnology with York College; criminal justice and forensic accounting with John Jay College of Criminal Justice; and education with Queens College.

The campus area was once a playground for well-heeled New Yorkers. The sprawling 37-acre campus was the site the Oakland Country Club and Golf Course until QCC opened on the site in 1960. The oldest structure on campus — the QCC Art Gallery — is housed in the historic 1920s Oakland Building, the former clubhouse of the country club.

The gallery offers museum quality exhibits and a highly regarded permanent African art collection. A second permanent grouping, “The Jaime Andrade Pre-Columbian Art Collection,” is currently in its installation phase, and the gallery team is now focusing efforts on building a permanent collection of Asian art.

The Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center & Archives is the latest addition and the most striking structure on campus. A glass-ensconced steel building, its modern geometric architecture stands prominently amongst neighboring brick buildings.

The KHRCA, which has been at QCC for 25 years, was previously housed in the basement of the library and displayed its exhibitions at the Student Union Building. It was moved into its $5.5 million space in the fall of 2009 and opened to favorable reviews from The New York Times among other publications.

The center’s 2,000-square-foot gallery holds a permanent multimedia exhibition on the history of Jewish people during the Nazi era that includes photographs projected onto walls, video footage of Holocaust survivor testimonials and other artifacts. The center also houses a 10,000-book circulating library.

The college’s other prized cultural center is the Queensborough Performing Arts Center.  The cornerstone of the QPAC is the annual Professional Performing Arts Series that attracts world-class entertainers to the Bayside community. Its 875-seat theater has recently featured such legendary performance artists as Dionne Warwick, Tony Orlando and Rob Schneider. The key to the mission of QPAC is offering affordable multicultural entertainment that mirrors the diversity of the borough.

Quick Facts About QCC

  • Established in 1960 on the former site of the Oakland Country Club and Golf Course.
  • 17 academic programs offer associate degrees
  • and certificate courses.
  • 54% Female, 46% Male; comprises nearly equal populations of African-Americans, Asians, Caucasians, and Latinos,
  • representing 129 nations.
  • Alumni: Over 55,000 alumni since its doors opened in 1960.
  • Accessibility: Queens bus lines Q27 and Q30.
  1. The QCC Art Gallery in the Oakland Building offers visitors access to museum-quality exhibits. Includes state-of-the-art lighting, security and environmental controls, a theater, and an art research library.
  2. Queensborough Performing Arts Center’s 875-seat theater brings world-class entertainment to the community.
  3. Robert F. Kennedy Hall houses the fitness center and Olympic- size aquatic center.
  4. Academic Computing Center with a student lab and multimedia classroom.
  5. Starbucks Coffee Café in the library.
  6. Metro Café in the Science Building, Tiger Bites Pizzeria in the Student Union.