There are arbitrary measures of "success" and then there's the real deal, the stuff you don't think about while working your ass off so, when they appear, you're pleasantly surprised, honored, and even more motivated. I'm being assumptive but I presume that's how Awake NY founder Angelo Baque feels about being invited to join the Queens Museum's Board of Trustees.
Baque, a Queens native, left his home borough for Manhattan while working at Supreme but he eventually moved back for good.
Awake NY also operates out of Queens, with the borough serving as everything from a base of operations to creative inspiration and support network. It's Baque's biggest project yet, even beyond the Social Studies programs he operates with peers every year, and he's raring get started.
"It’s a privilege to work with the Museum in this capacity," Baque told Highsnobiety. "I’ve always been drawn to a variety of creative spaces. My interests lie at the intersection of music, art, streetwear, and fashion and I’m excited to incorporate all of these into my work with the Museum."
"As a child of immigrant parents, I didn’t see people who looked like me in the fine art world. It’s a huge accomplishment for me and for my community."
Baque frequently strolls by the Museum on his walks through the neighborhood en route to Flushing Meadows Corona Park and has been an enthusiastic visitor over the years.
"I think of the Queens Museum as my very own hidden gem," Baque smiled. "It’s a source of inspiration."
"One recent exhibit that sticks out was The Ramones’ retrospective. The Ramones are the epitome of punk rock, and it was pretty unexpected to see them represented in the fine art space. I loved that the Queens Museum hosted the exhibit – it made sense since it’s the band’s home borough, but to me it was one of the Museum’s biggest wins."
Naturally, Baque has a proper vision for his tenure at the Museum, including the kinds of holistic improvements necessary for any venerable art institution.
"We have an amazing network of young, BIPOC artists that I would love to bring to the Museum in some capacity," said Baque. "My vision is to showcase the vibrancy the Museum already has, while infusing it with new energy."
"Some ideas I have include bringing a new, younger generation of art enthusiasts to the space, performances from local musicians and recording artists, and tapping into local food vendors. Queens has a huge food culture – there’s so much diversity right at the foot of the Museum."
Not only does the Queens Museum appeal to Baque as a cultural hub but its communal patronage dovetails with his own efforts.
For instance, the Museum aligned with Queens-based food pantry service La Jornada at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to issue food for the needy, a program that continues today thanks to the generosity of volunteers.
Initiatives like the food pantry "really show that the Museum really is here for the community; it doesn’t focus solely on art," Baque said. "It also gives you an idea of the generous spirit of Queens residents."
Baque won't be directly involved with everything the Queens Museum does, of course, as he's not necessarily taking on administrative, management, or curatorial roles but Baque's place on the board does give him ample influence over the Museum's direction.
"My biggest goal will be raising general awareness around the Museum," he said. "We’ll be working on cultural and community activations, and my goal is to inspire New Yorkers to come out and enjoy everything the Museum has to offer."