Tom Finkelpearl, Executive Director
Finkelpearl’s advice to his children for success? Have an interesting life.
What one factor is most important to success?
Maybe this is a very unusual answer, but I think it’s very important to be nice to everybody. When I was younger I always said you have to be nice to everybody because you never know who’ll end up being your boss. Maybe you’re a mid-level person and some intern comes in, and ten years down the line that person is, like, CEO of a company or something. There are a lot the people who only look up the chain of command, try to suck up, but I think you have to be nice to everyone.
What do you look for in an employee?
Intelligence and a sense of humor. A sense of humor is absolutely key to a working environment.
What’s the best way to save money?
You just have to be clear on your priorities, and spend money on the high priorities only.
What’s the best way to spend money?
Carefully, but not too carefully. When you get too careful, you’re going to regret it later, both in business and in life.
What’s your greatest pleasure?
Spending time with my family. We have a place in Rockaway. I love going down there with them.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I feed my elderly and infirm cat, Otto.
How do you deal with stress?
I have something that I tell myself: We’re a small planet in a not-very-big solar system, off to the side of one of millions of galaxies. That’s it. You have to think of the big perspective, and then your problems are very small.
What one lesson do you hope to pass on to your children?
That’s a hard question. I think that the most important thing in life is to have an interesting life. If you’re too focused on one goal, you’ll be unhappy. If your goal is to have an interesting life, that can be fulfilled. You know, you go with the flow.
How do you bounce back from adversity?
Actually, through art. I think about King Lear often, and the persistence with which he overcame obstacles.
What’s your favorite thing about Queens?
Cultural diversity, particularly the food.
Tom Finkelpearl received a B.A. from Princeton University and an M.F.A. from Hunter College. He’s worked as a curator and program manager at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, Director of the Percent for Art Program at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and Executive Director of Program at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He was appointed to his current post at the Queens Museum of Art in 2002. Based on his public art experience and further research, he authored the book Dialogues in Public Art in 2000.