Yuko, Pataki

Yuko Nii, Founder and Artistic Director of the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center was chosen by Governor George Pataki as one of five women to receive an "Award of Excellence." The award coincides with the celebration of Women's History month, whose theme this year is "CELEBRATING WOMEN OF COURAGE AND VISION." The New York State Division of Women, part of the Governor's executive chamber, hosted a ceremony on March 8th , 2001 at which the Governor presented these awards to the recipients.

Yuko Nii has demonstrated over the past years leadership in action, effectively & systematically bringing a great concept, the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, to concrete reality. This Center promotes the careers of local & emerging artists, contributes to economic & social  community development, forms a bridge to the larger world of the arts & preserves a great historical landmark. The Center's effectiveness is entirely due to Yuko's determination to build something as a personal & professional contribution to society. Recognizing a lack of exhibit or performing space locally in Williamsburg Brooklyn, one of the largest art communities in New York, Yuko purchased (1996) the Kings County Savings Bank Building (1860's), on the National Register of Historic Places and a New York City landmark. She wanted to coalesce the multifaceted, multicultural artistic community and create a bridge between local, national and international artists, emerging as well as established artists of all disciplines so they could interact & inspire one another. By providing a major art center, Yuko foresaw stabilization of the art community that would attract the attention of the city, state and international communities. She hoped to revitalize the area culturally & economically and make a good living & working community. In presenting this diversity of arts, and interpreting it in the Center's lectures & symposia, Yuko wanted to educate both the artists and  public on current trends & new possibilities in the arts.

Yuko's concrete accomplishments are highlighted in her track record. With minimal funds, she inspired volunteers and local artists to help create this exciting new organization. She found a graphic designer for logos, advertising & flyers, a web-site creator, videographers & photographers for documenting events. She found volunteers to hang shows, monitor floors, spread flyers & sell concessions. All donate their time freely. Performers perform free or minimal fees, often bringing their own equipment. Many local people contribute goods to a flea market to raise funds or food to sell. Yuko delegated responsibilities for coordinating some events and selected some volunteer curators for shows. Yuko's ability to inspire people, strategize and get results is remarkable, and her Center has produced some of the finest art shows & performances in New York.

Yuko Nii, as an individual leader, works and collaborates with her community. In 1999 Yuko created the Williamsburg Arts Culture Festival & delegated a strong local artist, Carol Quint, to coordinate it, bringing together artists, galleries, restaurants and other businesses in Williamsburg, introducing them to each other & the larger New York community. Visitors, including Richard Schwartz, Chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts, enjoyed a weekend of art, historical tours, open studios, & fine cuisine as well as the Center's own art show APOCALYPSE 1999, the most lavish fine art exhibit and series of performances seen in Williamsburg to date with over 125 artists from both Williamsburg and around the world including Russia, Japan, England, Ireland, Denmark, etc., and encompassing five floors of the Center from basement to attic. Many communal activities have been put together by Yuko. These include an art club, film festival, dance festival; a music series, theater, poetry, readings, fashion shows, symposiums, lectures, etc. Yuko pursued what Chris Gray of the New York Times called a "furious schedule" with over 50 fine art shows and 1500 artists. Twice yearly she offers international shows & p[performances from specific nations, with artists living & working in those countries and their expatriate fellows in New York, offering an interesting comparison. This follows Yuko's "Bridge Concept." about reaching out and crossing over, of discovery and meetings of minds and spirits so we come to understand from each other what brings respect & love, which in turn brings peace. The Center has "bridged" to Cuba, Holland, Italy, Russia & Japan. Next the Center will bring art from the new nation of Turkmenistan.

The effectiveness of Yuko's leadership and her strategic implementation of concept is dramatic. Borough President Howard Golden said that the WAH Center's activities have resulted in "tremendous cultural & economic activity throughout northern Brooklyn." This area had been one of the highest in crime & poverty in New York. The Center's presence has helped to reduce crime in the area and is a resource for education and creativity. Thus the area has been attracting  new business. Today there are over thirty galleries, numerous design shops, film production studios, restaurants and bookstores. The racially & ethnically diverse working population here has taken new pride in community and keep it clean, safe and presentable to visitors.Governor George Pataki congratulated Yuko on "turning the historic Kings County Savings Bank into a multi-purpose art center that serves the needs of artists and art aficionados of diverse backgrounds." In 1998 Yuko Nii was named one of Brooklyn's "Women of the Year" by Borough President Howard Golden for her "unparalleled devotion to her art and commitment to the artist community of Williamsburg/Greenpoint.

The Center will celebrate its first years with a Mentors & Friends art exhibit. The event will express Yuko's appreciation for those mentors & friends whose spiritual and artistic guidance have been so essential to her in the development of her ideals & career and most recently in the creation of the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center...those who have made a golden path in the arts with their creative insights, energy, strong commitment & endurance that she looks upon as a model of the highest ideals. The art of Esteban Vicente, Toshiko Takaezu, Ken Noland, Isamu Noguchi, and Toshiko Uchima & Ansei Uchima will be shown and a dinner in their honor will be held. Max Roach; the world-renowned jazz percussionist will also be honored. Through this show Yuko continues her efforts to inspire others by what has been taught to her by these giants.