Tom Finkelpearl

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Tom Finkelpearl
Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs[2]
In office
April 7, 2014[1] – December 31, 2019
Appointed byBill de Blasio
Preceded byKate Levin
Succeeded byKathleen Hughes (acting)[3]
Personal details
Born1956 (age 63–64)[4]
EducationPhillips Academy
Princeton University (BA) 1979
Hunter College (MFA)

Tom Finkelpearl is an American arts promoter, former museum director, and former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.[5] He was appointed in 2014 by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio[5] and served through the end of 2019.[6]

Early life and career[edit]

He graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts in 1974, from Princeton University in 1979 and from Hunter College (MFA) in 1983.

Before joining city government, Finkelpearl served for 12 years as director of the Queens Museum from 2002 to 2014.[2] While serving as director, he hired community organizers to emphasize the diversity of the immigrant population.[4] He presided over the museum's $68 million renovation effort.[4] He doubled the size of the Queens Museum and saw its budget grow from $2.3 million to $4.9 million.[7] He served under mayor David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani by running the city's Percent for Art program.[7]

City government[edit]

As commissioner, he oversaw city funding of nonprofit arts organizations, and is leading an effort to promote cultural diversity in arts programs citywide.[2][8] His department is in charge of a $156 million budget.[4] His approach to arts has been described as populist[7] and he sees art and artists as making a valuable contribution to the overall economic health of the city.[9]

In July 2017, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Finkelpearl announced the launch of CreateNYC, a 10-year cultural plan to increase access to arts and culture programming in all five boroughs and help make New York's cultural institutions more reflective of the city’s multiethnic, multicultural population,[10] having previously stated that "every corner of this city needs to have art."[11] He introduced a program to offer free access to member institutions using a municipal identification card.[8]

Finkelpearl was criticized for his disagreements with public opinion of two future public monuments in Central Park: a women's suffrage monument that will be the park's first depicting real women, as well as a statue to replace J. Marion Sims, one of the first gynecologists who also performed experimental surgeries on enslaved women.[12]

On October 31, 2019, Finkelpearl announced his resignation as Commissioner, effective at the end of 2019.[6]


  1. ^ "Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appoints Tom Finkelpearl as Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner" (Press release). New York City Office of the Mayor. April 7, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Boucher, Brian (January 5, 2015). "Tom Finkelpearl Wants To Diversify Leadership at New York's Culture Hubs". Artnet News. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  3. ^ "NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Announces Awards to 36 Nonprofits through CreateNYC Language Access Fund" (Press release). New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. January 7, 2020. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d Pogrebin, Robin (April 6, 2014). "Museum Director to Be Commissioner of Cultural Affairs: Mayor de Blasio Names Tom Finkelpearl of the Queens Museum". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Gordon, Amanda L. (June 10, 2015). "Scene Last Night: Rosenstein, Pruzan, Sting, Utay, Jenny Holzer". Bloomberg News. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Pogrebin, Robin (October 31, 2019). "New York's Cultural Affairs Leader Makes Surprise Exit". The New York Times. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c JENNIFER MALONEY, April 6, 2014, Wall Street Journal, De Blasio Taps New Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, the Executive Director of the Queens Museum, To Be the City's Next Cultural-Affairs Commissioner, Retrieved July 2, 2015, "...Mr. Finkelpearl, now 58 years old, served under Mayor David Dinkins and Mayor Rudy Giuliani as director of New York City's Percent for Art program,... Queens Museum of Art, ...oversaw a $68 million renovation and rebranding, ... doubling its physical footprint....budget has grown to $4.9 million from $2.3 million. ..."
  8. ^ a b Cascone, Sarah (April 29, 2015). "New York City Makes the Arts a Priority with New Cultural Plan". Artnet News. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  9. ^ Sutton, Benjamin (September 17, 2014). "Tom Finkelpearl Promises to Make New York Livable for Artists". Artnet News. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  10. ^ Gerard, Jeremy; Gerard, Jeremy (2017-07-19). "NYC Unveils 'CreateNYC' 10-Year Plan To Expand And Diversify Arts & Culture". Deadline. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  11. ^ Karni, Annie (April 8, 2014). "Mayor de Blasio's newly appointed cultural affairs commissioner vows to bring art to every neighborhood". New York Daily News. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  12. ^ Bishara, Hakim (October 31, 2019). "NYC Culture Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl Resigns in Surprise Announcement". Hyperallergic. Retrieved February 26, 2020.

External links[edit]

Civic offices
Preceded by
Kate Levin
Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
Succeeded by
Kathleen Hughes (acting)