Public Service Spotlight
MPA-PNP - 2004
Director of Arts & Cultural Programs NYC & Company
As Director of Arts & Cultural Programs at NYC & Company, Ken Wong works to promote over 175 non-profit arts & cultural organizations established throughout the five boroughs. This includes both large institutions, such as MoMA and the New York Botanical Garden as well as smaller ones like the Staten Island Museum and the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Wong helps administer NYC & Company’s in-house marketing programs that are intended to help promote these organizations and also works with all the borough presidents’ offices to distribute the NYC & Company Foundation’s grants to support cultural organizations’ programs.
Wong greatly appreciates the fact that he gets to immerse himself in New York City every day. He learns about the various exhibits, shows, and events that go on in the city, and counts himself lucky to be able to attend a fair number of them. He also enjoys practicing problem solving skills in coming up with new ways to carry out proposals, connecting people with resources that enable them to carry out their projects, and socializing with others in the cultural field.
The benefits of working for NYC & Company don’t come without the occasional challenge. Ken explains that like most organizations doing work for the city, there is a certain level of bureaucracy and a finite amount of resources available. “You’re jockeying as an organization and internally for those resources as well as playing political games. The best way I’ve seen so far to handle it has been to create relationships where people want to help you get your job done and to be sincere in reciprocating when you can and when it’s appropriate. Sometimes there are certain things you cannot control, so you just operate as best you can with the hope that your efforts will benefit your constituents as much as possible.”
With that in mind, Wong points out that, “hands down the most practiced skill I have taken with me from my time at Wagner has been conflict resolution. This has overlapped into various aspects of my post-Wagner career, spanning from negotiations and developing relationships with vendors and colleagues to managing volunteers and remaining objective with staff. This is something that I know I can take with me as I progress throughout my career.”
Reflecting on his career thus far, Wong considers himself a “poster child for networking.” In addition to his post at NYC & Company he has worked for the NYC 2004 Host Committee and New York Road Runners. All of these opportunities came about through contacts he had made in the field. Looking forward, Wong would like to use his skills in event production “to promote culture, particularly for underserved communities who haven’t been educated on the phenomenal range of cultural opportunities available in New York City.” Clearly, he’s well on his way to doing just that.