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New Cultural Leaders | Great Performances


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New Cultural Leaders
by GP Admin

We are thrilled that with the New Year came a wave of innovation and passion in the form of female leaders at some of New York City's most renowned cultural institutions. Specifically, Katy Clark, Karen Meyerhoff, Anne Pasternak, and Whitney Donhauser took the reigns at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Wave Hill, Brooklyn Museum, and The Museum of the City of New York, respectively. We were fortunate enough to speak with these incredible leaders and their teams recently and find out what they had to say about upcoming exhibits, future goals, and the institutions' growing relationships with food. Take a bite out of it all below! 

Katy Clark, President of Brooklyn Academy of Music

©Jesse Winter

Newly-minted Brooklynite Katy Clark took the helm at BAM this past July after 10 years at Orchestra of St. Luke’s (OSL)—one of America’s foremost and most versatile ensembles—having spent the last five years of that tenure as President and Executive Director of the organization. The last five months have found Clark immersed in all things BAM: meeting staff, audiences, and patrons, taking in the wide array of programming and, of course, sampling offerings from Great Performances, the cultural powerhouse’s longtime culinary partner.  “Learning about the sheer variety of what we do it at BAM delights me on a daily basis,” says Clark. That variety, feels Clark, is key to fostering audience members’ personal investment in the more than 150-year-old arts center, one that is uniquely responsive to the needs of its diverse audience, a demographic that is the envy of performing arts centers the world over. “It sounds cliché to say we have something for everyone, but I’ve found that we really do: whether it’s a free weekend show with an up-and-coming musician at BAMcafé, an exquisite Baroque opera in our gorgeous Howard Gilman Opera House, or a rare 16mm print screening as part of a BAMcinematek series.” 

That spirit of inclusion via programmatic range is reflected in the myriad institutional needs BAM requests from its in-house caterer, which vary from boxed lunches for committed theater-goers attending one of BAM’s famous multi-hour stage extravaganzas to plated, multi-course gala dinners, to simple, satisfying bar snacks.

 “We use the word ‘home’ in our mission statement,” says Clark (BAM’s mission is to be ‘the home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas’), “and it has given me great pleasure in my first year to see how, from a culinary perspective, Great Performances is feeding our audiences with the kind of care and creativity that delivers on the promise of that statement.”

Karen Meyerhoff, President and Executive Director of Wave Hill

©Stephanie Berger

Karen Meyerhoff became the Executive Director and President of Wave Hill, a public garden and cultural center, last June. A seasoned arts executive, Meyerhoff has spent most of her career working for New York’s premier art museums. Most recently, as Managing Director for Business Development at the Guggenheim Museum, she played a key role in the museum’s international expansion.

“I spent 30 years flying around the world opening new museums, managing huge exhibitions and putting together cultural partnerships. After all that, I was looking for a chance to put my experience and knowledge to use in a leadership role for a smaller organization. I was attracted to Wave Hill by the quality and integrity of everything done here and by the wonderful energizing environment. Focusing on art, nature and ecology, Wave Hill hosts a plethora of programs from serious contemporary art exhibitions to pioneering educational initiatives. The garden also hosts popular public events that teach visitors of all ages about the natural world in a very engaging way, like Honey Weekend and Wings over Wave Hill Weekends. I haven’t got through half of what goes on here yet!

“Most of all, Wave Hill is a place people take very personally and everything we do here reflects that intimacy. If we hold a dinner party, then even if it is for 300 people it has to feel as though we made each meal for each person, and the presentation has to look as spectacular as the surroundings. As I grow into my role here, that is what I want to strive for, that every visitor and guest of Wave Hill feels they are among friends."

“Wave Hill just celebrated its 50th anniversary with a fabulous institution-wide celebration, Night Lights. Looking ahead I see nothing but possibility and promise. I love new ideas and I love making things happen. I look forward to bringing that creative energy to bear for this marvelous institution.”

Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of Brooklyn Museum 

©Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Anne Pasternak recently joined the Brooklyn Museum as the Shelby White and Leon Levy Director, where she envisions new ways to connect its historical collections with leading-edge practices. With such diverse exhibitions as Impressions and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World; Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861 – 2008; and Agitprop!, in just three and a half months at the helm, already big changes are under way – from animating spaces with new artist commissions to reinstalling and refreshing the permanent noble exhibition galleries. “I’ve long loved the Brooklyn Museum and thought if there was ever a museum that would potentially be a great fit—because of its commitment to artistic freedom and civic-ness and inclusion and equity—this would be the right place.”

Previously, Anne served as President and Artistic Director of Creative Time, a New York City based non-profit arts organization that commissions and presents adventurous public art projects. Renowned projects include performances in the historic Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, sculptural installations in Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall, sign paintings in Coney Island, skywriting over Manhattan, and among the most remarkable is the Tribute in Light.  These twin beacons of light illuminated the sky above the former World Trade Center site six months after 9/11, and continue to be presented on the anniversaries of that date.

Whitney Donhauser, President and Ronay Menschel Director of The Museum of the City of New York

Whitney Donhauser began the new year as the President and Ronay Menschel Director of The Museum of the City of New York. Donhauser has led a successful 23-year career in museum management and fundraising, recently serving as the Senior Advisor to the President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was the primary contact between the Metropolitan Museum and the White House for major government events. She has held a role in major projects such as the design selection for the David H. Koch Plaza, the early phase planning for the use of the former home of the Whitney Museum, the planning of the Met's Roof Garden installations, the launch of programs such as the "Apollo Circle", "Travel with the Met", and the formulation of the Met's 20- to 30- year long-range plan.

“I am deeply honored to be joining the Museum of the City of New York. As a long-time New Yorker, I have greatly enjoyed seeing the Museum's transformation into an important cultural force in the life of the city. Now, I look forward to advancing the Museum's profile and role in the City's cultural life, increasing its audience and completing the groundbreaking exhibition, New York at Its Core. I am excited to work with the Museum's staff on exhibitions and programs that capture the city's rich history and ethos – its diversity, neighborhoods and internationalism.”

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