Appointed director of the Brooklyn Museum just last year, Pasternak is the first woman
to head one of New York’s major art institutions, and is surrounded by other powerful
women on the museum’s board. Pasternak came to the Museum from public art
powerhouse Creative Time, where she oversaw some of the prolific company’s most
impactful installations, like Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” which famously took over the
Domino Sugar Factory in 2014. Expect similarly big things for the Brooklyn Museum
under Pasternak’s tenure. We definitely do.
You’ve held your post at the Brooklyn Museum for about half a year now, having moved from a long tenure as the head of Creative Time. How has your experience been working at an institution like this?
It’s just the beginning of my 5th month, but who’s counting?! All joking aside, let me say that every day is exhilarating. Truly. How could it not be? I am surrounded by some of the greatest art collections in the work–from Ancient Egypt, Native American, African and American. Every day I am learning about 5000 years of human history. And every day I am working with our Board and staff to map out what we believe will be the most relevant, most vital, exciting trail to blaze.
You are the first woman to lead one of New York’s largest museums and most important cultural institutions, and you joined an already-in-place female leadership team. What does it feel like to be working in that environment?
I have always worked with women. I have always worked with men. For me, it is less of an issue of gender, and more of an issue of being surrounded by so many devoted, intelligent and visionary people–from Board to staff–who want the Brooklyn Museum to reach its greatest potential. So, how does it feel? Energizing, creative and exciting. It feels like a time of great possibility.
In recent years, issues surrounding (and including) gentrification, income disparity, and cultural diversity have proliferated in Brooklyn; how do you work to make sure the Museum remains a place that is open to all and is not just in Brooklyn, but also of it?
I strongly believe that cultural and educational institutions should be places where we come together to learn from the past, find inspiration, ignite our imaginations, and contemplate our individual and collective futures as well as spark our joy. I believe we have a responsibility to lean into the important conversations of our day with care, respect, and thoughtfulness. These conversations include the day’s big issues from income inequality, systemic racism, immigration, health, and the environment to education. The Brooklyn Museum certainly has a strong history of doing this already, and I am working to build on these efforts. From expanding public events that directly engage in these issues to collaborating with community organizations in ways that expand the possibilities for positive change and growth.
In terms of being a Museum “open to all,” we do this in a whole bunch of ways. Our museum policy is suggested admission and visitors under the age of 19 are always free and every Thursday night is free, thanks to Squarespace. We work hard to make sure we are removing the blinders of history to both see, acknowledge and include the many histories of our neighbors, our city, our nation, and our world through our exhibitions and collections.
What kind of role do you see the Brooklyn Museum playing for the people of this borough, and beyond?
There are multiple roles The Brooklyn Museum can increasingly play for our borough–not only should it be a place of joy, learning and inspiration, and a place where you come to see yourself and others, it should be a place where our artistic excellence and trailblazing efforts attract people far and wide, reinforcing the fact that Brooklyn is the creative capital of the planet.
To see the rest of the 100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture list, please visit here.