The Brooklyn 100: Katy Clark, President of the Brooklyn Academy of Music
By Kristin Iversen
Named president of BAM in 2015, Clark (formerly president of Orchestra of St. Luke’s) was an exciting choice to head one of Brooklyn’s seminal cultural institutions. It’s a monumental job which involves coordinating a team of hundreds, and building relationships with artists in Brooklyn and beyond, all facets of why BAM has become a globally recognized destination for innovative productions in everything from theater, music, dance, and more. Plus, as a musician herself, Clark is particularly well-suited to understanding the importance of vibrant performances—especially for local, culture-loving audiences.
It’s been less than a year since you took over at the helm of BAM; what have been some of the most exciting aspects of the job? What are you most looking forward to doing in the near future? The most exciting aspect of the job is being immersed in the highest quality programming and enjoying the vast variety of it. It’s an incredibly inspiring place to be and I’m thrilled. Our future plans include several capital projects that will better serve our audiences—new construction on Ashland Place will feature space for additional cinemas and a home for our amazing archives. We are reconfiguring space in and around the Harvey Theater, so that we can add a long-awaited elevator to the balcony seats, a space for visual art, and a restaurant at street level. These are exciting changes that will resonate in our community.
As Brooklyn’s cultural star has risen, BAM has been at the forefront, a nexus joining old Brooklyn culture and new. What has BAM’s role been as a driving force of cultural innovation, and how do you see it continuing to evolve moving forward? With more than 150 years of history, I’m happy to think of BAM as a nexus of old and new Brooklyn culture. We have always innovated through our programming, and particularly the international range of contemporary work that speaks to cultural exposure and understanding—that’s more important than ever. Moving forward, I’d like us to make arts and culture an integral part of everyone’s lives.
Brooklyn has an enormously diverse population in just about every way; how should we make sure that the type of programming and productions that are available at BAM are accessible to as many people as possible? There are a number of ways in which we can improve accessibility and make sure the broadest possible audiences can come to BAM. We can provide affordable tickets, create diverse programming, share productions and events digitally, and offer a range of educational programs, to name a few. Also, with the growth of the Brooklyn Cultural District, we are one of many organizations thinking about our spaces and how to make them more welcoming, social, and inclusive. It’s important to us that BAM serve as a cultural destination for everyone and that it’s possible for everyone to attend.
What have been your personal favorite events at BAM? What would be a dream performance/collaboration for you there? My recent favorites have been Trisha Brown Dance Company in the opera house; the Maly Drama Theatre’s “The Cherry Orchard” in the Harvey; Miranda July’s “New Society” in the Fishman Space; my first experience at BAM’s annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day; and a screening of “The Last Waltz” as part of last year’s RadioLoveFest with WNYC.
Right now I’m looking forward to working with our Brooklyn Cultural District partners on programming in the neighborhood and in the planned public plaza.
To see the rest of the 100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture list, please visit here.