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The Minister for Culture:
Karen Brooks Hopkins
Since becoming President of the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1999, KBH has doubled the institution's budget and tripled its attendance—not entirely surprising for the woman who literally wrote the book on successful fundraising for arts and cultural organizations (it's called Successful Fundraising for Arts and Cultural Organizations). Following in the footsteps of her predecessor, Harvey Lichtenstein, Hopkins has built the most comprehensive one-stop culture shop East of the East River—at least. The Next Wave Festival is a premiere showcase for dance and adventurous theatrical and multimedia productions; the BAMcinematek, which only opened in 1999, is arguably the best repertory film program in the city, and through their annual cinemaFEST, is becoming the major NYC launching pad for American indie film; and the Harvey Theater, as it continues to host Britain and Australia's premier theater companies, is now the best place in the city to see famous people with accents live and legit—like Cate Blanchett's Blanche DuBois, or Alan Rickman doing Ibsen, or Geoffrey Rush flying out to the Oscars and back around performances of Diary of a Madman.
Talking to us in 2008, Hopkins noted that BAM's education programs and community outreach—even little things like featuring Afro-pop and Latin jazz at the BAMcafe on weekend nights—have "formed closer bonds with the diverse local community." With its something-for-everything programming, BAM has helped Fort Greene's gentrification go as gently as possible: even evidence as facile as the options for pre-show drinks or post-show dinner suggests a colorful, hopeful coexistence of ethnicities and income brackets. We'll see, we guess, how this goes on a larger scale, as the BAM Cultural District—Lichtenstein's brainchild, and overseen by local, city and state development agencies—aims to lure more arts organizations to the neighborhood, while building mixed-income high-rises off Flatbush and prettying up the neighborhood. It's like when Robert Moses built Lincoln Center, except with actual regard for human infrastructure.
This is How We Will Read: Electric Literature
"We want to reach readers, not just writers," co-founding editor and Brooklyn College MFA Andy Hunter told us as the Fort Greene lit mag launched in aught-nine. Pointedly challenging other little magazines to aim beyond the Creative Writing-Industrial Complex, Electric Lit pays big money for big-name short fiction, produces viral art video adaptations, and runs a lit-gossip blog, The Dish—the better to cover the self-contained literary community that is itself their most important product.
Art Where the Artists Live: Arnold Lehman
Brooklyn Museum president Arnold Lehman has been more creative than any of his predecessors in trying to overcome the world-class institution's relative isolation. Since taking over in 1997 he's taken heat for populist exhibitions like a 2002 show of Star Wars artifacts, 2008's Takashi Murakami retrospective and the museum's participation in the art-themed reality TV show The Work of Art, overseen the construction of the inviting new entrance pavilion and the just-completed Great Hall renovation. Recent efforts aim at making the museum a hub for a younger, more diverse crowd, including Brooklyn's thousands of artists. Exhibitions in the last few years by local contemporary artists, along with later weeknight hours begun last fall, are Lehman's way of getting the Brooklyn Museum back to its million-visitors-per-year glory days.
Come to My Art Party: Jason Andrew
Bushwick has recently emerged as Brooklyn's most vibrant gallery district, now counting well over a dozen spaces. The community is mutually supportive to a fault, but its most powerful participant is Jason Andrew, who tirelessly promotes the Bushwick scene, including two spaces he's involved in: one he runs out of his apartment and another, Storefront, which he co-founded with artist Deborah Brown. He also runs the non-profit arts organization Norte Maar, frequently produces dance performances, collaborates with the local community group Bushwick IMPACT and organizes the neighborhood-wide "Beat Nite" gallery parties. "My efforts have been to bridge the relationship of the arts community and the greater population," he tells us, "Artists for too long have accepted the role of a transient population."
Once upon a time there were three Jonathans, talented, successful writers who shone as an example of Jonathanly power to Jonathans all across Brooklyn. Oh how we all wanted to be Brooklyn Jonathans, with million-dollar advances and prestigious awards and forthright columns... Well, now one of the Jonathans lives in California, another has yielded to the siren green screenglow of the teevee, and the third, well, wrote a book about meat. (Who will rule us next? The Joshes?)