December 25, 2009

Brooklyn Academy of Music: KAREN BROOKS HOPKINS

The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) featured its first performance in 1861, and has been a fixture of Brooklyn and New York City culture ever since. Now, more than ever, BAM is bursting at the seams with international drama, art, music, dance, and film, as home to the Howard Gilman Opera House, Harvey Theater, and Rose Cinemas. The woman at the helm is none other than its president, Karen Brooks Hopkins. And what does the president of such a prestigious cultural center do? The answer, in short, is: everything. From managing finances to pleasing clientele, Karen is the force that has brought BAM into the spotlight over the past couple of years. 

Karen is committed to delivering cutting-edge art while leveraging all of the creativity and character that Brooklyn has to offer. For more information about BAM, please visit

How did you get involved with BAM? 
I started at BAM 30 years ago, when I got a job as an assistant in the development staff. I wanted to move to New York--I felt it was my spiritual home, even though I grew up in the Baltimore area. I've been here ever since. 

What is your artistic vision? 
As the president of BAM, I work with an executive producer who basically serves as the artistic director.  The goal of BAM is to be the quintessential performance center. We try to make everything we do have a bit of an edge to it. We're about new and global ideas in all dimensions. We see ourselves as being multicultural, multinatural, multidiscipline--multi-everything. 

Your day-to-day responsibilities? 
I deal with all business areas--fundraising, marketing, financing, cinema business, real estate interest...all interests that affect the well being of BAM--everything that's involved in running a successful cultural institution. I work with the artistic team to make sure they have the resources to deliver the best artistic product.

Your greatest achievement? 
To have taken BAM out of a deficit situation--where it's been for well over 100 years--and established an endowment for its future, putting the insitution on a very stable footing to look forward to, rather than always trying to catch up.

Best part of your job? 
Walking into a beautiful historic building every day where there's music, dance, and theater happening all the time.

Never having enough resources to do everything you want to do.

Biggest challenge you've faced? 
Identifying enough money and having enough people to be able to act on all of our ideas. Making sure that we play an integral role in the international arts scene, but also right here in our local community. Making sure that we deliver for our audiences/donors. Maintaining a beautiful and clean building that is state of the art. Every minute is another challenge--there's never a boring day in this job. 

Favorite program BAM has hosted? 
We just closed "A Streetcar Named Desire," which starred Cate Blanchett. It was a huge hit, with amazing critical acclaim.

Do you have artistic talents of your own? 
I was formerly an actress and a director. Now I'm mostly a fundraiser.

What talent would you most like to have? 
I'd like to be able to sing.

Do you have a motto? 
BAM is not a job, but a crusade.

What do you value most in an artist? 

How does working in Brooklyn compare to Manhattan? 
It presents certain challenges. In many ways it's more difficult because you're out of the main stream. On the other hand, it's very liberating because you can almost do whatever you want, if you can figure out how to pay for it.

Favorite spot in Brooklyn?


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