BAM announces artistic director and fall lineup

The Brooklyn Academy of Music, a haven for international artists and avant-garde music that has been forced to reduce programming and lay off staff in recent years, unveiled restructuring plans Thursday as it announced its fall season.

The agency said Amy Cassello, who has been with BAM for more than a decade, will officially become its interim artistic director. It also announced a new strategic plan that calls for planning more works still in development, forging more partnerships with other presenting institutions and hiring a new community-focused “curator-in-residence.” ”.

BAM executives say they hope the program will help usher in a new era for the agency after an extraordinarily difficult period.

Like many nonprofit arts organizations, BAM has struggled financially since the start of the pandemic, with annual operating budgets declining. The company has also been hit by leadership exodus in recent years after decades of stability in its senior leadership ranks.

Gina Duncan, President of BAM since 2022, said: “I am very confident in our future. We were able to build alignment among all of BAM’s communities and truly achieve a true sense of our history and goals. the point of consensus.

The next wave of festivals due in the autumn will host 11 events, up from eight in 2023, a difficult year that saw BAM lay off 13% of its staff to help fill what officials said was “a sizeable structural deficit”. But it still won’t be as strong as it was in the early days, when the festival regularly hosted more shows.

This fall the festival will return to Still/Here, a seminal work of the AIDS era by choreographer and director Bill T. Jones that premiered at BAM in 1994; writer Hanif Abdulraj Hanif Abdurraqib’s election week poetry program; Silkroad Ensemble and Rhiannon Giddens performing “American Railroad,” “Alarm Will Sound” Performing Sun Dogs, combining new work with film.

“While the numbers may not be where they were pre-pandemic, one of the most important things we’re doing throughout our strategic planning process is sustainable growth,” Duncan said.

Casello said that when she became interim artistic director, she had no idea the role would become permanent. “I think where Gina landed, and where the agency landed, it all looked very organic and natural,” she said.

Officials hope new leadership will bring stability after an unstable period. BAM has been led for decades by leaders such as Harvey Lichtenstein, Joseph V. Melillo, and Karen Brooks Hopkins, with a succession of leadership changes in recent years.

Duncan, who previously served as BAM’s vice president of film and strategic planning, succeeds Katy Clark, who departs in 2021 after six years in the role. (Clark received a $968,000 hiring bonus that helped her buy an apartment, which she kept when she left.) Casello became interim artistic director last year, replacing theater producer David Binder ), who joined BAM in 2019.

Duncan said Caselo strikes the right balance between experience within the agency and understanding how to think about the future.

“I really wanted a partner who would have institutional memory but also not be encumbered by it, but would embrace the best parts of it and get rid of the things that no longer serve us,” she said.

Duncan said the new strategy is rooted in the institution’s history as a presenter and connector of art in Brooklyn, but it ultimately positions BAM for what’s happening now and what’s next.

“What we really want to embrace is BAM, just like Brooklyn, eclectic, energetic and fearless,” she said.

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