Harvey Lichtenstein '53


Image of Harvey Lichtenstein

Harvey Lichtenstein ’53, the larger-than-life president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music from 1967 to 1999, transformed its neighborhood into a cultural hub and redefined the role of a performing arts center.

Lichtenstein is credited with resurrecting the institution and making it a world-class arts organization. He studied dance and moved into arts administration in the 1960s, holding positions at both New York City Ballet and New York City Opera before becoming director of BAM.

Lichtenstein’s approach was to present adventurous programming that couldn’t be seen elsewhere. Soon BAM had the reputation as a showcase for cutting-edge contemporary performance, particularly in dance, but also in drama and music. In 1983, he established the Next Wave Festival, introducing audiences to cutting-edge performers including Laurie Anderson, Pina Bausch, Peter Brook, Merce Cunningham, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Jerzy Grotowski, Mark Morris, Steve Reich, Twyla Tharp, and Robert Wilson. He staged a series of groundbreaking debuts, including Satyagraha by Philip Glass; Einstein on the Beach, a collaboration by Robert Wilson, Philip Glass, and Lucinda Child; and Peter Brooks’ The Mahabharata.

In 1999, President Clinton awarded Lichtenstein the National Medal of Arts, and in 2013, he received the Handel Award, New York City’s highest award for achievement in the arts.