BAM taps former head of its film program as next president


After two turbulent years that have forced the Brooklyn Academy of Music to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, budget issues and management upheaval, the organization said Tuesday it is looking to a veteran in its film wing to become its next president, filling a position that remained vacant more than 12 months ago.

Gina Duncan, who previously served as BAM’s senior vice president of film and strategic programming, has been chosen as the organization’s new president, the institution announced. She will take over a multifaceted performing arts giant with a $50 million operating budget.

Ms Duncan, 41, who has never held the top job at an arts institution, will be responsible for stabilizing and reinvigorating BAM, an important cultural anchor and incubator known for showcasing an eclectic array of artists and top performers. Her first day as president will be April 11. She returns after a stint at the Sundance Institute, where she worked as a production manager.

“Coming back to BAM is like coming home,” Ms Duncan said in a phone interview. “The other day, I went to see “The Mood Room” by Annie-B. And it was my first time back at BAM since we all fled our offices in March 2020. And I was just overwhelmed.

“I came back for BAM – the artists, the staff, the audience,” she added. “They are my people.”

The selection makes Ms. Duncan the first person of color to lead the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In choosing her, the academy’s board selected a candidate with whom they were familiar, having previously appealed to an outsider in the person of Katy Clark – a violinist turned artistic executive – who left BAM after less six years in January 2021. Ms. Clark’s predecessor, Karen Brooks Hopkins, spent 16 years as president of BAM and a total of 36 years with the organization.

Ms Duncan joined BAM’s leadership team in January 2017 as Associate Vice President for Cinema – a newly created role in which she oversaw the organization’s Rose Cinemas and its repertoire film programme. Under his leadership, BAM’s repertoire programming began to focus more on underrepresented voices in film.

She was promoted in 2019, her role extending beyond film to include responsibility for the organization’s archives and its lectures, courses and discussions; she helped integrate programming across the facility. She also helped bring programs online during the early months of the pandemic, officials said.

She left BAM in September 2020 for the Sundance Institute and will now return after approximately 18 months away.

BAM board chair Nora Ann Wallace said in an email that “Ms. Duncan’s leadership skills are immediately apparent to anyone who works with her.”

“His ability to inspire a group of people – be it staff, the public, donors or our Board of Directors – is critical at this time in BAM’s history,” Ms. Wallace said. “The board saw these skills when she was at BAM in her previous leadership role.”

Ms. Wallace noted that in addition to her film training, Ms. Duncan has produced theater and arts-based community programming for many years. “Gina is a gifted strategist who excels at assessing the big picture,” Ms Wallace said.

Ms Duncan said her vision for BAM involved ensuring it is “vital and visible across Brooklyn and beyond”. During her initial tenure at the institution, she said, she had worked to ensure her film program both served local audiences and was part of a “wider national conversation.” “.

“I see an opportunity to do that with BAM through all of the different arts and rich cultural programming that we present,” she said.

When Ms Duncan’s predecessor, Ms Clark, left BAM, questions were raised about the housing allowance she had received to buy an apartment in Brooklyn, which she was allowed to keep when she left the job.

Ms Wallace did not disclose Ms Duncan’s salary, saying only that her salary is “in line with other performing arts organizations of similar size”. Ms Duncan’s pay does not include an apartment or housing allowance, Ms Wallace said.

Ms. Clark’s departure has created something of a leadership vacuum at BAM; former board chairman Adam Max died in 2020 and an internal team was appointed to temporarily lead the institution as the pandemic created a crisis for the performing arts. With live performances impossible, BAM was forced to slash its operating budget, lay off employees and lay off dozens more, cut senior executive pay, and dip into its $100 million endowment. dollars for special distributions.

Ms. Duncan will have the advantage of taking over at a time when cultural institutions, including BAM, are beginning to regain their footing. The academy’s first full season since the pandemic began focuses on New York artists.

“The industry remains very fragile,” Ms Duncan said. But at BAM, she said, she said she had a “solid foundation to start with.”

“An institution is its people,” she said.


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