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Historical Note: Harvey Lichtenstein directed the Brooklyn Academy of Music from 1967 to 1999 and is credited with resurrecting the institution and making it a world-class arts organization. A Brooklyn native, he attended Brooklyn Technical High School and Brooklyn College, and became a dancer, studying and performing with a number of modern dance greats, including Pearl Lang, Martha Graham, and Sophie Maslow. By the 1960s, he’d become an arts administrator, and held management positions at both New York City Ballet and New York City Opera before becoming director of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
When Lichtenstein arrived in 1967, the neighborhood surrounding the Academy had become seriously economically depressed, and the theater itself was at risk financially. Lichtenstein’s tack to revitalize the Academy, soon rebranded with the acronym BAM, 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, and the long list of artists who came to perform on BAM’s stages under Lichtenstein’s purview reads like a Who’s Who of contemporary performance. It includes Laurie Anderson, Pina Bausch, Peter Brook, Merce Cunningham, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Jerzy Grotowski, Mark Morris, Steve Reich, Twyla Tharp, and Robert Wilson. Iconic works performed during his 32-year tenure include Satyagraha by Philip Glass; Einstein on the Beach, a collaboration by Robert Wilson/Philip Glass/Lucinda Child; and Peter Brooks’ The Mahabharata. Lichtenstein pulled the institution from near financial ruin into a dynamic period of renovation and expansion, which included the acquisition of a new theater, the Majestic, a renovated vaudeville house. After his retirement, the theater was renamed the BAM Harvey Theater in his honor. In 1999, President Clinton awarded Lichtenstein the National Medal of Arts.
Lichtenstein’s legacy includes significant contributions to the revitalization not only of BAM, but also its Brooklyn neighborhood. After leaving BAM, Lichtenstein became director of the BAM Local Development Corporation, an organization with the mission of creating a cultural district in the area surrounding BAM. With the construction, notably, of the nearby Mark Morris Dance Center, Theater for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center, and the BAM Fisher Building Fort Greene is now recognized as a vibrant, established arts destination.
Scope and Content Note: The Harvey Lichtenstein Photographs Collection spans 1967 through the present, but focuses on 1967 through 1999. Included are a selection of portraits and group photos with artists, board members, funders and government officials, that reflect the 32 years Harvey Lichtenstein spent as President and Executive Producer of BAM.