Lincoln Center President Recounts a Decade of Changes

January 15, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Each year, over five million people visit the sprawling 16-acre campus of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Built in the 1950’s, the world’s largest performing arts center completed a six-year redevelopment in the fall of 2012.

Lincoln Center’s outgoing president, Reynold Levy, who oversaw the renovation in coordination with Lincoln Center’s eleven performing arts organizations, told MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman, “[Lincoln Center] remains a place of high art. It remains a place where people go to their closets and take out their lovely dresses and go to the Metropolitan Opera on a special occasion. But I think it has become a place that’s much more open, much broader, much more democratic.”

The center’s $1.2 billion redevelopment vastly transformed elements of the physical space, from redesigning the iconic Revson Fountain to revamping the entrance to the main plaza and adding more green space. While those changes made Lincoln Center more physically accessible, much effort was also dedicated to rethinking Lincoln Center’s programming, making it more accessible to a wider audience. “[We] are seeing enormous amounts of energy, of new people, young people, people from the outer boroughs come to Lincoln Center. It’s for them too,” said Levy.

Levy also attributed this demographic shift in part to reductions in crime and boosts to the tourist population during the Bloomberg Administration.

Levy’s more than twelve years of leadership at Lincoln Center draws from his track record in public service, positions including president of the International Rescue Committee from 1997 to 2002, executive director of the 92nd Street Y, and staff director of the Task Force on the New York City Fiscal Crisis.

Of the nonprofit sector in New York City, Levy said, “One out of every six white-collar jobs in the city, nonprofit. Fifteen percent of the city’s gross domestic product, nonprofit. Fourteen of the top 25 employers in New York City are nonprofits.” Lincoln Center itself sells more than 3.2 million tickets and generates more than $3.4 billion for the New York economy annually.

After he steps down at the end of January, Levy said he plans to continue teaching at Harvard Business School and serving on several corporate boards. He is also working on a book about his experiences at Lincoln Center.

The pending name for the memoir?  “They Told Me Not to Take That Job,” said Levy.



MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.


© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019