Culture City

In postwar New York, the consolidation of a municipal cultural policy shifted the debate about the role of the arts in the city from architecture and buildings to the outdoor environment; from established institutions to activities on the streets and subways; and from a time-bound rehearsed performance to the spectacles of the everyday. If Lincoln Center came to embody the importance of the arts in New York in this era, so too did Jane Jacobs’ “sidewalk ballet” and the common belief that the city’s most compelling attribute was its “theater of the streets.” This book explores how the arts became embedded in structure, policy, economy, streets, habits, schools, subways—and what it means to be a New Yorker.

In progress; photo “Hamlet,” 1964, Central Park (NYPL)

The Voice of My City: Jerome Robbins and New York

In the ballets Fancy Free, Age of Anxiety, and Glass Pieces, and the Broadway shows West Side Story and Gypsy, the choreographer and director Jerome Robbins created indelible images of New York. This exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of his birthday and charts his insatiable quest to understand, depict, and belong in the city—his home and his muse.

Opening at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in September 2018; photo NY Export: Opus Jazz (NYCB)

A Place for Us: West Side Story and New York

The musical and the film West Side Story reveal the dynamics of urban life in mid-20th century New York City, both the intractability of urban problems and the dynamism and fullness of people and place. This book examines why this image has resonated around the world with over 40,000 productions of the musical and wide distribution of the popular film. (Click here for more information.)

Dancing in the Streets: The Arts in Postwar U.S. Cities

This collection of essays on the arts in postwar U.S. cities offers a historical perspective on the contemporary embrace of the arts as a tool for urban place-making, neighborhood revitalization, economic boosting, and market branding. Urban historians can add a longer perspective to this trend to explain not only the roots of its current popularity but also more detailed measures of the arts’ impact. These essays look at arts institutions, artists as residents, and artworks themselves from the 1950s-70s to uncover the entangled intersection of arts and urbanization – before the arts became a touted salvation for stagnant economies and run-down neighborhoods. (Introduction [pdf])

Journal of Urban History, November 2015, edited with Aaron Shkuda. Photo: circa 1950s, The Vintage Project

Where Urbanization and the Arts Meet

The rise of Lincoln Center and the transformation of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) reveal how tied stages are to streets. These articles examine how events inside these grand performing arts institutions — their performances, audiences, programming — related to the changing demographics and neighborhoods of New York; how ideas about urbanism and actions on city streets become transfigured in the arts; and how cosmopolitanism became inscribed in city life by these institutions. (Streets and Stages: Urban Renewal and the Arts After World War II [pdf]; The Other West Side Story [pdf]).

Photo: BAM, 1978 (NYPL)

The Arts in Place

Specialists of specific genres of art dominate scholarship on the arts — art historians examine visual art; musicologists analyze music – while social historians most often have investigated popular culture, the artistic realm of a broader populace. This volume brings together social history and the arts to offer methodological insights, particularly on visual and spatial aspects of the past. (“The Arts in Place: An Introduction” [pdf])

Photo by Susanne Faulkner Stevens: Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, August 1975 (Lincoln Center Archives)

To the City: Urban Photographs of the New Deal

The United States has moved from a rural to urban to suburban nation. The rural past holds symbolic sway, the suburban present has demographic force, but To the City brings alive the irrepressible spread of urbanization that occurred in the 1930s and ‘40s, using over 100 photographs to convey the detail and dimensions of that transformation. (Click here for more information).

Modern Bodies: Dance and American Modernism from Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey

Modern Bodies exposes the social dynamics that shaped American modernism and moved modern dance to the edges of society, a place both provocative and perilous. Honorable Mention, American Studies Association’s Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize and Choice Outstanding Academic Title. (Click here for more information.)

Miss Hill

Appearance as a guest speaker in Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter

A formidable administrator and advocate, Martha Hill fought to establish modern dance as an art form that deserved a place alongside ballet, opera, and the symphony, not only in the annals of American art but at Lincoln Center.

Free to Dance

A three-part documentary, Free to Dance narrates the critical role of African American choreographers and dancers in the development of modern dance as an American art form. (Click here for more information.)

Anything Goes

Kurt Andersen at Studio 360 examines – and re-imagines the title song of – one of America’s Icons, with commentary by Julia Foulkes. Listen to the story here.