I’m delighted to announce the (re)launch of the New School Histories website (after a major malware infection that rendered it unusable, which required a complete reconstruction). We will be creating a guide to student life on Thursday, March 28, 10a-12noon in the Event Cafe, University Center. Stop by, join us!

Urban Choreography

This semester I’m teaching a new course. I’ve hesitated to teach about dance too directly, worried about scaring off students. I’ve usually chosen subterfuge, putting in articles or footage about dance into courses on New York, the 1930s, or the arts and social engagement. In Urban Choreography, however, dance has a more central place. We’re looking at Trisha Brown’s Man Walking Down the Side of the Building and Roof Piece (featured above); discussing Annie-B Parson’s prose-poem The Choreography of Everyday Life; and we’ll be moving with Andrew Suseno in Union Square. What is it that dance—both formal and informal—reveals about urban life? 

What rich research and ongoing conversation was the Accumulation conference! It primarily featured young scholars moving the field of dance history to greater insight and reach. Presentations ranged from movement and dance at HBCUs to the intricacies of creating a living archive of dance to the political economies of avant garde dance–and university dance departments! My keynote picked up on some of these issues. 

Read more…

The field of dance history has evolved so much over the last 30 years. Where is it now? What kinds of research does it encourage? Where do embodied research and archives fit into the field? I’m honored to give the Keynote address at this conference on December 8 alongside other scholars asking and answering these questions. (Info here.)

The Ground Beneath West Side Story

I was asked to write an essay for the Legacies of San Juan Hill website that Lincoln Center has created to interrogate and explore the history of its site. My contribution comes just as the New York Philharmonic plays the score of the latest (Spielberg) movie version of West Side Story. I ask: “Inspiration is a ground from which to imagine. What happens when inspiration abets ignoring? Erasure? Appropriation? Among the legacies of San Juan Hill, West Side Story leaves us grappling still with these questions.” Still.

Invitation au Voyage

If you’re in France or Germany, check out this show on the ARTE channel and look for a segment on “West Side Story: A History of Love in New York.” I’m there, although I wish I were speaking in French.

Alternative Bodies

French choreographer Anne Collod dived into the history of modern dance to focus on still-pending tensions about bodies, which resulted in a five-part web series. Ted Shawn interested her because of his views–written, lived, and danced–about masculinity and his attention and appropriation of indigenous dances. I feature in episodes 4 and 5 (still grateful for the wonder of Zoom during the pandemic but oh screenshots!).


The New School seems addicted to crisis. But we’re in a big one at the moment. Part-time faculty have been on strike since November 16, with full-time faculty striking in solidarity with them. The already-busy-picketing part-time faculty are also organizing a Strike School, in which I gave a talk. Here’s my attempt to explain how we got here.

San Juan Hill: A New York Story

The jazz trumpeter and composer Etienne Charles has written a composition on the neighborhood that preceded Lincoln Center. And I provided some historical notes. He commissioned this mural by the Ex-Vandals at 2605 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, and his composition premieres at part of the re-opening of Geffen Hall on October 8, 2022. Check out a video of the complete mural here. What a brilliant mural and effort!

In Conversation with Lynn Garafola

Lynn Garafola’s definitive biography of La Nijinska rewrites the history of ballet modernism by focusing on its notable female choreographer. Join me in conversation with Lynn about this revelatory book at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on Thursday, May 12, 6pm. My questions here:

The Walls of Santiago

Join me for the book launch of my friend and colleague, Terri Gordon-Zolov (with co-author Eric Zolov) in which I’ll be part of a discussion of The Walls of Santiago on Thursday, May 5, 6pm, at The New School. Graffiti transforms politics in Chile, 2019-20–visually compelling and politically inspiring! My comments:

Curating Proposals for the Climate Museum

In Spring 2021, Radhika Subramaniam and I taught “Curating Public Memory,” a graduate course examining how to activate public memory for restorative justice. In a partnership with the Climate Museum, students worked in groups to propose a project that the museum might consider. Bees, decolonization, trash, the air–the projects and our students were inspiring! Proposals here.

Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It

A new documentary about Rita Moreno will premiere on PBS’s American Masters program on July 29, 2021! I speak in it briefly (don’t blink) and was invited to celebrate its completion in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The irrepressible 89-year-old Moreno is an inspiration for us all!!

New New School Stories

Radhika Subramaniam and I taught a graduate course at Parsons this semester on “Curating Public Memory” in which students researched, conceptualized, and created virtual exhibitions on The New School. A collection of them concentrated on Parsons: investigating classrooms, from studios to parks to zoom rooms; the origin of a Parsons satellite in the Dominican Republic, told through letters, and asking the question “Is Parsons a Place for Everyone?”; and a speculative look at Parsons in 2071 (a degree in Peace Systems Engineering, a fallout of digital wars?!).

The other collection of projects were poignant perspectives on the pandemic: A Space to Collectively Reflect; looking at where The New School is now, enduring distance; and a talk with international students about the specific challenges they faced this year. All the projects were a testament to students’ persistence in learning amidst a peculiar, grief-filled year.


I am very excited to be a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at New York Public Library in 2021-22. Oh how sweet it will be to back in the library, surrounded by books and fellow fellows!! And to spend time writing about this Culture City.

My latest in our New School Histories column at Public Seminar, taking on the various mis-uses of the school’s legacies. There is no halcyon past.

Borough Arts Councils

Where the arts occurred in New York City changed in the 1960s-70s. Grand cultural complexes such as Lincoln Center consolidated the performing arts of opera, symphony, theater, and ballet. Television brought the arts to family living rooms, much as radio had done starting in the 1920s. The opening of Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center was broadcast in September 1962 with performances of Copland, Beethoven, and Mahler. And the arts moved outdoors, with Shakespeare in the Park and events on the plaza of Lincoln Center.

The arts also moved into neighborhoods.

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If dance is a kind of knowledge, what kind of knowledge is it? What are the power relations between a moving body and a speaking body? Who has the right to dance what? What does it mean to repeat choreography?

These questions frame the construction of Netta Yerushalmy’s monumental performance project, Paramodernities, which debuted in 2018. And from May 4-9, the questions and conversation will move online, with daily streaming of an installment followed by commentary and chat with noted theorists and artists.

Read more…

(In)Visibilities, Omissions, and Discoveries

Join me and other fabulous panelists! April 30, 4pm.

In conjunction with the Princeton University Art Museum’s exhibition LIFE Magazine and the Power of Photography, this workshop explores the construction of, and research utilizing, image archives. Panelists will focus on discoveries, invisibilities, and active omissions in a range of photographic (or photo-heavy) archives. Discussion will focus on the ways that archives like Life’s are constructed, who is represented in the archives, and who is absent.

For the Love of Strangers

My pandemic ode to New York (Public Seminar)

I teach courses about New York and often begin the semester’s conversation by asking students to share a personal anecdote that best describes their city. Invariably, the anecdotes are about encounters with strangers, often on the subway. It’s about help offered, anonymity made comforting, aloneness-yet-connection amid others. 

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I revisited the research for my first book in this talk for the Peoria Fine Arts Society on February 13. It’s always useful to think about why dance matters.

I ended the talk with this:

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A Purple Squirrel Unicorn

“Find the purple squirrel unicorn: Do Not Settle.” That was the directive that struck me when I read through the anonymous comments submitted by New Schoolers about who they wanted as our new president. A “purple squirrel” and a “unicorn” are warnings against searching for the impossible—a person who can fulfill all needs. And this suggestion doubled the expectation—purple squirrel AND unicorn! But I think we’ve come close to achieving this aim in our next president of The New School, Dwight A. McBride.

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A School

My remarks at the opening the New School Collaboratory Symposium (16 November 2019).

As a historian at a place called the new, I often feel as though I face an existential crisis every day I come to work. What use is the past at a place intentionally focused on the future? Discarding the past here is often taken as the first step to inventing the new. But I like to argue otherwise.

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Greenwich Village: Dying since 1960?

I chaired a panel at the Society for U.S. Intellectual History conference this past weekend that considered the state of Greenwich Village in the 1950s-60s. Artists such as Judith Malina of the Living Theater insisted that the Village at that time was “the center of the universe!,” while others thought the increase in residential and commercial rent values, the expansion of New York University, and the influx of tourists to the Washington Square area were indications of imminent death. The East Village and SoHo began to claim the mantle of edginess and bohemianism in the 1960s, suggesting that sites of experimentation had moved east and south.

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My remarks upon the retirement of Thelma Armstrong, who worked at the New School for thirty-six years.

The writer Colson Whitehead says that you become a New Yorker when what was on the corner previously is more real to you than what is there now. In this provisional city, set to change, nostalgia functions as authenticity, and the city we arrive in is forever our real New York.

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The Era of Twyla Tharp

In writing about cultural policy or public relations strategies or political wagers, I don’t want to forget the arts themselves. Years in to this research, I still think dance and theater are where the battles of the era are played out most directly. Opera and classical music were established genres, even if there was some attention to creating American versions of European imports. Dance and theater were younger, more rebellious, less institutionalized–and being put on the same platform at Lincoln Center as these older forms. Figuring out what dance and theater belonged at Lincoln Center—and what did not—had stark consequences.

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Public Relations

Lincoln Center was a massive project that took over ten years to complete, went way over budget, and embodied deep contradictions about the arts—and New York. Just the project in need of a public relations firm! And, so, it hired one. Read more…

“It’s Complicated.”

This phrase infuriates me. It’s a hallmark of academia today—its promises and its disdain. The level of complexity has expanded within the humanities by the entrenchment of theory and opened up levels of intersecting meanings. But the patronizing has expanded as well. Because this phrase usually signals the end of a conversation rather than an entreaty to more exploration. Read more…

Deconstructing Fosse

I’m delighted to be part of a special issue of Studies in Musical Theatre devoted to dance and edited by the fabulous pair of Joanna Dee Das and Ryan Donovan. I took the opportunity to recount the process of putting together the installment on Fosse in Paramodernities–and what it meant to include Fosse alongside Graham, Balanchine, and Ailey.

1 of 13 Art Exhibitions to View this Weekend!

‘VOICE OF MY CITY: JEROME ROBBINS AND NEW YORK’ at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (through March 30). The choreographer of “West Side Story” and “Fiddler on the Roof” was born a little over 100 years ago, but this exhibition is so much more than a centenary obligation; it’s an openhearted, deeply moving showcase of Robbins’s work, notes and diaries, full of the joy and anxiety of postwar Manhattan. Robbins, born Jerry Rabinowitz, made creditable paintings and drawings as a teenager, and in his 20s he hit it big with “Fancy Free,” set to a syncopated score by Leonard Bernstein, and evoked here through original footage and Robbins’s sketches of jumping and prancing seamen. He bullied dancers, and infuriated friends when he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, but his engrossing journals, rich with watercolors and watery notes to self, reveal the intense self-doubt that his choreography obscured. What Robbins loved most was New York, the city that was his muse and his helpmeet — and that has been transformed beyond recognition from the days of Jets and Sharks.” New York Times (7 March 2019)

Contested City

Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani has written a fascinating book about the long, dispiriting, and complicated history of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) on the Lower East Side of New York. She uses art and pedagogy as intervention and gives me hope that another future for the city is possible. Our conversation here.

Critic’s Pick: “How solid is this show…”

So says the New York Times about the Robbins exhibition (full review here)! There was also an article in The Times of Israel; a clip on WABC-7 with Sandy Kenyon (also appearing in 6000 cabs!); another on CUNY-TV’s Arts in the City; an Instagram story with New York City Ballet’s Adrian Danchig-Waring; and a poignant account of remembering a beloved dance instructor–and former dancer in West Side Story–through the exhibition.

Robbins’ New York Portraits

My remarks for the program on Robbins’ New York Portraits at the Library for the Performing Arts with Adrian Danchig-Waring, Justin Peck, and Ellen Bar.

The exhibition upstairs perhaps best reflects my thinking about the ties between Jerome Robbins and New York, but I thought I’d offer a few more specific to the study of New York. As I hope the exhibition proves, Robbins was quite the researcher, an observer of human habits and habitation. Since he lived his entire life in New York, inevitably that research included the city itself. In fact, I think artists such as Robbins deserve to be put alongside urban planners and policy makers, sociologists and architecture critics, for their ways of revealing how cities work. Read more…

More Robbins

The Robbins’ events continue: a discussion at the Gotham Center with Carol Oja on Bernstein and Robbins; a showing of snippets of Robbins’ dances on the theme of collaboration (with composer, dancer, camera, community); and a talk with Adrian Danchig-Waring and Justin Peck on Robbins’ New York Portraits. Come!

New School Histories

Exploring the histories of the New School to contextualize and confront pressing issues facing higher education now–essays on what it means to educate adults, lessons from Gerda Lerner, the arts as social research, and more. At Public Seminar here. Much more to come!

I never met Jerome Robbins but I feel like I’ve been living with him for the last few years. What he left behind–the letters, diaries, ballets, musicals, photographs, film footage–makes possible that conundrum. And this library and the extraordinary people who make it live have created a home for Robbins and for people like me. Read more…


Conversation is an integral part of Netta Yerushalmy’s conception of Paramodernities. There’s a performance of dance and words and then a conversation about it all. Broad questions hover above as titles running atop the stage: Who has the right to dance what? What power does a moving body hold, what a speaking body? What does it mean to repeat choreography? These questions are woven through the performances themselves and then addressed in conversation with the viewers. Read more…

Happy 100, Lenny!

Leonard Bernstein was born 100 years ago on August 25. A German documentary titled “West Side Story—Bernstein’s Broadway Hit,” in which I appear, will have its premiere on the Arte channel in Germany on August 19 at 17:30. I am also a part of a story on Bernstein on August 25 on the BBC program “Music Matters”; online streaming here. Both programs discuss the relation of Bernstein and West Side Story to New York City–one of my favorite topics.


The world premiere of Paramodernities occurred last week at Jacob’s Pillow. What a whirlwind! Preview article of the project in the New York Times here; reviews of the series here, here, and here. Most anecdotal commentary I heard: “this was so interesting.” Netta got us all moving and thinking. What a tremendous privilege to be part of it all.

On Aesthetic Education

In my attempt to understand the rise of New York as a “culture city,” I am focusing on the rise of Lincoln Center. There’s lots to investigate beyond the demolition and construction of buildings, as crucial as those are to the story. I’ve long known, for instance, that the Lincoln Center Institute–the educational arm of the complex, now a part of the wider umbrella known as Lincoln Center Education–demanded more of my attention. Even more enticing: starting in 1975, for nearly thirty years, the institute had a philosopher-in-residence, Maxine Greene. Read more…

A School for the Present

In honor of the New School’s centenary: research, reflection, and critique on higher education in preparation for the next 100. Mark Larrimore and I are editing a new column on Public Seminar on New School Histories. (Announcement and call for articles here.) Contribute!

Back to Dance

Perhaps you can never really leave it. But dance has become more central in my life again this year. Primarily it’s because of my collaboration with Netta Yerushalmy in her Paramodernities project, and also my time at the Center for Ballet and the Arts, and just more conversations with dancers. What strikes me most about this return is how much has changed in the years I’ve been studying dance. Read more…

Paramodernities #5

I’m returning to a previous life as a performer…. I’m delighted to be a part of Netta Yerushalmy’s Paramodernities #5, a performance piece on Bob Fosse. Dance, text, spectacle, sex — what more do you need? We’re previewing the piece at New York Live Arts on May 11-12, tickets are $10; more info here. The world premiere of Paramodernities will be at Jacob’s Pillow this summer from August 8-12; more info here.

Will I dance?

New York on Canvas, Page, and Stage

I get to talk in public about one of my favorite subjects, the rise of New York as a capital of culture. Join me and Fran Leadon, Christoph Lindner, and Robert Slayton in a conversation moderated by Morris Dickstein. CUNY Graduate Center, April 30, 2018, 6:30pm; more info here.

This year has been marked by collaboration: curating an exhibition on Jerome Robbins at a public institution; working with dancers and a choreographer to create a performance piece on Bob Fosse; and now boosting my longstanding collaborative work on the history of New School history as we near its centenary in 2019. Read more…

Musicals and New York

I wrote a meditation on this theme for the new annual journal, Musical Theater Today, which came out last year. Working on the Robbins exhibition non-stop makes me think about all this all over again.

Edgar Allan Poe saw crowds. The French poet Baudelaire saw the flâneur, a wandering observer. The dancer, choreographer, and director Jerome Robbins saw alienation. As a young, ambitious man in New York, Robbins wrote drafts and drafts of possible scenarios for the stage. All of them are about struggle. Young artists, full of dreams and anxiety, squeezed in two rooms in a brownstone in the west ’50s. A man asking for money on the subway to feed his family. Another homeless man pinched awake by a hard squeeze on his finger by a merciless cop. A woman hurrying past men huddled on the side of the building, their gazes searing her legs, thighs, and buttocks. Read more…

On James Baldwin and The New School

When Mark Larrimore and I first began discussing teaching a course on the history of the New School, it was clear that a central task would be posing the myths of the school against its realities. Some of the myths relate to actual events, such as the remarkable effort to save and host scholars fleeing fascism in Europe in the 1930s. But many of them are more mythology than fact–and James Baldwin taking a class at the New School is one of the most enduring. In this essay, I explore how that myth informs much of the New School’s struggle to fully tackle racism and discrimination.

One Year Later

Public Seminar, the online “intellectual commons” of The New School, is afire these days, with commentary on daily headlines as well as beyond them. Recently, Claire Potter, one of the editors, posed an intriguing prompt: how does your world look, one year after Trump’s election? My response here.
(Anti-Trump sticker on 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge. © Jack Szwergold | Flickr)

Research for all

As a member of the Advisory Board of the research libraries of the New York Public Library, I got an early view of the new plans to renovate the Schwarzman building at 42nd Street. This renovation follows years of debate about the fate of the building, particularly a plan that gutted the research purpose of the building and turned it over to circulating collections. The outcry was vociferous enough that it caused a complete reversal—a re-dedication to research as the primary function of that building. Still, figuring out how “research” works in the age of Google in a building that is also a primary tourist destination and is devoted to remaining accessible to all requires some fine-tuned thinking. I think this plan is a good step forward in meeting those goals. (Summary of renovation in this WSJ article, including a quote from me.)

Don’t Stop and Criticize–Go

Dances at a Gathering (1969) is one of Jerome Robbins’ most acclaimed ballets. Danced to Chopin, it is a meditation on relationships and what is revealed when people move together, alongside one another, in companionship. Robbins is rarely sweet—and that’s a word that may be too close to saccharine for it to have a less tainted meaning—but there is an innocence in this ballet that feels unweighted by drama. And drama is something that Robbins is well-known for, both in creating tension and meaning in dance, and in the process of choreography. Read more…

It is the 60th anniversary of the musical and 2018 marks the centenary of the births of Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins. So a German crew has been filming me all week for an upcoming documentary on West Side Story–which included riding through Manhattan in a 1952 cab! And this weekend I’ll be speaking at the Brattleboro Literary Festival about A Place for Us. West Side Story lives.

West Side Story at 60

The Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center is hosting a celebration of West Side Story, sixty years after its debut. See documents from the show’s creations, sing along to your favorite songs, and listen to some folks talk about the show (including me). Tuesday, September 19, 7pm.

Mod in the Park

The dancer-choreographer Netta Yerushalmy has undertaken a project right up my historian’s alley: she is re-imagining the work of modernist choreographers such as Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, and Vaslav Nijinsky. Even more up my alley: she’s pairing the dance with on-stage commentary from scholarly folk. There’s a conversation about it all at Madison Square Park on August 12, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.

Creating City People

New York City just released its first cultural plan. My response (published in Public Seminar).

Last week the city released its much-awaited cultural plan. The Department of Cultural Affairs undertook an unprecedented year-long process of surveying New Yorkers about arts and culture in New York, about what worked and what did not in the city’s creative life. Not surprisingly, equity and inclusion were repeated refrains: the arts and culture sector does not fully reflect the city’s diversity, and geography and cost restrict full access to the arts. Read more…

Martin Segal: Dollars and Joy

I’m back in the archives going through the papers of Martin Segal. Few in the arts might know Segal now but his legacies are everywhere: in the Martin E. Segal Theatre at CUNY, the Lincoln Center awards in his name that support rising artists, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center itself which he co-founded. But those legacies are only the most obvious. He was central to the arts in New York for over fifty years—and not just as a financial supporter. Segal served on the board of major institutions (MOMA, City Center); chaired Lincoln Center Inc. for five years; conceived and started the International Festival of the Arts; and consolidated the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. He was a part of almost every endeavor that I have been studying over the last couple of years. Read more…

The Lower East Side has long been an object of fascination for those who study New York. It has been a location for bohemia, from the early 20th century to the Beats and punks; waves of immigration from Europe and migrations from Puerto Rico; and, most recently, a focus for the dynamics of urban housing, real estate speculation, and gentrification. Amy Starecheski’s Ours to Lose looks at the intersection of these topics in the squatting movement that has flourished there since the 1980s. Read more…

Musical Theater Today

Ben Van Buren and Lucas Tahiruzzanen Syed (New School alums!) are the founders and editors of Musical Theater Today, a new annual journal. It’s a fresh look at this reinvigorated art form–and includes some meditations on the intertwining of musical theater and New York by me. You can purchase the journal here.

West Side Story lives! New York Public Library has digitized nearly 1400 pictures of the making of the Broadway show, and the curator Doug Reside has animated a few series of the photographs here. Google Cultural Institute will feature an exhibition about the show, to which I am contributing. For now, enjoy running down the streets of New York in 1957 with Maria and Tony (Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert)!

Social Justice, Then and Now

Mark Larrimore and I were invited back to speak at Staff Development Day at The New School. It has become one of our favorite events because the audience is the best one for tales of New School history. Staff, in fact, enact and carry forward so many of the traditions of the school. This year we were asked to talk about social justice-past, which was complemented by social justice-present by Maya Wiley, our new Senior VP for Social Justice. The New School first taught a course that included that topic in 1925! Video of talk here.

Together, in NYC and the Obits

Trisha Brown (choreographer), David Rockefeller (banker and philanthropist), Jimmy Breslin (journalist), and Bob Silvers (founding editor of the New York Review of Books): shakers and makers of arts and culture in postwar New York all gone in the last few days. None were young; all were vital. It’s a reminder of an era of a dizzying pendulum swing, roughly from the 1960s to the 1990s, in a city defined by extremes – from the wealthy global capital instantiated in the World Trade Center (thanks to Rockefeller) to the fiscal and political crisis just a few years later and then its long aftermath (reported on by Breslin). Read more…

In honor of women’s history month and, more important, in honor of Gerda Lerner: The New School is hosting a showing of a documentary about Lerner tomorrow (details here). I will give brief remarks about Lerner’s role in building women’s history. She started doing so as an older student, returning for her BA degree, at The New School.

Dancing the Cold War

In 1960, the British Prime Minister told Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev to “get cool, boy.” (Maybe if the Prime Minister had persuaded Khrushchev to dance, as in “Cool” from West Side Story, the admonition might have been more effective.) Hear more at this conference February 16-18 at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University.

Fighting Over and On the Streets of New York

A few weeks ago, Jelani Cobb predicted that democracy would come back to the streets in the Trump era. A new exhibition, “Whose Streets? Our Streets!,” on view at the Bronx Documentary Center until March 5, 2017, and ongoing online, shows us just what that looks like—and emphasizes the long tradition of this kind of democracy in action. Activists and photographers taking to the streets will not be new in the Trump era. But this exhibition pushes us to keep doing it. Read more…

Bowery Boys

The Bowery Boys look at the development of Lincoln Center–and West Side Story. They read my book! And put it on their list of NYC books for the holiday! (Lin-Manuel Miranda and me, yaknow.) Listen to the podcast here or via Itunes.

The New School recently launched a re-organization and re-branding of its continuing education efforts under the title Open Campus. It’s an administrative move that makes sense, given that different colleges had various offerings and now the efforts are brought together with some strategic thinking. I was part of a panel on Saturday’s launch that asked what education beyond the ivory tower means in the 21st century. As usual, I start from the past. Read more…

When Musicals Become Politics

Recently the musical Hamilton became a political hot potato–again. Brendon Victor Dixon of the cast read a statement directed to one audience member, Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence, a plea that the musical’s vision of a diverse America be the vision of the new administration who would “work on behalf of all of us.” President-Elect Trump denounced the statement as rude and asked for an apology. Read more…

I was invited to take the page 99 test on A Place for Us: “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you,” said Ford Madox Ford. My response here.

Exile as Haven

I wrote a response to the despicable hate crime that occurred at The New School this weekend on Public Seminar. I wish for two revisions, so I state them here. First of all, I should have named the hate as anti-Semitism. That needs to be specified even as the crime speaks to a wider world of hatred that is becoming ever more visible. Secondly, I wish I had declared more clearly that while the school needs to be a haven, it is obviously not so for everyone right now. We must make it so.

And one way to do so is to support the petition to make The New School a Sanctuary Campus.


May I suggest that no book party is complete without dance—at least not one that looks at West Side Story! Here are Michael McILwee and Felicity Stiverson performing part of “Dance at the Gym.” Books, dance, the murals of José Clemente Orozco (with family in the background): my worlds collide.

Back to School

The semester has started with histories of the New School: presentations at various orientations and the latest version of a university lecture course on the subject that I teach with Mark Larrimore. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education outlined reasons why universities should offer courses about their histories. But it neglected to include the reasons I think are the most important. Read more…

Masterpieces of Everyday New York

In 2013, the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center initiated an exhibition on “objects as story,” prompted by curricular changes at Parsons that shaped its telling of the history of art and design around objects. New York served as the common theme for the exhibition, and faculty around the university identified and reflected upon an object that made up their New York. Mine: a sailor suit.

Research as a Public Good

As I return to research myself, I’ve been asked to be a member of the New York Public Library’s Research Advisory Group. It’s an honor to be among such distinguished company and to be asked to think about how this stalwart institution can strengthen its mission in research. How to articulate, argue for, and act upon research as a public good? Keep us honest and accountable. Send suggestions and comments.


I have reached a certain age and a certain status: mid-career, mid-life. No more hoops to jump through—but still quite some years before I can retire—I have some freedom to decide what to concentrate on in my research and what modes of outcome for that research are appealing (book? website? exhibition? regular writing in an online magazine?). But how to be deliberate and intentional about what next, when I am long past the point of having a mentor? Over the last few months I undertook a mentoring project, with friends and colleagues, asking for their help in determining next steps. Read more…