- The 41-year-old Indian American takes the helm of an iconic venue as it grapples with financial problems and the pandemic.
New York City’s iconic Lincoln Center for Performing Arts has tapped Indian American Shanta Thake as the institution’s Ehrenkranz Chief Artistic Officer. In her new role, Thake, 41, is charged with “spearheading Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ artistic strategy as the organization builds greater connections with its constituent organizations and the entirety of the City of New York,” a Lincoln Center press release said. Thake, whose mother is Indian and father is white, most recently served as the associate artistic director of the Public Theater. She replaces Jane Moss, who served as the center’s artistic director for 26 years before stepping down in 2020.
The Lincoln Center says Thake joins them “at a pivotal time in its history and will build upon its efforts to complement the work of its world-class constituent organizations, activate its full 16-acres to serve more New Yorkers than ever before, and support art forms under-represented on campus.”
As the center struggled pre-pandemic with “leadership churn” and money problems,” The New York Times reports that these problems were compounded by the pandemic which “wiped away tens of millions in revenue and forced the cancellation of hundreds of events.” Additionally, “about half of Lincoln Center’s staff of 400 was furloughed or laid off, and its top leaders took pay cuts,” the Times reported. “While many workers have been rehired and indoor performances are set to resume in the fall, the center will likely be grappling with the financial fallout for years,” it added. “It remains to be seen whether audiences will return at pre-pandemic levels, especially given the recent spread of the Delta variant of the virus.”
As the center’s artistic director, Thake “will lead programming decisions alongside staff and guest curators, helping ensure a diversity of perspectives is woven throughout artistic endeavors—fostering openness, access, and building inclusive excellence into the heart of the institution’s programming,” said the press release. She will also help to launch the accelerated opening of David Geffen Hall in the fall of 2022, a project key to these goals. Some of the initiatives Take will work on to help instill the arts as core to daily life in the city and beyond include Restart Stages and The GREEN, among others.
Thake told The New York Times that she was “committed to presenting artists who represent a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.” The Times report added that Lincoln Center “is one of the few arts organizations to show substantial progress in bringing more diversity to its upper ranks,” with people of color now making up about half of its leadership team.
She told the Times that she saw her mission as, in part, to “lift up the city that is still reeling from the ongoing trauma” of the pandemic, adding that the center “could play a role in helping smaller arts organizations, for example by sharing best practices for reopening venues. Hopefully we can make it to the other side all together,” she said.
While at The Public Theater, Thake oversaw the growth and development of is marquee initiatives like Public Works, Mobile Unit, Under the Radar, Joe’s Pub, the Public Shakespeare Initiative, and Public Forum giving her “experience cultivating talent across genres and managing diverse teams to deliver on this strategy in new and bold ways,” as per the press release.
In addition, she is the co-director of GlobalFEST, North America’s world music festival and a non-profit organization whose mission is to foster cultural exchange and to increase the presence of world music in communities nationwide. In this role, she received the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence.
Thake will assume her role as Ehrenkranz Chief Artistic Officer in September 2021.
(Top photo by David Andrako)