On April 28, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will host a gala celebration honoring BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins as she prepares to retire in June after more than 36 years of extraordinary service. For this special evening, BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo has assembled a host of BAM artists for a one-night-only program of performances, video tributes and testimonials from some very special guests.
Karen Brooks Hopkins first came to BAM in 1979 as a development officer under the leadership of then-President and Executive Producer Harvey Lichtenstein. BAM, like Brooklyn, was a very different place at that time as the institution worked to establish the adventurous programs that would become its cornerstone.
For the next two decades, Hopkins helped turn Lichtenstein’s vision into a reality. Upon his retirement, Hopkins and Melillo (who had begun producing BAM’s now world-renowned Next Wave Festival in 1983) split the roles of president and executive producer, respectively. Under their joint leadership since 1999, BAM has grown into a global arts presenter — attracting an annual audience of 750,000 — at the center of the thriving Brooklyn cultural district.
The Karen Gala will begin with a festive dinner at the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s waterfront Duggal Greenhouse — with catering by Great Performances and décor by Bella Meyer of Fleurs Bella. Guests will then proceed to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House for a program featuring performances by legendary R&B and gospel singer Mavis Staples, composer and musician Steve Reich, singer-songwriters Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright, contemporary hip-hop dance troupe Illstyle & Peace Productions, and The Institutional Radio Choir. The celebration will feature video tributes and live testimonials from BAM stage and screen artists who worked closely with Hopkins throughout her career, including musings from playwright Charles Mee — all under the direction of SITI Company Co-Artistic Director Anne Bogart. Following the program, an after-party for all attendees will fill the Peter Jay Sharp Building, spilling out on to Lafayette Avenue.