Shanta Thake

Chief Artistic Officer, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Headshot of a woman

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts


Jo Reed: From the National Endowment for the Arts, this is Art Works. I’m Josephine Reed

Shanta Thake:  Let's let people experience mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and be able to come to social dance, and know about our incredible orchestral tribute to Biggie Smalls. Those can be the same audience. You know, New Yorkers are expansive in taste, as well. And really just opening up the whole and showing the breadth of what we do at Lincoln Center, and making it all free or choose what you pay which was also really critical to this opening up of these programs. And, hopefully, allowing these audiences to discover something new and have multiple opportunities to step onto campus.

Jo Reed: That is the Chief Artistic Director of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Shanta Thake talking about the Summer for the City Festival. Shanta came to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in September of 2021 after two decades at the Public Theater first as director of their music program Joe’s Pub and then as one of the theater’s associate artistic directors where she oversaw initiatives like the Mobile Unit, Under the Radar, and the Public Forum.  As a woman of color, this is a groundbreaking appointment. Shanta’s task is to expand and build upon Lincoln Center’s ongoing commitment to programmatic innovation, diversity, and audience reach at a pivotal moment for the performing arts. And given the complexity of the structure of Lincoln Center, it is quite a formidable task. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts or LCPA is just one of 11 constituent organizations at Lincoln Center’s 16 acre campus. They include the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, the Julliard School, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, and so on. LCPA knows how to multi-task: It works with the other constituent organizations, it presents its own artistic programming, it takes the lead in arts education and community relations. All in all, LCPA presents some 5,000 programs, initiatives, and events annually. In fact, it’s presenting over 300 events in its Summer for the City festival alone. Additionally, LCPA manages the entire Lincoln Center campus. I could go on but I’ll let Shanta Thake take it from here

Shanta Thake:  Yes, absolutely. I'm happy to. The role of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is unique in that in addition to our own programming, which we use to really fill in the gaps of what are the forms that the constituent organizations are not doing. Is to also support the work of the constituent organizations. So we do that in many ways through programming, but also Lincoln Center is really set up as shared services for the other organizations. So figuring out together, how do we get an internet provider for the entire campus? Who's our security team for the whole campus? So that all lives within Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, this idea of how can we make this easier for everyone is sort of core to what is Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. And then my role in the artistic realm is really to work with all of those constituents, and say “what are some projects that you really want to accomplish? They’re maybe a little bit outside of what is your typical audience, and how can I help bring those to life? How can we do new things together? How can we bring your work outdoors where we have access to these other spaces? And really expand that audience.” And then do our own programming that brings in new artists that wouldn't necessarily fit within those organizations.

Jo Reed:  Well, you're a Chief Artistic Officer at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and, this has to be daunting because I had trouble getting my head around this about how to even talk to it because it’s so vast and complex. I can't even imagine running it.

Shanta Thake:  It is. It is complex. But at the same time, it's always complex to run an arts organization, a nonprofit arts organization. I feel like we work in complexity all the time, and building projects, and understanding who's in the room is one of those skill sets of most arts administrators. And so this is just one of those incredible challenges in an incredibly challenging time where we're really looking at what is the role of an arts organization, overall, in the world, in the United States, and certainly in New York City at this time coming out of this incredible pandemic that, I think, brought us all to our knees, taught us all a lot about what it means to be of service to a community. And so I just think, you know, to me it's just the great privilege of my life to be in this seat at this moment and to be able to have this resource, have this scope to really be able to address that head-on and say, what does an institution like Lincoln Center have to be doing right now to address this moment and to be of service to our community?

Jo Reed:  Well, that's exactly where I was going because as you say, the time you came into your role, is certainly one that's fraught, but I think it's, also, potentially a time of great regeneration because as we're rethinking things that can really mean recreating. And that's exciting, though, hard and challenging. And I'm curious how you're answering those questions about the role of arts in community, especially the role of Lincoln Center in the community of New York City?

Shanta Thake:  Well luckily for me, you know, there was a new vision set for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts before I arrived by the board and the staff that was here of really looking at how to center the constituent organizations, how do we really be of service to them? How do we become an innovative arts organization and build those muscles around innovation? And then thirdly diversity, equity and inclusion. And not just as like part of our plan but as truly integrated. So those three tenets being really part of every single conversation we have. So that was already in place when I got into this role, you know, about nine months ago. And that was a great space to step into, because, of course, plenty of arts organizations are catching up to that idea of, okay, you know, perhaps we weren't really reflecting the city. Perhaps our staff doesn't reflect our demographics. How do we tell different stories? So a lot of that conversation had happened. And I think, you know, one of the things that I'm doing is also bringing artists really centrally into that conversation. So we really believe that artists have to be at the center of what we're doing, and are always showing us a way forward. And so if we can just bring artists more core to our planning, to our execution, to our curation and making Lincoln Center really a home for them from artists across every spectrum. Then they will in turn be able to welcome their community to Lincoln Center in a way that feels really organic and true to who they are as an artist. So I would say a mix of these sort of core tenets and then bringing artists really centrally into the conversation has been really key for us. And then asking the question from that point of what does New York City need right now that only the performing arts can provide? And how do we meet that need? And that's been a really fun conversation to be in with everyone. And some of that is you know what New York City needs right now is we have a citywide blood shortage. You know? The answer doesn't come back necessarily in the way you anticipate, but I think understanding that we have all of these incredible spaces, we have to be able to use our resources fully. And so we do these blood drives where we have students from Juilliard playing while people come in and donate. We've done food donation sites. We've also hosted graduations and naturalization ceremonies. And really trying to step in to people's whole lives, not just the entertainment section of their lives, or this sort of secondary piece of entertainment only. But really thinking about how can we make everyone's whole life infused with this joy and hope that we hope the performing arts can provide.

Jo Reed:  Well, the festival you created Summer for the City with its 300 plus programs is certainly infused with joy and hope. It’s a gift to the city and also one from the city because it's a relationship.

Shanta Thake:  Oh, absolutely. I mean that's truly what I hope it is. And what it feels like right now on the Plaza and all of these incredible public spaces we've opened. You know, we have over 10 stages that we’re building over the course of the summer everything from pop up movie theaters, to this incredible dance floor that we built in the Plaza with this beautiful 10-foot disco ball hanging over the fountain. It's really such a joy filled experience, and to make it all free and to have these opportunities for New Yorkers to be in a relationship with each other, again. You know, it was really clear to us that we wanted to do things like bring back a lot of these rituals, like of course, the graduations and the naturalization ceremony I mentioned, but also we're doing this all city wedding where we have 500 couples come to Lincoln Center if their weddings were canceled or made smaller by COVID. And then we're going to throw them this incredible wedding on July 10th with this amazing Bhangra band as the wedding band. And it's just going to be this beautiful, beautiful evening and giving people, these special moments that are really going to be part of their memory of Lincoln Center for the rest of their lives. But, also, that they become part of our story and we are able to really wrap our arms around the life of this city in a new way.

Jo Reed:  Well, the Summer for the City festival is that it's the big umbrella, Summer for the City that contains many new programs and programs that had been going on at Lincoln Center for a long time like the Mostly Mozart Festival, for example, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, that’s under the big umbrella of Summer for the City now.

Shanta Thake:  Yes.

Jo Reed:  So it becomes one big giant offering.

Shanta Thake:  Absolutely. You know, Lincoln Center always did an incredible amount of summer programming. And really, for many reasons, you know, put them in these four different festivals. And then, of course, we have the Atrium as well, the David Rubenstein Atrium that was doing its own thing, also. And the idea was why are we segregating our own audiences in this time? Let's let people experience mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and be able to come to social dance, and know about our incredible orchestral tribute to Biggie Smalls. Those can be the same audience. You know, New Yorkers are expansive in taste, as well. And I think we had been so used to speaking to a certain audience about a certain thing, and then deciding for them who are our audience for other things. And really just opening up the whole and showing the breadth of what we do at Lincoln Center, and making it all free or choose what you pay which was also really critical to this opening up of these programs. And, hopefully, allowing these audiences to discover something new and have multiple opportunities to step onto campus.

Jo Reed:  Well, you're not even segregating the disciplines in Summer for the City, but it's sort of very loosely configured under the themes of Rejoice, Reclaim and Remember. Can you walk us through that?

Shanta Thake:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the themes, like you said, are quite loose. We have an incredible amount of social dance. So, of course, like I mentioned, we have this beautiful dance floor that Clint Ramos designed. And, we're doing salsa bands and Merengue bands and swing bands, of course, which we had always done as part of Midsummer Night Swing. And those are all happening alongside silent discos, and just seeing people all day long really out there dancing. We have an incredible array of Pride events happening, the return of Paradise Garage that legendary club, and all of the DJs that used to play there are spinning again on the Plaza. So that's all under the banner of social dance. We have wellness activities with New York Presbyterian, and yoga classes in the Atrium weekly. Alongside, these incredible bands playing alongside your yoga experience to just bring it that next level. And so many other of these rituals.  I mentioned the wedding. We also have a quinceañera that we’re working on with Bushwick Star. We've done many things around grief, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, the great visual artist and performer, has created a series of rituals all around campus, and has this beautiful set of sculptures that are in the pool on Hearst Plaza that have animated that space in a new way. And people come and write what they are grieving on these beautiful mirror top discs and share that with a stranger, and then they place them in the pool. And it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. And we also have, you know, Requiem, Mozart's incredible Requiem, which I think is one of our great monuments to grief. And we have the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra doing that piece, but we also have Kyle Abraham and his company doing Mozart's Requiem remixed and we're doing that at the Rose Theater. And it's a beautiful testament to really the lifecycle, particularly in a black community, it's so stunning. And we also had a second line jazz at Lincoln Center again another Great American ritual of grief. And so, you know, marching down from Columbus Circle all the way up to the Plaza and landing there in this moment of catharsis-- truly stunning and really seeing that people moving through these emotions together, which feels very, very important to me personally. But, also, I think as a great space for a performing arts organization to be in.

Jo Reed:  I agree. So about half of the 12 week of Summer for the City Festival is done. So I'm curious about what you've seen what, what has the response been? And I'm also really curious about what some of the challenges were, unexpected challenges, because there had to have been. It's live performances, and there had to have been surprises.

Shanta Thake:  Yeah. Well, I think it surpassed all of our expectations in terms of truly not knowing: How do we really bring this to life? Are people ready to come out in volume in the way that perhaps they were pre-pandemic? And that has not been an issue at all. People are lined up for every show. They're so excited to get on the dance floor. I think the amazing thing about having it all be free is how multigenerational it’s been. We have kids on the dance floor, strollers on the dance floor, and just recognizing also, there's so few all ages clubs in New York, and certainly not now, you know, post pandemic or, at the tail end of this for the summer anyway. So seeing kids on the dance floor at you know 10:00 P.M. wearing their silent disco headphones is truly, truly incredible. And I would say the team here has been remarkable, remarkable in thinking about how do we give this to the city? I think everybody's really coalesced around that because the challenge is that this isn't a two-week festival. This isn't a three-week festival. This is really a marathon. And it's a marathon that feels like a sprint. Truly, just making sure everybody's taking care of themselves, and understanding that this is a long summer we have ahead of us to really be on our on our game for the whole thing. So we’re really trying to make sure people are well-rested, and happy, and excited to continue to greet all of the incredible surprises we have coming. But I actually think the biggest surprise to me is how diverse, and in every single way, the audiences have been. And how New York really feels like it was ready for this exact moment. So I want to knock on all the things that are surrounding my desk right now, none of which happened to be wood. But, you know, we've been really fortunate so far to not have any negative surprises.

Jo Reed:  And pretty much blessed with good weather.

Shanta Thake:  And yes.

Jo Reed:    I don't mean to say that out loud, I don’t want to put a jinx on it.

Shanta Thake:  We really have been. We have only had to shorten one performance so far. I'm looking out my window where there's storm clouds overhead right now, but we're having a graduation at this very moment for one of our local high schools, and we've made it through that. So that's another show in the books. And now we're hoping to make it through tonight.

Jo Reed:  I know there’s a lot more of Summer for the City ahead. And there are a couple of things that I’m really looking forward to that I would love to have you talk about beginning with globalFest. And that’s an organization you've been involved with since its inception, and it's coming to Lincoln Center this summer.

Shanta Thake:  Yes. So I'm a co-director of globalFest. And I've worked on globalFest since the very beginning, since our first festival almost 20 years ago when I had really just started working at the Public Theater. And globalFest had been started by Bill Bragin and Isabel Soffer and Maury Aaronson And I was really working as a producer on it at that time, and then later became a co-director. And the three co-directors work on a volunteer basis. And globalFest is really such a passion project for us. And it has always been to really bring global music into the center of the performing arts sphere and North America. And so to do that, we have this incredible 12 band festival that happens in January around the Arts Presenters Conference which, of course, brings all of these arts professionals from around the country into New York City. So we've been doing that for years. We have already had a summer globalFest before at Lincoln Center when-- in 2014,  So, there is a precedent for doing it at Lincoln Center as well, which is so great. And we had such a fun time. And, you know, we haven't done an in-person globalFest for the last two years. So it really felt like it would be wonderful to have the opportunity to bring some of these incredible bands from around the world. And globalFest always speaks to the idea of music as a form of social diplomacy. And so bringing these bands like DakhaBrakha, the amazing, amazing band from Ukraine as one of the bands. And Aynur who's a Kurdish singer from Turkey to the stage. And, of course, Rare Essence from DC. A great go-go tradition right to the center and they'll be right there on the dance floor. I cannot wait. It's going to be amazing. And Afghani musicians from Heart of Afghanistan. So there's so many stories that are embedded in having these artists, and they're all going to be here on one night at Lincoln Center on all of the stages. So you really get a sense of the power, and the purpose of what music does in terms of opening up these borders, for not just musicians, but for all of these communities. I think one of the best things about globalFest over the years is the audience, because you see, not only immigrant communities that are coming to see their favorite band, but then you see those same communities going to see other bands. And so this mix of New Yorkers and music fans is such an incredible, incredible day. It's going to be beautiful.

Jo Reed:  And that's going to be July 30th of this thing because it's already marked in my calendar.

Shanta Thake:  Yes, it will be July 30th.

Jo Reed:  You came to Lincoln Center after two decades at the Public Theater where you were first thedirector of Joe’s Pub and  Associate Artistic Director of The Public. And the Public, of course, is a theater of, for and by all the people; that's  its ethos. And I'm assuming that's the ethos you want to bring to Lincoln Center.

Shanta Thake:  Yes. But, absolutely, you know that is the space that I have really grown so much of my understanding of what works, what I want to be a part of, through all of the incredible programs of the Public Theater, Public Works, our mobile unit, which takes Shakespeare to correctional facilities and shelters and community centers and parks. To Joe's Pub which brings 800 shows a year representing the vast diversity of New York City onto its stage. So all of those values I'm bringing with me. They’re so much a part of why I loved working at the Public, and what I see here at Lincoln Center as well. One being able to stay in New York is such a gift, especially, at this time. But I think, you know, to be able to serve the city at the scale at this time like I said is such a privilege. And I think Lincoln Center is really stepping into exactly that. You know? How do we become this performing arts institution for New York? And then because of our stature and history really, globally, how do we step into a conversation about what does the field need? What do artists need right now? And that's definitely-- that's a Public Theater ethos from way back. And making sure we're bringing the best to the most. You know? And that's a huge part of what we’re doing now. And then also redefining what does the best mean? And, I think, that means really looking at communities of color, communities that have not seen themselves in the past represented at Lincoln Center fully on all of our stages, and really bringing them into the center of what we're doing.

Jo Reed:  I know the vast majority of Summer for the City is free, but the few ticketed events are “pay what you” pricing and you did “pay what you will” in the spring with American Songbook. Is that sustainable for you going forward?

Shanta Thake:  Well, you know, we're going to find out. These are all incredible opportunities we have to really pilot these new ideas, and see what works. But what we know is that a huge part of our goal is new audiences coming to Lincoln Center, not just once but multiple times. So what was amazing about American Songbook is that we had 70 percent of the audiences were first time ticket buyers to Lincoln Center. And I think we're going to see that over and over again for the Mostly Mozart this summer, and for Kyle Abraham and just giving people that chance to put a value on their experience. And what we've seen also is that people, you know, there are people that do the $5, and then there are people that pay well over that. And I think it's an interesting conversation to have with our audience of we're asking you to value this experience. We're asking you to put a number on, of course, what is your capacity right now? But, also, what do you think? what does this mean to you in your life, in your own budget in your own world? And giving people the freedom to choose that at this moment feels important and relevant, and just meeting the actual moment where people's finances are in a very different state than they were pre-pandemic. So we're also getting a chance to meet this new audience, really figure out what's next. And in terms of sustainability, you know, what I hope is that it sends a message to the people that want to support us, the foundations and individuals that want to support exactly this. That want to support new audiences. That want to support artists coming and having a home at Lincoln Center in a new way. And that's how the nonprofit arts function best, I think, when folks really give to a cause that actually brings other people into an experience they enjoy. I will definitely continue it on some scale, you know, going forward.

Jo Reed:  You know, it's so interesting to think of the community of artistic directors who have come from the Public.

Shanta Thake:  Yeah.

Jo Reed: Just in my backyard there’s  Maria Goyanes at Woolly Mammoth, Stephanie Ybarra at Center Stage in Baltimore.  

Shanta Thake:  Of course. I mean, first as friends. There's also Meiyin Wang, who's at the Perelman Center. Lear deBessonet at City Center. Jacob Padron at Long Wharf. I feel like we are each other's support system, and we know we're there for each other in terms of understanding. Again, that set of values that that brought us to the Public Theater in the beginning, you know, that we shared that, and we allowed each other to flourish. And we were in a space that allowed us to flourish and grow as leaders was really a beautiful thing. And, yeah, we definitely have some war stories. There's a lot of back and forth around what we're doing now. How's it working? What's not working? And being able to continue to dream into what's next, I think. Not just for our organizations, but for each other. That's been the greatest gift of those friendships is really, how do we continue to make sure we're okay, and taking care of ourselves and have a sounding board for some of the big ideas.

Jo Reed:  Shanta, how did you come to theater, to the performing arts?

Shanta Thake:  Well, I grew up in a very, you know, arts forward family. My grandmother was a singer professionally. My grandfather was an engineer, but played violin in his local symphony. You know, we sang in the church choirs. I did community theater growing up. My aunt was a dancer, and then went to school for dance in a neighboring town and then moved to New York where she worked at Alvin Ailey and continues to work at Alvin Ailey. So she's been at Alvin Ailey for over 30 years. And so I really grew up going and experiencing that company as truly a transformative experience for me over and over again. It's probably the company I've seen the most in my lifetime, and certainly over the longest period of time. And so all of those are really transformational. And when I went to school I went for theater, I went for acting, and then also got my business degree, my business certificate in management. I thought I would never use it. I was like, what a waste of time this is. Who needs it? This will be so cute when I'm a famous, you know.  The thing that I will say reflecting on it is that I always thought my management classes were so similar to my directing classes. This idea of running a room, you know, identifying what the skills are in the space. How do you build something together? Those things are the things that theater teaches you over and over and over again that are so valuable for any business, and working on the other side of, you know, any organization. So I'm deeply grateful for having this theater background, obviously. And, then, I moved to New York. And luckily for me, I landed at the Public Theater really 10 days after I moved to the city in the role of George C. Wolfe’s second assistant, right after 9/11. And it was a role that had been a full-time role and then I stepped into it as an intern. And really just found the incredible joy of being in that office every day and hated leaving to go to auditions.  I'd always be dragging my feet because I'd be, you know, then leaving to go sit in a hallway somewhere with my backstage circled audition notice. And realizing that one, I really wanted health insurance. And that two I was not looking forward to any of my auditions, and just loving being in the office with George, who was such a dynamo, and continues to be such an incredible creative force. And so, yeah, I just fell in love with being in the arts admin which was so much sexier than I could have ever imagined.

Jo Reed:  You know, I can only imagine how much you learned while you were there. But I wonder if there are any lessons or philosophical underpinnings that really just informed to the marrow the way you work now.

Shanta Thake:  Yeah. Well, what I would say is that working for George very specifically you know, when he was at the Public…. and I was just reading through all of these incredible articles of when he was announced, the new artistic director of the Public Theater and, you know, his theater of inclusion. And I want to make sure the stages at the Public Theater look like the subway system of New York. So much of that is, you know, who I hope to be now. But, also, you really felt that in every decision that was made. The intentionality behind that was infused in every single thing from how the marketing materials were created, to the press that was invited, to the backstage crew to who was hired as designers. And the work was magnificent, and everybody felt bought in. And it, again, wasn't under this banner of equity diversity and inclusion. It was just this is the work. Our job is to do the best work that reflects the city of New York. When I got there, we were working on Topdog/Underdog moving it to Broadway. Elaine Stritch was on the West End. We were working on Radiant Baby, this Keith Haring musical that was about to premiere at the Public Theater. And so that all just was so alive and so magical. And I think was not this construct put over the work. It was the work. And so, I think, so much of that is what I've been striving for ever since. And to do that with joy, you know, to really bring that that spirit of we're actually not building cars here. We are in a creative enterprise. And people should really feel fed by this experience, and everybody should. Not just the actors, not just the audience, but every single real person that's touching this work should be a part of this work.

Jo Reed:  That puts me in mind of something you said in an interview: “a piece of your own narrative is so important to your job.”

Shanta Thake:  Oh absolutely. And Again I think this is partially particular to the performing arts, but I think it's probably true--and part of the stories that we've seen about how unhappy people are in their jobs where-- and the way that the world is also shifting to say like actually I'm not going to check who I am at the door. You're going to get all of me. And, of course, there is boundaries there. But, I think, that's actually what diversity means is it means that we think your perspective as who you are is valuable. And that means your perspective is valuable if you've worked here 10 days. And it means your perspective is here if you worked here 20 years. And it means your perspective is valuable if you're 25, and if you're 65. And creating an environment where those things are true, and people feel all that they actually can contribute to the work, I think, is where the best work happens in any company, in anyway. You know, often, we find when you make the case for again, diversity, equity, inclusion, antiracism all of those things, you know, that's really just best business practices for the most part. Those are not an add-on. That's just if you want the best work to get to the most stakeholders, the most audience members, then you need the best voices around the table to be expressing themselves fully.

Jo Reed:  Amen to that. When does the Summer for the City festival that end?

Shanta Thake:  It ends actually August 19. It was supposed to end on August 14th, but we've extended to welcome the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, so that we’ll have two performances of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra on the 18th and 19th.

Jo Reed:  I feel guilty even asking you this, but are you planning things for the fall?

Shanta Thake:  Yes, that's the thing, it just keeps going.

Jo Reed:  Do you get to rest on a laurel occasionally?

Shanta Thake:  Well, the good news is that I actually am energized by the work we're doing, so it's so nice. And I think, especially, after a couple years of not being able to see the work in real life, and feeling kind of in a vacuum of planning and then what happens to your plans, then your re-planning. This energy around being in live performance actually is, I think, necessary. But, yes. Yes, we are planning into the fall and spring and next summer and the fall after that. The work will continue. And I think what's important is that these values are not just summertime values.  This is Summer for the City, but really the work that we're doing is building off of all of these same ideas. We're here for this city. We want to make sure that the audiences that felt welcomed here on the dance floor feel just as welcome in the new David Geffen Hall that we’ll be opening in October. They feel just as welcomed in the Atrium, and with the Philharmonic, and everything else on campus. So, I hope everyone will see there are many threads that we’re beginning to sew or pulling through history, really, that you'll see woven through the rest of the work that we do going forward.

Jo Reed:  Well, Shanta thank you. Thank you for giving me your time. Thank you for the wonderful work that you're doing. I was born and raised in New York, so thank you for what you're doing for my city.

Shanta Thake:  Thank you so much for having me on. Thank you for all of your incredible work. This is so important to lift up these stories in this time and I'm so grateful.

Jo Reed:  It was my pleasure. Thank you.

That is Shanta Thake Chief Artistic Director of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. As you heard the Summer for the City festival ends on August 19.  We’ll have links to Summer for the City and to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in our show notes where you can check out all of its amazing programming. You’ve been listening to Art Works produced at the National Endowment for the Arts. Follow us where ever you get your podcasts and leave us a rating on Apple, it helps people to find us. For the National Endowment for the Arts, I’m Josephine Reed, thanks for listening.


Chief Artistic Officer of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (LCPA) Shanta Thake talks about programming at the intersection of art and the needs of New York City at this pivotal moment, including bringing blood drives, food donations, and health and wellness programs to the Lincoln Center’s campus—with live musical accompaniment. She also discusses the Summer for the City festival with its 300+ free or “pay what you will” ticketed events from a Second Line to Mozart’s Requiem to social dancing to an orchestral tribute to Biggie Smalls. We also talk about the complex scope of her job, expanding on Lincoln Center’s commitment to diversity and innovation as central to all decisions, and her centering of artists themselves in conversations about ways for LCPA to move forward. Finally, we discuss the continuing influence of her two decades at The Public Theater with its determination to create theater with staff, actors, and audience as diverse as the people who ride New York’s subways.