Bard News & Events

Press Release


Mark Primoff

July 18, 2002, New York, NY - Bard College President Leon Botstein, today announced the appointment of Jonathan Levi as Director of the new Bard Performing Arts Center, scheduled to open in spring 2003. The $62 million performing arts center, designed by Frank O. Gehry Partners with acoustics by Yasuhisa Toyota, is on the Bard College campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, 90 miles north of New York City.

"We are delighted to welcome Jonathan Levi," commented Dr. Botstein. "His broad experience across a variety of fields will be invaluable in helping to shape the programmatic direction for the new Bard Performing Arts Center and help position the new institution as one of the country's leading cultural centers."

"The opportunity to work with an exquisite building, a first-class international faculty, and a musician and educator like Leon Botstein was a temptation I could hardly pass up," says Levi. "I see the Bard Center becoming a mecca for generations of lovers of culture who want their senses to be challenged."

Artist, Writer, Educator - Uniquely Matched to New Center

Jonathan Levi's multi-faceted career has included creative and administrative positions in music, education and theater, as well as an eight-year stint as U.S. Editor for Granta magazine, which he co-founded in 1979. He is currently co-artistic director of the Nine Circles Chamber Theatre, based in New York City. The company adapted his short story The Scrimshaw Violin into an opera, with music by Bruce Saylor for a world premiere at the 92nd Street Y in December 2001. He is the author of the novel A Guide for the Perplexed, numerous short stories and articles that have appeared in wide range of magazines including Granta, GQ, and The Nation. He also serves as a contributing writer to the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

As Director of the National Literary Audience Development Project of the 92nd Street Y's Unterberg Poetry Center in 1998, Levi produced a stage version of Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky's translation of Dante's Inferno, which premiered in New York before touring the United States.

In the early 90's, Levi created New Opera for New Ears, a joint program of the Metropolitan Opera Guild and The Kennedy Center, and produced Carly Simon's first opera, Romulus Hunt, directed by Francesca Zambello in 1993.

A graduate of Yale University, Mr. Levi studied violin with Broadus Erle and Syoko Aki, and went on to perform and record with jazz and rock bands in the United States and Europe.

Jonathan Levi and Leon Botstein

In January 2000, New York City School Chancellor Harold O. Levy asked Mr. Levi to join his staff to oversee Arts and Cultural Affairs for the New York City School system. During Levi's tenure, he initiated a variety of programs to rebuild school libraries and reinvigorate the arts, including organizing a master class with Isaac Stern for more than forty superintendents of the school system.

While at the Board of Education, Levi met Dr. Botstein and learned of his concept for a new kind of high-school for public-school children eager to do college-level work. Six months later, the Bard Early College High School opened in Brooklyn to national acclaim. Now, having completed its first successful year, the Bard High School Early College moves this fall into a new, permanent location at 525 East Houston St. in Manhattan, where it will double in size to 500 students. In addition, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently funded a national initiative to establish 70 new early college high schools based on Bard High School Early College model.

"I was impressed with Leon's ideas," says Levi, "but I was astonished by his ability to rally the forces of Bard around him with such vigor and speed."

Creating Synergy

As Director, Jonathan Levi will address a wide and varied constituency. The Bard Performing Arts Center will provide a forum for artistic expression in many disciplines, serving not only as a reflection of the emerging and established creative talents on campus, but as a destination where the public can experience the highest level of cultural presentations from around the world to be presented and produced by the Center.

In particular, the new facility will enable the highly regarded Bard Music Festival to develop in new and expanded directions. New programs in other disciplines such as dance, theater, and opera are envisioned. The American Symphony Orchestra (Lynne Meloccaro, Executive Director) will serve as orchestra-in-residence and play a significant role in the new Center.

Levi notes that, "The new Bard Center demonstrates the growing significance of campus-based arts centers to the development of exciting work and excited audiences. I have already begun working with a variety of people, both within and outside the College, on the programs that will shape the new Center. I look forward to releasing plans this fall for our gala opening and our first summer in the new facility."

A Building Reflecting its Mission

The complex nature of the new center required an innovative approach to its design. In 1996, Leon Botstein turned to architect Frank Gehry and commissioned him to help realize, under one roof, the multiple functions and personalities of the envisioned Performing Arts Center. As Dr. Botstein states, "If you are going to design a building in which the arts are created and experienced, you need to have a building that is in itself aesthetically distinguished."

Gehry received the commission prior to the opening of his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, a titanium masterwork, considered one of the world's great modern buildings, which clearly established Gehry as one of the leading architects of the 20th century. Gehry's past work has included notable buildings in similar environments, such as The Frederick. R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Vontz Center for Molecular Studies at the University of Cincinnati. These buildings have successfully served their programs, and have become destinations for non-campus visitors. Gehry's other anticipated project for 2003 is Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the new home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, due to open in fall 2003.

The 105,000 square-foot Bard Center consists of two performance venues and a series of rehearsal studios for dance and theater, along with support facilities. Theater One, an intimate 900-seat space with an orchestra and two balcony sections, also features a concert shell and forestage lift that will allow conversion for symphonic music performances. By either reducing or expanding the stage space, the hall can play equally well for theater or dance, chamber recital or opera.

LUMA Theater, a black-box venue, will be used primarily during the school year by Bard's dance and drama departments led by Jean Churchill and JoAnne Akalaitis, and for more experimental productions during the summer. It features a smaller orchestra pit, traps, and a modified fly tower with a flexible seating capacity of up to 300.

The Bard Performing Arts Center's exterior projects a cohesive unity through a series of interconnected and overlapping undulating canopies of soft-brushed stainless steel wrapped around the performance venues, rehearsal studios and support facilities. The exterior cladding material was chosen because of its ability to reflect light and colors of the sky and the slopes of the surrounding landscape.


A Center Rooted in a Legacy of Innovation

The Bard Performing Arts Center is a new addition to an innovative educational history dating back to Bard College's founding in 1860. Joining together the liberal arts and progressive education traditions, Bard's curriculum unites the goals of both the generalist and the specialist in a program of study that has brought the College to the forefront of innovation in higher education, as well as establishing it as a force for the rebirth of the role of intellectual thought in public life. Across the disciplines - the arts, languages, and literature, natural sciences and mathematics, and social studies - Bard students gain both depth and breath in their courses of study, from their first days in the College's unique Language and Thinking program for freshmen to senior tutorials and the completion of the Senior Project. Through Bard's extensive network of institutions and collaborations, the College's undergraduates are able to interact with scholars and artists from throughout the world and to experience cultural and scholarly work at its highest level.

Bard is a private four-year residential college of the liberal arts and sciences, offering the bachelor of arts degree with concentrations in over 40 academic programs in four divisions: the arts, languages and literature, natural sciences and mathematics, and social studies. Bard has 1,250 undergraduate students and 200 graduate students in four graduate programs. It also has numerous cultural and research institutions, such as the Center for Curatorial Studies Museum, the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, the Levy Economics Institute, and the Institute for Writing and Thinking. Simon's Rock College of Bard, which became part of Bard College in 1979, is the nation's only four-year college of the liberal arts and sciences designed expressly for younger scholars. It was founded on the ideal that many bright, highly motivated younger people aged 15 or 16 are ready to undertake serious college level work.

The new Bard Performing Arts Center will strengthen the traditions established by the College, while offering students in the performing arts a world-class venue in which to work and learn.

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This event was last updated on 05-23-2005