Jon Yanofsky: Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts' New Executive Director

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The Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts has been presenting world-class programming to South Brooklyn’s multicultural audiences since 1954.

Though the Center’s steady organizational balance and strong community bond is due in part to the creative achievements of its artistic leaders, its success is not grounded in artistic innovation alone. Like other successful arts organizations, the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts is a business. As such, its institutional structure extends beyond creative intentions to include a mission, a budget, and other operative goals.  In order to achieve their artistic, financial, and operative goals, arts companies like the Brooklyn Center for Performing Arts secure the services of an Executive Director.

The Executive Director of an arts organization works in a leadership position parallel to the company’s Artistic Director. While the Artistic Director is primarily occupied with selection and interpretation of artworks presented, the Executive Director focuses on realizing artistic dreams in a fiscally stable manner.  To do so, the ED develops, implements, and then monitors long- and short-term strategic plans designed to ensure an arts company’s artistic, financial, and operating success. With strong executive leadership, theater, dance, and opera companies are able to survive and even expand. Without it, many companies suffer from organizational imbalance or, worse, collapse.

Luckily, even in the midst of a swiftly accelerating digital revolution, Brooklyn’s regular shifts in demographic, and a fifteen-month lack of executive leadership, the Brooklyn Center for Performing Arts has remained vibrant. Now under the leadership of recently named Executive Director Jon Yanofsky, the Center is moving into an exciting new chapter.

Jon Yanofsky

Jon Yanofsky

A Philadelphia native with roots in Washington D.C. and White Plains, NY, Yanofsky began his studies at the University of Chicago, eventually transferring to UC Santa Cruz, where he graduated with degrees in Sociology and African American Studies. Though Yanofsky has extensive experience as a performing arts and nonprofit professional, he does not identify himself as an artist. In fact, his initial experiences with art—specifically, music—were rather negative. As he recalls, he was “forced to play the trumpet at a young age” but “got out of it as soon as it was possible for him to play a sport instead.”

Nonetheless, Yanofsky was often surrounded by music—his sister is a classically trained flautist and many of Yanofsky’s friends are musicians.  And eventually, during his time in Chicago, Yanofsky realized his passion for jazz and began to seek out musical experiences,  After hearing a recording of John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” he came to the conclusion that “music can express more about the human condition than any sermon, political treatise, or piece of legislation.“ Guided by his  understanding of the power of artistic expression, Yanofsky was led to a career as a performing arts and non-profit professional and, eventually, to his current position at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts.

Yanofsky acknowledges that the Center, like other performing arts organizations, contributes significantly to NYC’s economy. Yet, he believes that the Center also makes an impact on a more intimate level, as it “encourages community members’ emotional fulfillment, mental stimulation, and broadening of perspective. A performance encourages you to imagine, reflect, consider on levels that perhaps you had never encountered.”  Plus, the Center’s culturally relevant programming makes these experiences even more meaningful; Yanofsky believes seeing one’s own culture represented on a stage is “tremendously compelling” and having ability to “visit another culture while staying in 718 area code” is truly remarkable.

His grasp of the emotional, intellectual, and personal impact of exposure to performing arts lends some insight into Yanofsky’s considerable enthusiasm for developing relationships between the Center and New York City’s educational institutions. Yanofsky is firmly dedicated to presenting educational programming to New York City school children, and sees this work as “an opportunity to give children early, affordable access to the performing arts” even though “arts are being eliminated [from school curricula].”  And, on another end of the educational spectrum, Yanofsky is committed to encouraging even more interaction between the Brooklyn Center for Performing Arts and Brooklyn College so that the Center “contributes to the general fabric of the collegiate community” and “enhances the college experience” for scholars, students, and instructors.

Yanofsky takes on the role of Executive Director of the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts with sights set high, aiming to bolster patron and donor support, present relevant, engaging programming, maintain the organization’s financial health, and establish a comprehensive social media presence. His approach is optimistic, proactive, and refreshingly art-focused—a welcome addition to NYC’s creative community.

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