|KAREN BROOKS HOPKINS' SUCCESSFUL FUNDRAISING FOR ARTS AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS|
Vim Nadera: How did you start? How did you become an arts administrator?
Karen Brooks Hopkins: I began my career dabbling in acting and directing – I was always a theater person. Some friends of mine started a theater company in downtown Washington, D.C. and I wanted to work with them. They told me they only needed someone who could do the fundraising. I agreed, and ended up being very successful at it. I discovered I had the fundraising gene and the rest is history. My degree had little to do with my success as an arts administrator, but it contributed to my love of theater and all arts.
VN: As the president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), what changes have you initiated?
KBH: This is a very long answer, but the short version is that as the President of BAM for the past 32 years, I have implemented changes both from the top down and bottom up. I have strengthened the BAM Board, cleaned up our balance sheet, built up an Endowment, helped to define the strategy and implementation for constructing new facilities, and (most of all) I’ve encouraged the programming with both resources and moral support. My goal has been to bring more discipline to the management of the institution while allowing it to thrive artistically.
VN: How do you divide your self as the Chair of The Cultural Institutions Group and as a member of, say, the Mayor’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission, the Board of New York City and Company, the New York’s Convention, the Visitor’s Bureau, the Performing Arts Center Consortium, among others?
KBH: I’m a very busy person – even though some of the responsibilities mentioned are in the past, essentially, I understand how to work fast and not waste time. Every night I go home and spend two-three hours reading material that I didn’t get to finish during the work-day.
VN: Do you consider 2007 as your best year after getting appointed as the Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star and being named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in New York City Business?Can you share some secrets?
KBH: Yes, 2007 was a wonderful year for me, but this year includes getting to visit my new cultural colleagues in Manila, so I feel that 2012 is also special. Regarding secrets, I would simply say that the reading I do is not only about catching up, but also is reading for ideas to strengthen BAM and make the organization more successful. I think that gathering information in this manner has really enhanced my skill set and decision making abilities. This isn’t really a secret, but more of a process.
VN: What can you consider your personal and professional developments since then?
KBH: Since 2007 I served on the Board of Regents, the regulating body of the New York City Education Department. I was honored to serve, but the problems of education loom large. I would have liked to make a greater impact.
VN: As professor for the Brooklyn College Program for Arts Administration, what lessons have you learned?
KBH: As a professor, it was wonderful to work with students because it allowed me to reflect on my own choices and approach to solving problems. I’m sorry that I don’t have more time for teaching these days.
VN: What experiences do you treasure in coming up with your book Successful Fundraising for Arts & Cultural Organizations?
KBH: I have met many amazing philanthropic people in my career who truly love the arts, and it has been an honor to not only have met them, but worked with them, and succeeded in gaining their support for BAM’s programs. The best part of fundraising is the donors.
VN: What tips can you give to any Karen Brooks Hopkins wanna-be?
KBH: Some tips: don’t take rejection personally, try to maintain some sense of humor, focus on results, and don’t get dragged into useless politicking that drains your energy.
VN: How was your first Philippine experience?
KBH: It has been an honor to meet and work with so many dedicated cultural professionals here in the Philippines in our last several days. Ron Feiner and I would like to thank our hosts from the CCP and the American Embassy for making our visit possible. We are impressed by the vitality of the Filipino cultural community and believe that arts managers in this country will, through their good work, truly enhance the quality of life for artists, audiences, and the communities they serve. Over the past week, we have had an opportunity to discuss a range of topics including fundraising and sponsorship, intellectual property rights, infrastructure concerns and most importantly, delineating the business issues that must be in place for a cultural enterprise to succeed and make meaningful impact on the public.