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A Rewarding Career in the Arts

Karen Brooks Hopkins, President Emerita of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and senior advisor to the Onassis Foundation talks about her inspiring career in performing arts. Personal photos: Courtesy Karen Brooks Hopkins. Photos of BAM Buildings by Louie Fleck: Courtesy BAM Hamm Archives.

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Karen Brooks Hopkins

Karen Brooks Hopkins is the President Emerita of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where she worked for thirty-six years, serving sixteen as its president. As president, Hopkins supervised the institution’s 230 full-time employees and its multiple theaters and cinemas, ranging from the 2,100-seat BAM Howard Gilman Opera House to the flexible 250-seat Fishman Space.

Hopkins has served as the chair of the Cultural Institutions Group, has been a member of the Mayor’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission, the New York State Board of Regents, and has served on the Boards of NYC & Company, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, and currently sits on the Trust for Governors Island.

Hopkins was appointed Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star by the government of Sweden, named Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Republic of France, and awarded the King Olav’s Medal by Norway. She was designated a “Woman of Achievement” by the professional association, Women in Development in 2013, and in that same year was named one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in New York” by Crain’s New York Business. Hopkins was named one of ten esteemed business leaders appointed to the inaugural Crain’s Hall of Fame in 2015.

Among the many honors BAM received during her tenure was the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists and arts organizations by the US government. President Obama presented the medal to Hopkins at a White House ceremony in 2014.

Her widely read book, Successful Fundraising for Arts & Cultural Organizations, is currently in its second edition. A graduate of the University of Maryland, she received her MFA from George Washington University in Washington, DC. She has received honorary degrees from St. Frances College, Pratt Institute, Long Island University, and a prestigious Doctor of Laws from Columbia University.

Following her retirement from BAM in June 2015, Hopkins served as the Inaugural Senior Fellow in Residence at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, senior advisor to and board member of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, advisor to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), board member of the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, and served from 2016 – 2021 as the Nasher Haemisegger Fellow at SMU DataArts.

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