The New York Observer talks to new ArtPlace executive director Jamie Bennett

arts / Article

Jamie Bennett was named executive director of ArtPlace America in early 2014. This month, the New York Observer profiles Bennett in a piece titled: "Changing Places: A Veteran of MoMA, the NEA and the Department of Cultural Affairs Is Using Art as a Tool for Social Transformation."

Click here to read the complete story and below for an excerpt.

"In spring 1996, Jamie Bennett was assigned to escort Kitty Carlisle Hart into the Museum of Modern Art’s Party in the Garden. She took his arm, and they were making their way to her table when Times society photographer Bill Cunningham leaped into their path. Mr. Bennett instinctively flashed his brightest smile and spent the rest of the week telling his friends to look for it in the Style section.

“That Sunday,” he recalled in a recent interview, “I got up extra early, picked up my coffee and bagel at Bagels on the Square and ran to the bodega on the corner of Bleecker and Morton.” When he opened the paper to show it to the woman behind the register, the shot was prominently displayed, but Mr. Bennett had been cropped out—all but his left elbow.

The irony of this particular body part appearing in the paper is that Mr. Bennett, 41, has the least sharp elbows in the cultural universe. Over the past few years, he has ascended the ranks in a variety of high-profile institutions—MoMA, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts—without stepping on toes. He is that rare cultural figure who is universally loved, whose enthusiasm for high-, middle- and lowbrow art infects anyone within arm’s reach.

“He makes his friends fans,” said Kimberly Watson, a former MoMA colleague now with Alvin Ailey. “Anyone who has spent time with Jamie has a tale of attending at least one opening, reading, performance or concert that we would not have ventured to without his invitation.”

The trailblazing Broadway producer and Mr. Bennett’s boss at the National Endowment for the Arts Rocco Landesman said, “After a career spent so far in making other people look good, he’s now going to be the head guy..."

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