Henry Timms—who next month begins his tenure as the 11th president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts—has been thinking a lot about power. The topic is relevant to his current role as President and CEO of the 92nd Street Y and also as the co-author, with Jeremy Heimans, of the influential book New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World—and How to Make It Work for You. The 2018 bestseller takes a deep dive into the changing nature of workplace dynamics, social movements, community building, fundraising, and more. A cultural guidebook of sorts, it has become a must-read for established leaders of organizations of all types and sizes, as well as for a new generation of thinkers, makers, and influencers. As David Brooks put it in The New York Times, the book is "the best window I have seen into this new world."

Timms is well positioned, then, to take the helm of the country's largest performing-arts complex—home of 11 renowned organizations—within a shifting landscape of federal funding and budget priorities, increased competition for audiences' attention and loyalty, and a ubiquitous digital culture that has simultaneously disrupted the performing-arts sector and amplified opportunities for artists and creators in all disciplines. As he has said, "There’s a lot of doomsaying around the arts, but one way of thinking about this question is we've never had more artists or audiences than we do right now. The question is: how do we connect with them?"

The Power of the Performing Arts: Leading a Center in a Decentralized Age
Photo © Michael Creagh
Henry Timms

How, indeed? The question could not be timelier for Lincoln Center, coinciding as it does with the 60th anniversary of the campus's 1959 groundbreaking ceremony, as well as with reinvigorated plans to renovate David Geffen Hall, the home of the New York Philharmonic. The anniversary celebration, which kicks off on Saturday, May 4, with free, family-friendly events on Josie Robertson Plaza and performances across campus, as well as the transformative architectural project, offer a key opportunity for Lincoln Center. Not only will they celebrate the past six decades of connecting culture and community, but also put the focus squarely on the next 60 years and beyond. Timms, who also cofounded the successful online philanthropic movement #GivingTuesday, understands the importance of keeping nimble and flexible in today’s hyperconnected reality.

As he says, "My goal is to be a collaborative partner for all our extraordinary constituent organizations, and to be an advocate and ambassador for the performing arts in all its forms, whether it's a dazzling new opera, a world premiere by a young composer, a dance workshop for children on the autism spectrum, a student recital, or any number of other incredible events that happen here year-round."

This inclusive approach is very much in keeping with the thinking of LCPA's first president, John D. Rockefeller 3rd, whose words have guided the organization for the past six decades: "The arts are not for the privileged few, but for the many. Their place is not on the periphery of daily life, but at its center."

"My goal is to be a collaborative partner for all our extraordinary constituent organizations, and to be an advocate and ambassador for the performing arts in all its forms."

In New Power, Timms and Heimans recognize that amid the noise of the relentless news and information cycle, it can be a challenge to inspire and mobilize a crowd to one's cause, whether it's a social-justice movement, a political action, or sustained loyalty—in the form of attendance or donations—to a single organization or brand. And yet there is plenty of room for optimism.

In Timms's view, "It is a real irony that in an age when we are all so much more connected by technology, too many of us are ultimately feeling disconnected, not just from each other but from those things that truly bring joy and purpose into our lives. The performing arts—like no other force—help us rediscover not only the spirit of community but also a sense of real meaning."


Eileen Willis is Editorial Director for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.


For more information on Lincoln Center's 60th anniversary celebrations, visit lincolncenter.org/60.