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An Innovative Collaboration Reimagines and Reactivates Public Space for a New Era, from New York to Athens

Dec 03, 2020
The collaboration between the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts aims to bring new approaches in cultural engagement to public spaces in COVID era and beyond.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) announce a new partnership that will welcome the public to reactivated outdoor spaces of the New York City cultural hub in 2021, enlivened by a substantial knowledge-exchange link and artistic collaboration with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens. The grant is part of SNF’s $100 million global COVID-19 relief initiative.

Through the grant, Lincoln Center’s iconic 16-acre Manhattan campus will be utilized as an “agora,” a public gathering place at the center of civic life, through artistic and community activations that speak to our current moment. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation-Lincoln Center (SNF-LC) Agora Initiative will help respond to the devastating consequences the pandemic has had across the cultural sector, particularly the performing arts. A desire to give Athens a similar space, one that truly belongs to the public, guided SNF in both creating the SNFCC through its largest grant to date and in giving it over to the people of Greece in 2017.

SNF is dedicated to fostering the vibrancy of civic life, from widely shared access to stellar arts programming, to open dialogue across divides, to informed democratic engagement: a commitment that drives SNF’s ongoing support of public programming at the SNFCC. Public space is the physical infrastructure for all of this and, to be effective, it must be thoughtfully activated, especially now with the challenges posed by the pandemic. Bringing Lincoln Center and the SNFCC’s deep and varied expertise together around a shared vision will allow benefits of the collaboration to flow in both directions across the Atlantic, creating “Twin Agoras.”

“The pandemic has underscored two fundamental realities about public space,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos, “how vital public space—especially outdoor public space—is to civic life, and how readily geographic distance can be collapsed through the power of technology and collaboration. SNF truly believes in this collaboration for the same simple reason we believe in the value of these public agoras: when you bring people with great ideas together, what comes out is greater than the sum of the parts. We can’t wait to see what the Stavros Niarchos Foundation-Lincoln Center (SNF-LC) Agora Initiative brings to life.”

“This year has reinvigorated our commitment to the arts as central to civic dialogue and engagement. We’ve used our 16-acre campus as never before – finding new creativity and space for artists to address some of the pressing issues of our moment,” said Henry Timms, President and CEO of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “Dialogue, exchange, and collaboration is at the heart of so much of the art that changes ourselves and our world for the better. We are truly grateful to be working so closely with our colleagues at SNF and look forward to bringing this initiative into the public realm.”

“Through this partnership, we aim to learn from each other, enrich our programming through our shared initiatives, and nurture an ongoing dialogue between our Twin Agoras. We are grateful to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for envisioning and enabling this opportunity and for its continued support to the SNFCC,” said Elly Andriopoulou, Managing Director of the SNFCC.

As part of the Twin Agoras, the two institutions will provide artists, thinkers, and creative professionals with the space to create new work that responds dynamically to current events, to foster the exchange of ideas, as well as to experiment and investigate the notion of mirroring events and sparking conversations across continents. The partnership will also provide opportunities for administrative leaders at both organizations to exchange best practices and learn from one another while navigating the challenges of the pandemic and beyond.

In 2021 and beyond, Lincoln Center and the SNFCC will present innovative works of art, including site- specific installations and performances. Lincoln Center is currently planning an outdoor community stage as one element of these activations, inspired by small concerts given on campus this fall.

SNF’s global COVID-19 relief initiative has focused both on the immediate needs facing vulnerable communities around the world, like relief for New York artists, and the longer-term needs that will underpin a vibrant recovery, like the reactivation of public space. Other grants have gone to City Parks Foundation to help maintain quality outdoor public space in New York, to poverty-fighting organization Robin Hood to help meet the needs of New Yorkers at greatest risk, and to Médecins Sans Frontières to provide health care and emergency relief to refugees in Greece.