Sam Miller was appointed President of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council last September. A devoted advocate for the arts, he was previously President of Leveraging Investments in Creativity, Executive Director of the New England Foundation for the Arts, and President and Executive Director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious dance festival.
The Downtown Alliance sat down with the 58-year-old Rhode Island native –- and recent transplant to Lower Manhattan — to ask about his new role and LMCC’s acquisition of the River To River Festival:
LMCC has been the leading voice of arts and culture in Lower Manhattan for 38 years. How do you keep that voice strong?
By having a clear vision for the role LMCC has, and will continue to play, through an emphasis on strategic partnerships with the key players in Lower Manhattan, beginning with the Downtown Alliance.
You played a lead role in transforming Jacob’s Pillow from a summer dance festival and school to a year-round dance center. What type of transformation do you have in mind for LMCC?
First of all, our plan for the future is built on our core, signature programs, which are so important to artists in New York City. We are now looking to develop new initiatives that allow us to work with the artists we support and connect to audiences more deeply and broadly in Lower Manhattan.
What are some of LMCC’s hidden gems?
I am struck by how essential our artist support programs are to artists in New York, and how distinctive and critical our residency programs are. Governors Island, for example, isn’t a hidden gem but it makes visible the value of our residency programs.
LMCC also just became the lead partner of the River To River Festival. What has the Festival meant to New York City and to Lower Manhattan?
Historically, River To River has exemplified the spirit of recovery and renewal in Lower Manhattan. Its growth over the past 10 years has also revealed the range of cultural opportunities that are available for residents, workers and visitors in Lower Manhattan.
How will LMCC’s involvement reshape the Festival?
We have an opportunity, working with the current and new partners, to think not just about what the content of the Festival should be, but the form. We are asking: What shape should the Festival take over the next 10 years? This is an opportunity for us to develop with our partners a template for a sustainable, diverse, dense program that will be both distinct from and complementary to the year-round cultural programming in Lower Manhattan and the other key festivals in New York City beyond Lower Manhattan.
What would you like to see as part of the Festival’s 10th anniversary season this summer?
The Festival is a celebration of a range of venues and voices in Lower Manhattan that will give people a rewarding experience during the summer and encourage them to take advantage of the restaurants, retail, historic and cultural attractions available in Lower Manhattan throughout the year.
What’s your favorite part of Lower Manhattan?
Every day I walk to work from West Street to my office on Maiden Lane, so my favorite thing is walking from the Hudson River to the East River.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
Secretary of State.
What was your first job?
My first job was playing Tiny Tim in the Trinity Repertory Company’s A Christmas Carol production in Providence, RI. The thing I remember was I had to sing Silent Night a cappella every night during the holidays for three years.
How much did you earn?
Probably about 10 dollars.