An Interview with Martin I. Kagan, Pace’s Director of Cultural Affairs

Martin I. Kagan has served as Director of Cultural Affairs at Pace University since 2010. The Downtown Alliance recently sat down with him to ask about his role, Pace Presents, and Pace’s role in the Lower Manhattan arts and culture scene.

Why did you want to work at Pace?

Pace is an exceptional place to work.  The President’s vision to develop Pace as the most important and most visible cultural institution in Lower Manhattan provides an exceptional platform for me to produce world-class artists in the Schimmel Center for the Arts. He is open to new ideas and is excited to welcome artists and audiences from around the world to explore the resources of the university.  In addition, we have a well-known and respected undergraduate and graduate performing arts department that can benefit from artists visiting the campus and working directly with students in the format of master classes and workshops.

What are you doing to raise awareness about Schimmel’s programming?

Working closely with the Cultural Affairs and university staffs, we have assembled a marketing plan consisting of ads, mailings, e-mail blasts, web presence, posters, promotions, internal TV screens and publicity to raise awareness of our inaugural season of Pace Presents.

What does the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts offer to Lower Manhattan?

The Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts is the largest and most sophisticated performing arts center in Lower Manhattan.  With seating of over 650, we are able to attract exceptional artists from around the world in a very intimate setting.  In addition, we provide a home for some of the best local arts organizations — such as the New York Chinese Opera Society, the Village Light Opera Guild and Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra — to perform.  Our ticket prices are very affordable, and we offer special pricing for students. The Schimmel Theatre is located in the heart of Lower Manhattan and easily accessible from many subway and bus lines.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in drawing attention to your programming?

Pace Presents is in its inaugural season. As a new program that is competing for entertainment dollars in the entertainment capital of the world, we are facing an uphill battle to gain public awareness of our programming and theater.  Our concentration is on the growing residential market in Lower Manhattan while trying to attract attention throughout the five boroughs.  Our goal is to have the growing Lower Manhattan population think first about what is happening at the Schimmel Theatre before they look for other venues around New York.

What’s your personal favorite theatrical production or all time?

One of the first operas I ever experienced was a production of I Puritani at the Metropolitan Opera with Pavarotti, Sutherland and Morris in the mid-1970s.  I sat in awe throughout the whole performance and knew afterwards that I had seen and heard an amazing theatrical and vocal event.

Why did you choose this career path?

Even though I have a degree in Geography and Planning and a Masters in Environmental Studies, I knew early on that I wanted to have a career in managing the arts.  I did my MES final paper on a plan for the arts for a new planned community.  They hired me and I was able to implement some of my ideas.  I then went on to manage a dance company and never looked back.

Tell us what is on tap for 2012.

We have an exceptional spring season of dance and music.  March 2 brings us the Carolina Chocolate Drops, followed by an evening of cabaret by the opera soprano Patricia Racette.  We end with two evenings of Tango by the Mariela Franganillo Company on April 13 and 14 plus a special bon voyage concert by the New York Choral Society prior to their tour of Sicily.