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Rolling Out the Welcome Mat to the Arts

Lincoln Center Visitors Space
The new Lincoln Center Visitors' space (below) will replace the Harkness Atrium (above) and offer discount tickets. Photo by Mark Bussell, illustration by Dbox.
When ground was broken on Lincoln Center in 1959, its mission was to fill eyes, ears, and hearts with “all types of performing arts for a diverse audience from all walks of life.” Today, celebrating its 50th year, the largest performing arts center in the world has succeeded in setting the bar for the development and presentation of dance, music, and theater on a sprawling 16-acre campus that houses 12 arts organizations. But as the years have passed, facilities have become outdated, and new visitors have found the campus to be overwhelming and difficult to navigate.

To help Lincoln Center stay true to its mission, The Trust has made three grants since 2005 totaling $275,000 that have helped plan a discount ticket center and other projects that will welcome diverse audiences onto the campus and into theaters. Two of these grants supported the transformation of the bleak and underused atrium in Harkness Plaza into a much-anticipated redesigned Lincoln Center visitors’ space. Opening in November 2009, the new space is projected to welcome five million visitors a year, and will house ticket booths, much like TKTS in Times Square. While there, visitors can learn about shows, purchase discounted day-of tickets, rest weary feet, meet friends, or grab a bite to eat. The discounted tickets will also fill empty seats with an audience who may not otherwise be able to afford seats at the opera or symphony.

Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center, says “transforming its public spaces, expanding artistic facilities, introducing new technology, and addressing an aging infrastructure, Lincoln Center has readied itself to delight customers, thrill artists and highly satisfy the millions of visitors who are drawn to this campus each year.”

Our grants in 2005 also supported architectural fees and planning for the metamorphosis of Lincoln Center’s underwhelming stretch of 65th Street into a welcoming cultural corridor. Construction is currently underway for a pedestrian bridge over 65th Street, a restaurant, and digital displays with current offerings. “There’s an incredible amount of performance going on in the theaters of Lincoln Center,” said Kerry McCarthy, a Trust program officer. “We want to make sure that it’s not just season ticket holders being ushered inside.”

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