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Brooklyn Academy of Music President Gina Duncan Is Transforming the Arts for Future Generations

Design by Channing Smith

The Brooklyn Academy of Music, a multi-arts center located in New York, has long been a space for progressive and avant-garde programming. And now, as BAM's first Black president, Gina Duncan wants that legacy to include a community that empowers women and artists of color.

“I've been at BAM twice now,” she says. (Before becoming president, Duncan served as vice president of cinema, then VP of film and strategic programming.) “The first time around, I was really proud of what we were able to achieve in the film program. We changed the artistic vision of the program to respond to the community, but also to respond to what was happening in the larger film world–to shine a light on the contributions that women and people of color have made to film.”

As a child, Duncan actually had other aspirations than the arts. “I really liked stars and the idea of being an astronaut,” she says. “But even as a child, I knew that would be too much.” So she made a very early career pivot to become a librarian. And while that didn't come to fruition either, Duncan does look back on her childhood dream jobs and sees a thread that connects her goals then to her work now: the desire to build community through connection.

<h1 class="title">BAM Gala 2023 Honors Spike Lee, David Byrne, And Claire Wood With Performance By St. Vincent And Hosted By Hanif Abdurraqib</h1><cite class="credit">Noam Galai/Getty Images</cite>

BAM Gala 2023 Honors Spike Lee, David Byrne, And Claire Wood With Performance By St. Vincent And Hosted By Hanif Abdurraqib

Noam Galai/Getty Images

For Duncan, her work at BAM is about looking to the future and building a strong foundation for the next generation. “I spend a lot of time trying my best to prioritize time for young people in their twenties who are still trying to figure out what they want to do,” she says.

For the latest installment of Glamour’s Doing the Work, Duncan speaks about her productive morning routine, her go-to work attire, and the last great book she read.

Glamour: What time do you wake up in the morning?

Gina Duncan: I wake up around 6:30 a.m. every morning.

What's the first thing you do?

The first thing I do is play Wordle and Connections, and then I have coffee and fit in a workout.

Nice! What's your favorite workout?

I have two favorites. I am a part of a local community where we do group workouts, which is for fun. I've been doing that since the pandemic. My other favorite is my new obsession: Tread 50. It's a 50-minute treadmill class at Orange Theory. I usually do it on the weekends when I have 50 minutes for it, but it's like playing a video game for me. I'm always trying to beat myself.

When you were a child, what was your dream job?

I wanted to be a librarian, which is dissimilar to what I'm doing now, but it's still similar because it was about building community through connection, literature, and the arts. So there was a natural programming element to it that I liked.

What was the last great book you read?

Real Estate by Deborah Levy. I ran into an old friend who suggested it. Levy wrote about her life through the lens of real estate at different phases; I recently bought a home, and she's a single woman buying a home, so there were a lot of parallels there.

Real Estate: A Living Autobiography

$12.19.00, Amazon

What's your go-to comfortable work outfit?

I like Roucha. They have good structure tops and bottoms that are incredibly comfortable. They have a pair of pants that I think are essentially really fancy sweat material, but you can't tell. I'm constantly running around, so I want to be comfortable. I also really need comfortable shoes, so I like Schutz. They have really comfortable loafers that I've been wearing a lot.

$.00,

Christie Leather Flat

$148.00, Schutz

What's your biggest vice?

I really like bread. My family's Jamaican, so I love hardo and cocoa bread with its really big, thick pieces. I try and be good about it, but it has to be worth it.

What's your go-to thank-you gift?

Blackwing Pencils. I love writing in pencil. I got into it during the pandemic where I got up in the morning and wrote down what I want to do for the day. There's something about writing in pencil that makes it feel good.

During your time at BAM, what has been the most impactful project that you've worked on?

I've been at BAM twice now. The first time around, I was really proud of what we were able to achieve in the film program. We changed the artistic vision of the program to respond to the [local] community, but also to respond to what was happening in the larger film world—in an effort to shine a light on the contributions that women and people of color have made to film.

What are you most excited to see in the future of BAM?

I'm looking forward to having Alvin Ailey back this spring. He was a resident artist at BAM in his early days so it's been wonderful to have the company back. It feels like a bit of a return to home.


Originally Appeared on Glamour