The Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center — the new multi-space arts and culture complex scheduled to open in 2023 — has named Khady Kamara as its inaugural executive director. Kamara comes to the performing arts center from Second Stage Theater, where she was named executive director in September 2020 after a long and distinguished tenure at Arena Stage in Washington.
“Khady’s impressive leadership qualities were immediately evident when I worked with her at Arena Stage as a guest artist,” said Bill Rauch, the performing art center's artistic director, in an email to Gothamist. “Through the years, her accomplishments at Arena Stage and most recently at Second Stage here in New York, have been extraordinary, including her work with Lynn Nottage’s play 'Clyde’s.' She shares the values that the performing arts center and its leadership team are committed to accomplishing. In many ways we are kindred spirits, and I am delighted to partner with someone who will both support and challenge me to be the best artistic director I can be.”
Originally from Senegal, Kamara was educated at Wells College and the University of Maryland. She serves on the board of the League of Resident Theaters and was elected to the board of governors of the Broadway League last December. In June, she received a Tony Award for her participation in the revival staging of “Take Me Out.”
“I am thrilled to work with the board of directors, Bill Rauch, and the entire team to build the Perelman Performing Arts Center,” Kamara said in a prepared statement. “It will be a place of expansive creativity, where artists and audiences together will explore and embrace the complexities of our shared existence. By making this wonderful new institution on the World Trade Center campus a reality, we are demonstrating the power of art to foster community and bring people together.”
Kamara joins the Perelman staff on a part-time basis starting this month, and will transition to full-time as the center’s opening draws nearer in 2023. Located on the corner of Fulton and Greenwich Streets, the center is expected to produce original programming as well as collaborations with outside partners. Designed by New York City architecture firm REX, and under construction since 2018, the center comprises three performance spaces of adjustable capacity and configuration, as well as indoor and outdoor public spaces.
The performing arts center is named for Ronald O. Perelman, the billionaire investor who donated $75 million to its construction. The chairman of its board of directors is billionaire and former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and its artistic leadership is densely populated with marquee names like Barbara Streisand, Ivo van Hove, Lynn Nottage, and Julie Taymor.
Perelman touted the center’s impending opening in an op-ed published by the New York Post on Sept. 11 of this year. “The vision was to use the arts to give a shot in the arm to what had historically been a 9-5 business district,” Perelman wrote. “And I was a big believer it could work. Music and the arts have an economic power as well as a healing power.”
However, the highly anticipated center has already attracted criticism. On Wednesday, the arts publication Hyperallergic reported that during a September public hearing, a spokesperson for the performing arts center endorsed a plan for a neighboring residential tower — 5 World Trade Center — to open without being fully affordable, despite opposition from activists pushing for increased affordable housing in Lower Manhattan.