Karen Brooks Hopkins’ BAM Tour Essay

BAM…And Then It Hit Me was published at the end of the pandemic in 2021.  The actual publication of the book was a total struggle because of all of the extraordinary supply chain issues plaguing the world at that time including paper supply shortage, lack of shipping containers, limited availability of vessels to actually ship the books, a massive backlog unloading the books at the port of Long Beach followed by zero truckers available to drive the books to the warehouse in Nashville, culminating with problems at the warehouse getting the books stickered and prepped to sell.

To say it was frustrating would be a kind way to describe how I felt after taking four (4) years to write the book.  But, at last, powerHouse and I surmounted the obstacles and the most beautiful book in the world (in my humble opinion) arrived and we were ready to go!

BAM…And Then It Hit Me, a memoir of my thirty-six (36) years at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), America’s oldest performing arts center, has over three hundred (300) pictures, all kinds of crazy (and, hopefully, entertaining) footnotes, and spectacular design by Francesca Richer, with significant fact checking overseen by Louie Fleck in the BAM Archive.   The audio version of the book is also available on Audible where even I (a world class talker) struggled to read aloud for 6 hours a day.

In terms of content, I tried to tell the BAM story through three (3) strands of information, (i) tales of artists and celebrities (such as, Princess Diana, Paul Simon and the legendary director, Peter Brook, among many others) (ii) reflections on fundraising and leadership (this is the how to part) and (iii) thoughts regarding the way we can power up neighborhoods everywhere by investing in and supporting the presence of cultural anchors in communities.

After the book was finally available, I decided, with the support of the Onassis Foundation (on whose Board I serve) to embark on an old-fashioned, in-person world tour.  My goal, simply, was to be a champion for the arts and to spread that gospel to every place on the planet that wanted to hear the story.  Mostly, my gracious hosts were, of course, theaters, colleges and universities and bookstores!  By the time the tour was complete (including several zoom sessions), I made more than thirty-eight (38) stops all over the globe with the assistance of the amazing Mary Reilly (BAM’s former long-term Director of Artist Services) who managed all the logistics of our operation.

It was an astonishing experience to travel literally everywhere and to find that, while each place was unique, they all shared the firm belief that the arts can make a transformative and positive difference in our lives.  I know it may sound corny, but honestly my far-ranging travels reinforced my passion and commitment to delivering this message. And so I spoke to every elected official, donor, arts administrator and loyal audience member that wanted to listen.   I was also fortunate that several great artists and leaders served as participants, panelists, moderators and sometimes even performances were part of my presentations.  Thank you, John Turturro, Arturo O’Farrill, Lara Downes, Lesley Manville, Oskar Eustis, Louise Herron, Paul Holdengraber, Carla Perlo, Laurie Cumbo, Sam Holland, Dina Aldor, Indira Etwaroo, Karen Wong, Sade Lythcott, Jennifer Homans, Phloeum Prim, Mariet Westermann and so many others.

While I won’t share each experience with you, I will mention a few of my tour stops.  Of course, I began at BAM in our beloved Harvey Theater where family, friends, BAM staff, Board members and BAM-goers gathered to hear the tales of the crazy shows, fundraising and relive the rise of Brooklyn from Manhattan wannabe to the coolest neighborhood on the planet.

My journey then took me to locations ranging from the National Theater in London to NYU Abu Dhabi, to the miraculous Sydney Opera House, to a Yale University Management Summit, an economic development conference in Oklahoma City, a Tel Aviv auditorium, a Liechtenstein Cinema, a Dallas Texas Women’s Club, and other incredible destinations around the world.

One of my final stops in Phnom Penh, Cambodia was particularly memorable.  Cambodia is a poor country with a tragic history.  So many people were killed during the horrific regime of the Khmer Rouge that the beautiful artistic traditions of these resilient people were almost completely destroyed.  Therefore, I was proud to speak to a packed house of young Cambodians who all wanted to learn about the process of building great arts centers and programs for their communities and towns. Dan Power, my publisher, allowed me to deeply discount the book at this location in order to make it affordable to all the aspiring arts professionals who attended my talk.  Visiting Cambodia under the auspices of my hosts, Cambodia Living Arts, was a humbling and profound experience.

While the days of a big in-person book tours for smaller topic specific books like mine largely have been replaced by Zoom gatherings (which I also did), I must say nothing the internet offers, as incredible as it is, can replace actually being in a real room talking to real people.  

While I was thrilled to sign and sell books throughout the tour, the most rewarding part was the adventure of meeting so many different people from different backgrounds all sharing a common bond of culture.  Arts Forever!



1. Brooklyn, DUMBO – powerHouse Bookstore
2. Nashville, IEDC Annual Conference
3. New York, 92 nd Street Y – Cities Summit Conference: Arts & the City [Zoom]
4. New York, NYU Steinhardt Alum Speech
5. WNYC – Allison Stewart
6. Brooklyn, BAM Launch; The Harvey Theatre
7. Brooklyn Rail [Zoom]
8. Los Angeles, UCLA, RedCat
9. Washington DC, Dance Place/Busboys & Poets
10. New Jersey, NJPAC, Women Who Power the Arts
11. New York, NYPL
12. Tokyo, Conference: Creative Partners of Tokyo [Zoom]
13. Dallas, SMU Meadows School of the Arts
14. New Haven, Yale School of Graduate Business Management
15. Hudson, Hudson Hall
16. London, The National Theatre
17. CNN – Christine Amanpour, London LIVE Interview
18. Amsterdam, ITA

19. Vaduz, Liechtenstein – Onassis Foundation
20. Athens, Greece – American Community School
21. Boston, Ford Hall Forum
22. New York, Bryant Park Book Tent
23. East Hampton, Book Fair
24. Oklahoma, IEDC Annual Conference
25. Tel Aviv – Municipality’s Course for Executive Leadership of Cultural Institutions
26. Holon, Israel – Forum of Cultural Institutions
27. Abu Dhabi, NYU
28. Sydney, Sydney Opera House
29. Melbourne, Arts Partnerships
30. Melbourne, Arts for Asia
31. Adelaide, Adelaide Festivals Consortium
32. Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Cambodia Living Arts
33. Dallas, AT&T Center
34. Dallas, Mary K. Craig Class
35. New York, APRA-NY [Zoom]
36. New York, Lotos Club
37. New York, NYC Arts in Education Roundtable [Zoom]
38. St. Louis, Black Seed Conference
39. Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum – Brooklyn Arts Leadership Collaborative Workshop