It might have taken the rest of the world a while to notice, but Brooklyn has long been a hotbed of culture. Dating back to the early 19th century, Kings County has been a center for theater and music (the Brooklyn Academy of Music had its start with a performance of Mozart and Verdi in 1861; Mary Todd Lincoln came to a show the inaugural week); art (the Brooklyn Museum officially opened in 1895, but has roots dating back to 1823); literature (the borough’s book culture is legendary, from Walt Whitman to Djuna Barnes to today’s thriving lit culture); and film (the American Vitagraph Company made movies in Brooklyn starting in 1897).
But as glorious as Brooklyn’s cultural past is, we like to think that our cultural influence has never been stronger than it is today. Filmmakers, writers, musicians, painters, playwrights, actors… many of them still make their homes in Brooklyn and contribute to a cultural scene that is vibrant and innovative and—at its best—reminds us why we love to live here. Culture doesn’t happen in a vacuum, however, and behind every great institution and festival, bookstore and production company are the people who make it happen. This list is a celebration of those people, whose work guarantees that Brooklyn will never be just a punchline for a joke about artisanal cocktails or fancy pickles. And, look, we like fancy pickles as much as the next person, but culture is the foundation on which all this was built, so let’s celebrate it. Maybe with an artisanal cocktail? Why not.
Curator/Cofounder, Norte Maar
After founding the intrepid arts organization Norte Maar in 2004, Jason Andrew continues to curate independently at Outlet Gallery in Bushwick. On February 28, he hosted the 10th-ever Beat Nite, which allowed 10 selected art spaces to say open late, followed by an after-party at The Narrows.