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New York City

Julia Folkes

“It’ll be a great place if they ever finish it.” – attributed to the short story writer O. Henry


I view New York City as an ever-unfolding story. It exists as a physical and imaginary place, both a dense concrete maze and a blowzy personality. Any investigations are easily overwhelmed by the intertwining forces of politics, economics, social struggles, artistic and cultural flowerings. I find fortitude in the search by recognizing the city itself is a way to see time. Buildings are a concrete artifact of previous eras and peeling back facades or walls can uncover earlier structures, wallpaper, notes, or photographs that point to people, ideas, and beliefs of the past. Our present city is made up of layers of previous eras. We walk and live upon these layers, destroying and rebuilding some spots and projecting a future design onto others.

Activities, publications, and other results

“Lincoln Center, the Rockefellers, and New York City,” Research Reports from the Rockefeller Archive Center (2005)

“From Coney Island to Lincoln Center, From Strangeness to Fantasy,” Changing Lanes (2010)

“Culture Cities: The Rise of New York, 1930-70,” U.N. World Urban Forum (2014)

“Seeing the City: The Filming of West Side Story,” Journal of Urban History (2015)

A Place for Us: West Side Story and New York (2016)

Bernstein’s New York, Music Matters podcast, BBC 3 (2018)

Curator, Voice of My City: Jerome Robbins and New York, Exhibition at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts/Lincoln Center (2018-19)

“New York is the Place: How the City has Defined the New School,” Public Seminar (2019)

Urban Land Institute, Building Healthy Places Book+Film Club, The (new) West Side Story and New York (2022)

Research for Etienne Charles’ commission for New York Philharmonic, San Juan Hill: A New York Story (2022)

Advisor, Museum of the City of New York’s 100th Anniversary Exhibition (2023)

Culture City: The Rise of the Arts in New York (manuscript in progress)

Podcast Co-Host, Exiles on 12th Street: A Place for Us (season 2) based on West Side Story

and its insights about New York City past and present (in production 2022-23)

Courses: New York City: Past Present Future; Re-Imagining New York; New York City in Crisis; West Side Story and New York; The Arts at The New School

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