On January 22, 2024, Kim Chan begins her work with Jacob’s Pillow in a newly-created role: Associate Artistic Director. As an experienced cultural leader and arts curator, Chan joins the Pillow’s curatorial and leadership team, where she will oversee several programming departments. 

Chan will also serve on the curatorial team, identifying artists to perform at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (which will celebrate its 92nd season in summer 2024) and to participate in the Pillow Lab year-round residency program. Alongside Chan, the curatorial team is composed of Jacob’s Pillow Executive and Artistic Director Pamela Tatge (since 2016), Associate Curator Melanie George (since 2020), and International Advisor Cathy Levy (since 2022), and is supported by Producing Director Holly Jones.

Additionally, Chan will be responsible for integrating Jacob’s Pillow’s programming areas operationally and strategically with an eye to achieving the organization’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) goals. Over the next five years, Chan will also collaborate with Tatge on facilitating a deeper digital integration of Jacob’s Pillow’s programming areas. For the full announcement, plus a detailed bio of Chan’s career up to now, please see our January 10 press release.

We spoke with Chan in advance of her start date, to get to know her better, and to share some of her candid thoughts with you. The following conversation has been edited for clarity.

What drew you to working in the arts?

I grew up in Manhattan avidly attending all sorts of dance, music, and theater performances, knowing that if there was a way to turn my curiosity about performing arts into a career, I would choose that. I didn’t know it was possible to make a life and career of working in the arts without being on stage until after college, when I started working at Washington Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. 

I started as an intern, and when the D.C. Commission on the Arts initiated fellowships for early-career arts administrators of color, my internship turned into a full-time job. I’ve been extremely lucky to have turned my passion into my life’s work.

Chan receives an award from the Chen Dance Center in New York City, 1995

You’ve worn many different hats as an arts professional, but tell us a bit about your own history with dance in particular.

Dance has been a passion ever since I discovered Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on TV when I was in second or third grade. One of my aunts worked in the Arts and Leisure department at The New York Times and took me to the ballet a lot. My first Jacob’s Pillow experience was with her. There was a bus from New York City to the Pillow for dance press, and we saw two performances of the Soloists of the Royal Danish Ballet before heading home that night.

I majored in Dance History at Goucher College because, at that time, it was the only college I could find with a dance major that didn’t require you to be a performer or choreographer, which was not my interest. One night while I was home on break, some friends took me to the Roxy and I saw Rock Steady Crew for the first time, which was mind blowing and changed how I looked at and thought about dance. Then, when I moved to D.C., Carla Perlo had made the Dance Place one of the country’s most active dance presenters outside of New York. From volunteering there and seeing her programming, I came to know and love many different dance artists: Eiko and Koma, Liz Lerman, Bebe Miller.

Once I became a dance curator at Washington Performing Arts, Carla and I partnered to commission and present artists including Contraband and the vogue legend Willi Ninja. We also commissioned and produced Savion Glover’s early choreographic work for local kids. At Washington Performing Arts, I got to work with many wonderful dance companies including the Jacob’s Pillow Men Dancing tour that Sam Miller produced, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, David Roussève, White Oak Dance Project, Mark Morris, Paul Taylor… too many to name.

Once I got back home to New York, I was lucky to spend six years as a member of the Bessies Awards Committee, seeing at least four performances a week, with a group of peer dance enthusiasts. I loved having that opportunity to see so much work and celebrate it through the Bessies.

Chan (right) with Roberta Uno, a theater director, haumana of Kumu Hula Vicky Holt Takamine, and co- leader of hālau Pua Aliʻi ʻIlima o Nūioka.

What excites you about Jacob’s Pillow? What are you most looking forward to in this new role?

I don’t think I can pick any one thing that I love most about Jacob’s Pillow. It all excites me. I am looking forward to working with the many wonderful staff members and artists and, of course, attending as many performances as I can.

Do you have a favorite memory tied to the Pillow? 

My favorite memory of the Pillow is realizing that the magical sense of community and wonder that my more experienced dance world colleagues told me to expect was true—and that this magic never dissipates, no matter how many times I’ve visited.

What considerations do you make while producing and curating performances? Tell us more about your curatorial values or lens.

As a curator and dance viewer, I am an omnivore, as much in love with hula and tap as I am with Balanchine, Pina Bausch, and Meredith Monk. I am interested in putting together seasons that expand audiences’ experiences of dance, that provide joy in seeing the artists they love best, and that invite audiences to get to know an artist’s work and process over time.

As a producer, I consider the fit between the production capacity of the theaters I am working in and the performances I want to present, as well as opportunities for community engagement that an artist has built into their creative process—if we are working on a commission—or opportunities to integrate local community members into a touring production.

Fostering artists’ creative practices while providing mentorship for the professional growth of artists and arts workers to stimulate healthier ecosystems and institutional infrastructures is one of my greatest passions. So, I also ask questions about how an engagement can help an artist’s evolution, and whether or not there are learning and mentorship opportunities for the staff and artists as they work together.

This Pillow Pick was published on January 12, 2024. All images courtesy of Kim Chan.