Mission and History

Poet Sherman Alexie addresses students as part of the Poetry Center’s Schools Project as School Project Coordinator Wendy Salinger looks on. (Photo Credit: Nancy Crampton)

92nd Street Y has long sustained a tradition of presenting the world's finest performing and literary artists to large audiences in the Theresa L. Kaufmann Concert Hall.

92Y's performing arts program was created in the mid-1930s under the leadership of Dr. William Kolodney. Presenting concerts of classical, jazz and popular music of the highest quality and poetry and literature readings given by the premier writers of our time, the Tisch Center continues to flourish as one of the country's oldest and largest cultural centers.

When the Kaufmann Concert Hall was completed in 1930, it quickly gained a reputation as the best chamber music hall in the city. Its warm wood paneling and intimate design became home to the Budapest String Quartet for nearly 30 years. The quartet played to consistently packed houses. In the ensuing decades, 92Y presented the likes of Andres Segovia, Arthur Schnabel, Jascha Heifetz, Isaac Stern, Claudio Arrau, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma and Jaime Laredo, who began the distinguished Chamber Music at 92Y series in 1974. The rich chamber music tradition is the foundation of the Tisch Center's programming today.

Also born in the '30s was the Unterberg Poetry Center, which, since the 1939 inaugural reading by William Carlos Williams, has presented a renowned literary series that features the most distinguished and talented writers. W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot, Adrienne Rich, Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer are just a few of the writers who have read their works here.

The performing arts program at 92Y also provided modern dance with its first year-round home in which pioneers such as Martha Graham, Agnes de Mille and Merce Cunningham could teach, create, rehearse and perform. Now, the Harkness Dance Center continues that tradition as part of 92Y's School of the Arts.

Concerts and Unterberg Poetry Center readings constitute the Tisch Center for the Arts, which continues 92Y's long tradition of presenting the highest quality performances to the New York cultural community.

Mission Statement

The Tisch Center for the Arts of 92nd Street Y will produce and present an ongoing series of programs of distinction and innovation for adults and children in all the lively arts.

The center will present artists of national and international repute, as well as local and emerging artists, whose work is consistent with the center's standards of excellence. The center will embrace the performing arts of diverse cultures.

The center's activities will serve as a bridge between the arts and the other intellectual and educational programs offered by 92Y and its centers. The quality and breadth of the performing arts offerings, in conjunction with the stature of the artists, created works and programs presented, will strengthen 92nd Street Y's historic role and reputation as a major cultural institution.


  • Education is among the top priorities of the center. All center programs, wherever possible and appropriate, will include a public humanities program component (such as program notes, a pre-concert lecture, a symposium, a conference, etc.) that illuminates the material being presented.
  • The public humanities programming component is a vital tool for drawing audiences into the heart of an arts presentation. This is particularly important for younger audiences whose exposure to more traditional forms of the arts may be limited.
  • Educational activities will emanate from both within and without the center. Initiatives at one center will be a catalyst for program ideas in other centers whenever possible and appropriate.
  • The center will present and promote programs related to Jewish culture and experiences that are consistent with the center's standards of quality and have a reasonable ability to attract an audience. The center will work closely with the center for Jewish Life to implement any such programs.
  • The center will make a concerted effort to bring in younger and diverse audiences, through contextual and thematic programming, targeted marketing, and programming that is particularly appealing to such audiences.
  • The center will continue to produce and present offerings in all of its current areas of programming, which include classical music, lyric theater, jazz and literary readings.