Life's Broad Sea: Kara Medoff Barnett

Shaping the cultural landscape
April 29, 2014

Kara Medoff Barnett ’00 began taking ballet classes at the age of three and entertained the idea of becoming a professional dancer before she was sidelined with an injury in high school. By the time she arrived at Duke, she had switched her sights from arts to medicine, taking pre-med courses and volunteering with the student-run Emergency Medical Services group.

Seeking to round out her science-heavy coursework, she enrolled in a theater-studies course taught by legendary Broadway producer Emanuel “Manny” Azenberg. “It was really that class that made me realize that I didn’t need to be the artist, that there were other ways that I could impact culture, impact the arts,” she says. “Instead of being a doctor, I was going to be a Broadway producer.”

Barnett achieved her goal of producing plays both on and off Broadway—scoring a Tony Award for the revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night in the process—and earned an M.B.A. from Harvard. She has parlayed her arts-business acumen into a job as managing director of Lincoln Center Global, the performing-arts organization’s international consulting division. Barnett oversees Lincoln Center Global’s work with arts organizations, governments, philanthropists, and the private sector to build and sustain successful cultural institutions. Services include facility planning, programming and revenue advice, market analysis, branding, and management training, among others. This spring, Crain’s New York Business selected Barnett as a member of its 2014 class of 40 Under 40.

“I strive to foster environments in which creative people can do their best work. I strongly believe that the arts can be an economic engine and a source of civic and national pride,” she says.

Although Barnett stays busy with her ever-expanding portfolio of new projects and clients, she remains closely connected to Duke. This past spring, she cohosted, with Lincoln Center colleagues Jennifer Baltimore J.D. ’92 and Claire Florian ’09, a Duke Alumni Association Women’s Forum reception at her office at Lincoln Center. And she came back to campus for Blue Devil Days to share her personal journey with prospective members of the Class of 2018.