Beacon Theater’s ‘United Nations of Art’ Highlighting Culture

New York, N.Y. I came up with the concept of making a large international project at the Beacon Theater to be known as the “United Nation of Art,” a project to give people in the world an opportunity to showcase their cultures in New York City.

I began to organize in the fall of 1979. By February 1980, I had organized a luncheon at the U.N. Plaza Hotel where I gave a speech in front of ambassadors to 122 countries.

The concept was that each country would send an artist to New York to display their work at the Beacon Theater. We sent letters of invitation to each country to participate in the project. To this day, we have saved the many signed responses of the countries and regions which responded.

Given the right to participate in the participating countries using the weekday day of the year, the Beacon Theater helped the promotion without requiring the minimum necessary expenses, without any rent.

Regarding the program, I requested each artist perform a performance that ‘expresses your country,’ whether through music, theater, dance, etc. We also allowed film screenings and study sessions. It was even permitted to hold something like a rally.

With the cooperation of these ambassadors and consulates, we finally secured the names of 92 countries as founding members, establishing an organization called the “International Arts Center,” and organized it as a group organization.

Many well-known countries in Europe and South America participated, but also countries that we usually do hear much about other than conflict: Afghanistan, El Salvador, Iceland, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Samoa, Sudan, etc. Many different countries participated fully.

At that luncheon, then-Ambassador Yoshida of Japan was extremely moved, saying, “I am very proud of today as a Japanese.”

On October 15, 1980, we carried out the first performance of this project which was truly memorable. A group of artists appeared in a project called “An Evening with Poland,” sponsored by the Consulate General of Poland. This was the North American debut of the world famous Henrik Tomaszewski’s Polish Mime Ballet Theater.

Improvement of Upper West Side and Theater Status

At this time the Beacon Theater area was nicknamed ‘needle park,’ having become a haunting place for drug addicts. Thanks to this project, however, many upscale individuals came, many from the Upper East Side and around the world, and the venue was lifted out of the gutter.

As the name “Beacon Theater” became better known, the position of the Upper West Side and its grand old theater increased accordingly.

If you believe in something and work on it for the betterment of humanity, things will go well as you are pushed by the universe. Even if you might face a problem, this will be solved by three C’s: Courage, Compassion, and Communication.

A number of years later, the Beacon Theater was leased by Madison Square Garden and became a famous venue for artists. Artists often say there is nothing like playing the Beacon, with its great acoustics and proximity to the audience. Go see it!

Originally published as Vol. 13 in Weekly Biz, January 20, 2018; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz



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About Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura

View all posts by Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko was born into a distinguished old family in Kyoto, Japan, and graduated from Toho conservatory of Music in Tokyo. In 1961 she came to U.S. as a pianist sponsored by the Boston Symphony. She studied at Boston University, New York University, and received her Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from New York State University and the International Academy of Education in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1992, she promoted cultural exchanges from East to West and vice versa, and became a world famous impresario, producing 2,000 events each year all over the world encompassing over 140 countries. In this connection, in 1972, she went to Dharamsala to find the lost Tibetan Folk Opera, and met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom she remains a lifelong friend. In 1973 and 1991 she arranged and funded personally the tours of the Folk Opera of Tibet to the West. She has received many medals and honors from different countries. Her tireless life long work in Philanthropic field is vast and well known ranging from Save the Beacon Theater, Save the Boat People, Help the Homeless, natural disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as relief to AIDS and HIV positive children in Africa. She has been a dedicated Board Member to both the J. Luce Foundation and Orphans International for years. Her work focuses on the Tibetan people; Tibetan children remain especially strong in her heart. She raised fund for the new academic building for Manjushree Orphanage in Tawang, India and supported many aspects of the school. See HuffPo pieces entitled Japanese Holistic Healer in NYC to Build School for Tibetan Orphans in India, A Japanese Dinner with Raul Castro’s Daughter, and NYC Gala in Support of Tibetan Orphans Set for January.

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