The Guggenheim Museum’s beloved behind-the-scenes New York dance series, Works & Process, was founded in 1984 by philanthropist Mary Sharp Cronson.
“The story goes that the Guggenheim approached her and said, ‘Will you underwrite a performing arts series?’” said Duke Dang, executive director of Works & Process. “She had been on the board of New York City Ballet. Her brother, Peter Jay Sharp, was the chair of Juilliard. Her mother was the board chair of Martha Graham in the ‘70s. It makes sense that the Guggenheim would approach her. But she wasn’t just going to write a check and hope that the work got done. She said, ‘I’m creating a nonprofit so that I can make sure that artists are paid.’ She recognized her privilege, having grown up in a family where she was always invited to a dress rehearsal or to visit the studio or given a chance to meet artists at a reception. She wasn’t interested in creating another performing arts series. She wanted to share this experience she had had in her life with anyone who was willing to buy a ticket. And I continue to tell the story because these two principles still guide us: One, artists are always paid. And two, sharing the creative process.”