Architects of change come in a lot of shapes and sizes. Patrick Hayes--who helped build the modern cultural landscape of Washington--was a tall, slender man who always had an extra minute or hour to talk about the arts. And he gleefully assumed you did, too.
A first-class battery of artists--including Leon Fleisher, James Galway, Roberta Peters, Leonard Slatkin and Andre Watts--will gather tonight at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall to pay tribute to Hayes, the founder of the Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS), who died last year at age 89. They will talk about his dedication, persuasion, vision and charm.
Mstislav Rostropovich, the cellist and former music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, met Hayes in 1956 and the two remained friends for more than 40 years. Before the Kennedy Center was built, "Washington was, in my opinion, very modest music-wise, and Patrick Hayes was an enormous help for music culture," recalls Rostropovich.
Hayes's nearly 60 years here were spent not only advancing the arts, but also using them to break down rigid social and racial barriers.
"Roger Stevens, David Lloyd Kreeger and Pat were the engines behind Washington's change. It was an extraordinary relationship the three of them had. A terrific burgeoning of the arts can be laid to those three people. And Pat was the worker in the field," says Aldus Chapin, another arts advocate and one of the founders, with Hayes, of the United Arts Organization.
Hayes was born in New York, the son of Irish immigrants. He started his quest in Washington in 1941 when he was hired to be manager of the National Symphony Orchestra. Six years later he started the Hayes Concert Bureau, bringing the best-known performing artists to town.
Washington then had a reputation as a backwater. The arts were scattered throughout town in college theaters, small auditoriums, the Library of Congress, the National Theatre and even the old Coliseum, where the circus and ice shows played. "He didn't have the tools, didn't have the theaters, so people thought of it as a wasteland," recalls WPAS President Douglas Wheeler. Today WPAS has a $6 million budget and an endowment of $5 million.
Hayes believed that everyone in the arts needed a common place to talk, recalled his wife, pianist Evelyn Swarthout Hayes. "When we first came here the various cultural institutions were separate, and there was definite competition for funds and for artists. He started having a luncheon for any newcomer who would come to town, and he invited all the other executives. They discovered their colleagues were congenial people."
Believing in cross-fertilization of arts efforts led him to become involved in raising funds for the Kennedy Center, which opened in 1971, and to make sure younger people were involved. "Roger Stevens had a big event at the National Guard Armory to raise money for the center. Louis Armstrong performed; President Kennedy was there. Pat decided we ought to take this to the colleges and arranged for the show to be piped in and the students paid $1 apiece," says Chapin.
In 1965 he expanded his concert bureau into WPAS, continuing the presentation of music and dance from Isaac Stern to Alvin Ailey. And he took chances, as choreographer Liz Lerman recently recalled. "You have to picture in my early days in Washington what it was like to walk into a room full of strangers, many of them from the elite art class of Washington, and have Patrick come up and take me by the arm and take me around the room and introduce me. The way he did it was with so much joy, it was just infectious. I think of him, too, as a person able to clear away animosities," she said.
Another of his beliefs was that everyone in the audience couldn't look alike, and neither could the performers. For years he steamed over the treatment of the great Marian Anderson, who was the focal point of outrage in 1939 when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her sing at Constitution Hall because she was black. In 1953 he organized Anderson's first appearance at Constitution Hall. But he knew race relations could also be improved by direct contact. When WPAS was started, he asked the renowned Todd Duncan, who lived in Washington and orginated the role of Porgy in Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," to be the chairman. That signaled not only that the group would be racially inclusive but also that the artists were going to have some input. He drilled into whoever was listening: "Everybody in, nobody out."
That mandate infused WPAS's own women's committee that, in the mid-1970s, organized an annual gala that became one of the first truly integrated social events in the city. "Even about two to three years ago I took some neighbors to the gala and they commented how diverse the group was," recalls Alexine Clement Jackson, a former WPAS board chairman. "I told them this is not an accident--this is intentional and has been cultivated through the years."
After the 1968 riots in the District in the wake of the Rev. Martin Luther King's assassination, large segments of the black and white communities retreated to their own worlds and the audience-building had to start all over again. Hayes didn't give up. "Pulling the audience downtown was a true challenge," says Wheeler. "Only through the respect the artists had in him could he continue to bring in the stars." The persistence underscored another one of Hayes's maxims, often left in notes on Wheeler's desk: "Function in crisis, and finish in style."
The artists continued to work for Hayes whether it was the Kennedy Center or Lisner Auditorium or a church hall. Years ago he got the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz to come to town, and the event was like a Rolling Stones concert of later years. Hayes was selling the tickets out of a music store near his office. People started lining up at 4 a.m. and there was some scuffling and grumbling when someone would try to break into the ticket line.
When Hayes arrived and saw that people were getting antsy, he ordered coffee and doughnuts for the crowd and walked the line. Recalls businessman Frank Rich, "He always found ways to resolve things without a big fuss."
CAPTION: The late founder of the Washington Performing Arts Society.
CAPTION: Patrick Hayes, right, in 1981 with Mstislav Rostropovich, who says that his old friend "was an enormous help for music culture" in Washington.