"I am extremely proud to be a St. Luke’s alum, and I will carry the lessons I learned here for the rest of my life."
St. Luke’s honored Ben Klein '12 with this year’s Alumni Artistic Achievement Award on May 20, 2022. The St. Luke’s Alumni Artistic Achievement Award is given in recognition of an individual's contributions to, and professional achievements in, their chosen artistic field, including, but not limited to: performance arts, visual arts, design, choreography, and composition.
Klein is a director and producer, whose film The Exiles
debuted at Sundance Film Festival in January 2022 and won the Grand Jury prize
for U.S. documentary. A jury member said of the prize: "For the Grand Jury Prize, we recognize a film which is totally original, layered, philosophical and non-linear — challenging our understanding of history. For celebrating the power of documentary filmmaking and the responsibility of the filmmaker to examine the truth."
Klein was introduced by his classmate, friend, and fellow St. Luke's Jewish Affinity Group co-founder Dan Kagan '12. He then he spoke about his time at St. Luke’s and NYU as well as his career and the film. Klein mentioned several St. Luke’s teachers who had "the biggest impact" on him: former History Teacher John Sargent, retired English Teacher Steve Flachsbart (both of whom were in attendance), Upper School History Department Chair Jason Haynes, Assistant Head of School for Leadership & Innovation Jim Foley, Upper School English Teacher Susan Doran, and Instrumental Music Teacher Peter Valera.
After graduating from St. Luke’s in 2012, Klein earned his bachelor’s degree in film & television from NYU in 2016. There, Klein met Christine Choy, a professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts who is also an Academy Award-nominated producer and director. In The Exiles, Klein and his co-director, Violet Columbus, finish a documentary Choy started in 1989 about three exiled dissidents from the Tiananmen Square massacre. Klein described his relationship with Choy: "I first met Christine as a student of hers at NYU. I sought out her guidance and mentorship and we eventually collaborated on this film together. I firmly believe that the reason I did so is because I already knew the value of having great mentors and teachers at SLS."
"The film that I’m being honored for here today, The Exiles," Klein said, "is a direct byproduct of [my] experiences studying with Mr. Flachsbart, Mr. Sargent, and the larger SLS community…the relationships I made here taught me that teachers were not just authority figures who handed out grades, but could be close friends, confidants, and mentors who enriched your life and deepened your passions. The bonds I made here changed the way that I thought, felt, and experienced the world. They made me a keen student, and one who wished to embrace our school’s motto: Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve."
Klein joins seven past Alumni Artistic Achievement Award recipients: Dominique Bandoo ’09, Marcus Smalls ’90, Jon Salamon '10, Kent Bloomer '53, Payton Cosell Turner '04, Peter Bush Swanberg '73, and John Henson '86. Congratulations, Ben! We are proud to call you a St. Luke’s alumnus.