Brooklyn Artists! 20,000 square feet of performance space, all for you …

According to the New York Times (2 July 2008) downtown Brooklyn will soon see a new development at Ashland Place just around the corner from BAM Harvey. BRIC Arts Media Brooklyn and Urban Glass will expand into a multidisciplinary arts center, boasting a 250-seat performance space, a massive gallery, a black-box studio (with windows!), television broadcast studio and glass works — all under one gigantic roof. The transformation of the building, formerly the Strand Theatre, will begin in winter of next year and will be complete, hopefully, by 2011. According to Leslie Schultz, executive director of BRIC Arts, it is ‘the first project that is really advancing the goals of indigenous arts groups that are already in the BAM Cultural District.’ The mayor’s office, the city council and the office of the Brooklyn borough president are shelling out the $17.3 million needed for the makeover. 

Could this be the making of Brooklyn’s own Royal Festival Hall? I attended a meeting yesterday morning at BRICstudio and saw a tiny model of what the building is going to look like. It reminded me of one of my favorite places in London, the South Bank Royal Festival Hall, which is a multidisciplinary performance space — but also, more importantly, a public space. It’s a place to hang out, meet friends, bring the kids, bring a laptop or a book — or all of the above. It doesn’t have the air of exclusivity that makes places like Lincoln Center or even the Brooklyn Academy of Music somehow less than inviting. You just drop in and see what’s going on. And if there’s nothing going on that grabs you, you still get to stay.

I was in residency at BRICstudio last year and for a week had the incredible luxury of access to space — with no time limits, no restrictions, no set parameters for what ‘product’ was expected to come out at the other end of my stay. Space to let the process unfold on its own time, space to make decisions, make changes, or make nothing at all — a dialogue in the truest sense. The few days I spent making BRICstudio my home transformed my process, but also transformed my relationship to space. It became clear to me how crucial it is to protect those spaces we already have available to us to create our work, and to spare no effort in carving out new ones. I truly hope that this new-and-improved venue provides such a space. Judging from my past experiences as a resident at BRICstudio, I am confident that it will.