Alanna Heiss

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Alanna Heiss
Alanna Heiss at P.S.1 opening, February 22nd, 2009.JPG
Alanna Heiss at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 22 February 2009
Born May 13, 1943
Louisville, Kentucky
Known for Art International Radio, Clocktower Productions, alternative space movement, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center,

Alanna Heiss (born May 13, 1943, in Louisville, Kentucky) is the Director of Clocktower Productions, an Internet-based art radio station and program partnership with six cultural institutions in three boroughs in New York. She founded and was the Director of P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center from 1976–2008 and is one of the originators of the alternative space movement.[1] Heiss has curated and/or organized over 700 exhibitions at P.S.1 and elsewhere.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Heiss was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and raised in a farming community in Jacksonville, Illinois. The daughter of teachers, she graduated with a B.A. from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, which she attended on a scholarship from the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.[3]

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center[edit]

During the 1970s, Heiss emerged as one of the most prominent figures of the alternative space movement. In 1971, she founded The Institute for Art and Urban Resources, which was devoted to creating installations in otherwise unused or overlooked spaces in New York. Under the aegis of this organization, she created the Clocktower Gallery and the Idea Warehouse, among many others. In 1973, the Clocktower Gallery, located in a municipal building in Lower Manhattan, opened with its three inaugural shows: Joel Shapiro, Richard Tuttle, and James Bishop. The Clocktower Gallery became a legendary alternative space and currently serves as the broadcast center of Art International Radio.

In June 1976, Heiss curated "Rooms," the inaugural exhibit in what is now known as P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, Queens. She invited a great number of artists - many of whom experimented with such new forms as video, installation, and performance art - to install their work throughout the building, which, before becoming the locus for the Institute for Art and Urban Resources, had been an abandoned schoolhouse. Richard Serra, Walter De Maria, and Richard Nonas were among the artists to participate in this exhibition, which articulated much of the ideals and conceptualizations of installation art and has since become emblematic of the alternative space movement. Nonas later remarked that “Alanna is probably the most important single figure in that effluence of another kind of art-making or art-doing in New York in the seventies—not only the art itself but also the way the art existed in the city.”[4]

Over the next three decades, P.S.1 became one of the most respected exhibition and performance spaces in New York, with such exhibitions as New York, New Wave (1981); Stalin's Choice: Soviet Socialist Realism, 1932-1956 (1993); Greater New York (2000 and 2005), and Arctic Hysteria (2008); Robert Grosvenor (1976); Keith Sonnier (1983); Alex Katz: Under the Stars, American Landscapes 1951-1995 (1998); John Wesley: Paintings 1961-2000 (2000), and Gino De Dominicis (2008).[3] Rooms were also used as artists' studios.[5] In 2000, the organization became affiliated with The Museum of Modern Art, giving it greater financial stability, extending the reach of both institutions, and combining P.S.1’s contemporary mission with MoMA’s strength as one of the greatest collecting museums of modern art.[6] The deal also allowed MoMA, after a seven-year period, to take command of P.S.1's financial management and the appointment of its board members. In 2008, shortly after this seven-year period, Heiss left P.S.1 to create AIR, Art International Radio.[4]

AIR, Art International Radio[edit]

In 2004, Heiss founded Art Radio, the Internet radio station of P.S.1;[3] it was later discontinued on January 1, 2009.[7] When she left P.S.1 in 2008, Heiss founded Art International Radio, which is unaffiliated with P.S.1, yet houses in its online archive programs that originally aired on WPS1. AIR produces its own arts-oriented material and is home to the Clocktower Gallery.

In December 2013, after 40 years of operation from its historic 1894 McKim, Mead & White building in Lower Manhattan, the Clocktower announced the final exhibition in this legendary space, and plans for relocation through a year of creative collaborations with partner organizations all over New York City.


Heiss has received the Mayor’s Award for Contributions to the Artistic Viability of New York City, as well as France’s prestigious Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in the Légion d’Honneur. She has been decorated by the Order of the Polar Star for her contributions to the promotion of the arts in Sweden, and is a recipient of the Skowhegan Award for outstanding work in the arts. She was honored in 2008 with the Women of Distinction Award by the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York, and was recognized as New York’s 100 Most Influential Women by Crain’s New York Business.[8] In 2007, Heiss received the CCS Bard Award for Curatorial Excellence.[2] In 2001, Heiss received an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute,[9] and in 2008 she received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Lawrence University.[3]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Alanna Heiss Retires from P.S.1,", recovered on March 19, 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Alanna Heiss To Receive 2007 Award for Curatorial Excellence from CCS Bard,", recovered on March 19, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d "AIR Staff Biographies,", recovered on March 19, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Goldstein, Andrew M (May 2, 2008). "The Principal of P.S.1: Can Alanna Heiss’s vision for her museum outlast her?",New York Magazine, recovered on March 19, 2009.
  5. ^ "About: P.S.1 Profile,", recovered on March 19, 2009.
  6. ^ "Art International Radio (AIR),", recovered on March 21, 2009.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center Founder and Director Alanna Heiss to Retire,", published December 30, 2008, recovered on March 23, 2009.
  9. ^ "Alanna Heiss," Basis Wein, recovered on March 23, 2009.