Performance Space New York
|Address||150 First Avenue|
|Location||New York City|
|Opened||1980 (as presentation venue)|
Performance Space New York, formerly known as Performance Space 122 or P.S. 122, is a not-for-profit arts organization Founded in 1980 in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan in an abandoned public school building.
The former elementary school was abandoned and in disrepair when a group of visual artists began to use the old classrooms for studios. In 1979, choreographer Charles Moulton began holding rehearsals and workshops in the second-floor cafeteria, and invited fellow performers Charles Dennis, John Bernd and Peter Rose to collaborate in the administration and use of the space. Tim Miller, John Bernd's lover, later joined the four in launching P.S. 122.
One of the earliest programmatic offerings created by the founders and choreographer Stephanie Skura, was Open Movement, a non-performative, weekly improvisational dance event. Early participants in Open Movement included artists Ishmael Houston-Jones, Yvonne Meier, Jennifer Monson, Yoshiko Chuma, Jennifer Miller, and Christopher Knowles, among other acclaimed dance and performance artists still actively working today. P.S. 122 began its presentation history in 1980 with the first "Avant-Garde-Arama", a multidisciplinary showcase, and published its first complete calendar of performances, classes and workshops. The first full-length public play or performance presented in P.S. 122, in October 1980, was a play by Robin Epstein and Dorothy Cantwell's experimental women's theater company, More Fire! Productions.
Mark Russell was hired as artistic director in 1983 to curate and focus the overall programming, expanding it from a rental house into a year-round presenting facility. P.S. 122 doubled its programming in 1986 when it converted the old gym on the first floor into a performance space to be used for extended runs of small theatre groups and as a site for community meetings. Russell departed in 2004; Vallejo Gantner, succeeded him in the position with the 2005-2006 season through 2017, and notably created Performance Space 122's annual winter series, the COIL Festival.
In 2005, Performance Space 122 was among 406 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In 2011, Performance Space 122 embarked on an extensive $37 million renovation of its building, with major funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. During the six-year process, Performance Space 122 held programming at partner venues across New York City, including Danspace Project, The Chocolate Factory, Abrons Arts Center, The Invisible Dog Art Center, La MaMa ETC, and others, operating from administrative office spaces based in Brooklyn. Performance Space New York's revamped spaces reopened in January 2018 with the premiere of “visions of beauty” by choreographer Heather Kravas, held as part of the 2018 COIL Festival.
Rebranding and new leadership
In 2017, former MoMA PS1 curator Jenny Schlenzka was named as Gantner’s successor as executive artistic director, the first female director in the organization’s history. Coinciding with the reopening of its building, the organization announced its updated name of Performance Space New York. Its updated name “is signaling an ambition to be relevant and accessible to all of New York,” in Schlenzka’s words, and actively collaborate with the local community in its programs. Schlenzka’s first full season of programming began in February–June 2018, with a series of performances, discussions, film screenings, and other presentations specifically themed around the East Village. The series paid homage to Performance Space New York’s history as well as involving emerging artists and collectives reflective of the neighborhood today. Performance Space New York's new logo and identity was created by acclaimed artist Sarah Ortmeyer.
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Performance Space New York now boasts two theaters, and presents dance, performance art, exhibitions, music and film and video. It has a professional technical and administrative staff, and an active commission program. Both theater spaces feature state of the art technical inventory and are completely flexible. The large theater features a 22’-3” grid height and a playing space of 65’ wide by 65’ deep. The Neilma Sidney Theatre has a 12’ grid height and a playing space that is 18’ wide by 63’ deep.
Performance Space New York supports two ongoing artist awards, The Spalding Gray Award, and The Ethyl Eichelberger Award.
The Spalding Gray Award, named after the groundbreaking monologist Spalding Gray (1941–2004), is sponsored by a consortium that includes Kathleen Russo, Gray’s widow; Performance Space New York; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; and On the Boards in Seattle. The award comes with a $20,000 commission to create new work and provides for a full production of that work presented by each organization. Past recipients include Tim Etchells, Richard Maxwell, Rabih Mroué, Young Jean Lee, National Theater of the United States of America, Radiohole, and Heather Woodbury.
The Ethyl Eichelberger Award, named for the flamboyant, hilarious, trailblazing performer, Ethyl Eichelberger, (1945-1990) is awarded to an artist who "exemplifies Ethyl's larger-than-life style and generosity of spirit; who embodies Ethyl's multi-talented artistic virtuosity, bridging worlds and inspiring those around them." Recipients include Dane Terry, Mike Iveson, Taylor Mac, Julie Atlas Muz, Justin Vivian Bond, Jennifer Miller, Vaginal Davis, John Kelly, and Peggy Shaw.
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- Burke, Siobhan (2018). "Unveiling Performance Space New York". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
- Barone, Joshua (2017). "MoMA PS1 Curator to Lead Performance Space 122". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
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