Expanding the Arts on Manhattan’s West Side
New York, NY - Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora of the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) joined NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Thomas Finkelpearl, local elected officials, host and Tony Award winner Billy Porter, and representatives of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York) to mark the official opening of a new performance space with two theatres in the lower levels of 502 West 53rd Street on Manhattan’s West Side.
Funded almost completely by the City of New York, the $16.6 million project includes two new theatres with flexible seating arrangements, one with 149-seat capacity and one with 87-seat capacity. The space also includes new dressing rooms, prop shops, storage, pantry, control booths, and offices, along with modern mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems that allow the project to achieve LEED Silver standards for environmental sustainability.
“This City is proud to support the arts and provide valuable space for small and emerging performance groups,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Community theaters and off-Broadway productions provide intimate and experimental spaces for audiences, performers, and writers alike. While visitors associate New York with the Great White Way, they should know New York’s larger theatre scene is alive and thriving.”
“For 45 years the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York has facilitated arts in New York, and today we celebrate a project that addresses a top concern for its hundreds of member theatres – performance space,” said DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. “In the last 15 years upwards of 80 small performance spaces have closed across the City. The two theatres we dedicate today will help continue New York’s rich tradition of live performance.”
"A.R.T./NY is an essential partner for so many of our city's dynamic nonprofit theaters, providing support at every level and giving groups what they need to thrive and bring great theater to audiences here in NYC," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. "While this extraordinary new space has been years in the making, it promises to become an essential resource for theater groups who need affordable space to practice and present their work. We are proud to be among the supporters of this exciting project."
“Ensuring we have a vibrant creative community is one of the most unique aspects of New York City – for art has always played an important role in bringing people together and showcasing the inner beauty of our City,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I’m thrilled the City Council could make this important project come to life – by contributing a total of $600,000 – and I look forward to joining New Yorkers in this new performance space.”
“Live performances are vital to New York’s world renowned cultural offerings, which depend on high-quality performance spaces like these to exhibit their art,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “I applaud A.R.T./New York, the Departments of Design and Construction, and Cultural Affairs, and all those whose efforts contribute to the creation of these innovative and inspiring new venues.”
“By investing in theater space and supporting the outstanding work of A.R.T./New York, our City is showing its commitment to fostering the arts and maintaining our legacy as the theater capital of the world,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “I’m proud of DDC’s stellar work and I thank Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and his team for this extraordinary contribution to the West Side.”
“I am thrilled to have been able to provide State funding for the two new A.R.T./New York Theaters opening this week in my district,” said Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal. “For decades now, A.R.T./New York has played an invaluable role in contributing to the artistic vitality and dynamism of our city. With a dwindling number of performance spaces citywide, this pair of new theater spaces will fill a growing void. I have little doubt that these spaces will soon become theatrical institutions for the West Side, and the entire city.”
"A.R.T./New York, our Board, and our community of 360+ member theatres owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the City of New York for making our dream of creating two state-of-the-art venues for nonprofit theatres come true,” said A.R.T./New York Executive Director Virginia P. Louloudes. “I was excited when I heard that the project had been turned over to DDC because I knew at that point it was really going to happen.
“I sincerely thank everyone who made this project a reality including leadership and staff from the Department of Cultural Affairs for giving A.R.T./New York the opportunity to create these new theatres; the City Council and Manhattan Borough President's office for supporting our vision from the very beginning; and the Department of Design and Construction for undertaking the construction for this ambitious project and for partnering A.R.T./New York with world-renowned architect Toshiko Mori through the Department's Design Excellence Program,” said Louloudes.
In consideration of the performers, the audience, and other users of the building, rubber padding was installed under the stages to reduce extraneous noise and to soften the impact of physically demanding performances. To minimize distraction during performances, a vestibule was designed to block out light that might enter the theaters.
The project also includes a Percent for Art installation on the mezzanine floor by artists Peter Coffin of New York and Jeppe Hein of Berlin and Copenhagen that together comprise 16 separate pieces. Coffin’s work uses posters produced by the former Colby Poster Printing Company, and looks at the mechanisms of advertising and propaganda in a way intended to engage with how we perceive, understand, and interpret our world. Hein contributed a neon sign that asks, “Why are you here and not somewhere else?” The piece relates to the discourse of questioning the art public and the act of viewing artworks.
The A.R.T./New York theatres were designed by Toshiko Mori Architect under DDC’s Design and Construction Excellence 2.0 program, which pre-selects and pre-qualifies design firms that DDC works with on projects with construction budgets of up to $50 million. The program is designed to decrease the amount of time required for DDC to procure design services, while ensuring the highest levels of quality and professionalism in construction projects managed by the agency.
All firms in the program are committed to incorporating DDC’s Design and Construction Excellence 2.0 Guiding Principles into their work. DDC’s Guiding Principles are a series of non-prescriptive guidelines designed to ensure that public projects are designed and built to the highest standards that comply with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vision of a sustainable, resilient, equitable, and healthy City. DDC recently announced the next group of design and architecture firms that will participate in the program up to 2019.
About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s lenses of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, new or upgraded roadways, sewers, water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $15 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative, and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to city projects. For more information, please visit nyc.gov/ddc.
About A.R.T./New York Theatres
The A.R.T./New York Theatres are a project of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York), which provide state-of-the-art, accessible venues at subsidized rental rates, plus free access to top-line technical equipment, so that the city’s small and emerging theatre companies can continue to experiment, grow, and produce new works. Founded in 1972, A.R.T./New York is the leading service and advocacy organization for New York City’s 375+ nonprofit theatres, with a mission to assist member theatres in managing their companies effectively so that they may realize their rich artistic visions and serve their diverse audiences well. We accomplish this through a comprehensive roster of real estate, financial, educational, and community-building programs, as well as research, advocacy, and field-wide initiatives that seek to improve the long-term health and sustainability of the industry. Over the years, A.R.T./New York has received numerous honors, including an Obie Award, an Innovative Theatre Award, a New York City Mayor’s Award for Arts & Culture, and a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre. For more information, please visit www.art-newyork.org.