Performance Space New York, the historic performance arts nonprofit in Manhattan’s East Village, will shift to a new, artist-run model for 2020. A cohort of NYC-based artists and collectives will direct the organization’s programming, working in collaboration with its staff, board, and leadership. The artists will have “full transparency into the organization’s inner workings” and control of its annual production budget to pay their own wages and develop programs, according to a letter written by Performance Space’s executive artistic director Jenny Schlenzka and choreographer Sarah Michelson. “The only requirements of their tenure is that the spaces must be utilized,” they write.
The yearlong project, titled 02020, was conceived in an effort to “open boundaries and widen access” as a response to the increasingly hierarchical systems of power that dominate today’s political landscape. “With the artists and staff working together within the belly of the beast, we hope to devise future modeling for more lateral working partnerships and reform the mission statement to reflect this changing world,” reads the letter. The artists have already moved into Performance Space’s business offices, and will move into its theaters next month.
The incumbent cohort, formed last fall following a six-month development process and an artist-led think tank, includes the artists and collectives Janice Amaya; members of BRUJAS (Arianna Gil, Dada Coz, Sarah Snider, Antonia Perez, and Ripley Soprano); Jonathan González; Monica Mirabile; and New Red Order (with core contributors Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil, and Jackson Polys). Michelson, who received a MacArthur “Genius” grant in 2019, will work as an ecologist in service of the group and staff throughout the year.
Performance Space was founded in 1980 in an abandoned public school building, and its decision to experiment with an artist-run model comes after 40 years of existence. “Shifting our model is shifting our future: toward new institutional structures, new coalitions, new partnerships, new priorities. We know artistic practice is changing, that the world is changing, and that we need to be ready to adjust. We are betting on an artist-recalibrated institutional mission as a catalyst for futurist art practice,” says Schlenzka and Michelson’s letter.
The cohort will announce their initial plans on the organization’s website in mid-February.