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ISSUE's original East Village location, 2003.
Steve Buscemi and Suzanne Fiol at the Gowanus Silo, 2006.
The Old American Can Factory, 2008.
Since its inception in 2003 under the guiding vision of late founder Suzanne Fiol, ISSUE Project Room has maintained a flexible and ephemeral relationship with space and geography, occupying temporary homes including a garage in the East Village, a silo on the Gowanus Canal, and a third-floor loft in a former canning factory. In turn, ISSUE’s artistic programming and participating community have both mirrored and defined the small, intimate, and out-of-the-way nature of its occupied spaces.
In 2008, ISSUE was awarded a 20-year lease on a theater space in the historic 110 Livingston Street building in Downtown Brooklyn. Following a select number of special presentations in 2010-11, ISSUE commenced full-time programming in the new space in 2012. Offering a centralized location and an audience capacity more than double that of any previous space ISSUE had occupied, the new theater has helped facilitate a degree of publicity and awareness unique for our community of under-recognized artists.
In 2012, ISSUE completed a $4 million City-funded capital campaign to carry out necessary renovations to bring the space to code and adapt it for multidisciplinary performance. Working with NYC’s Department of Design and Construction, and architect WORKac, renovations begin in February 2015, with a grand re-opening in 2017. Once renovated, the space will serve as Brooklyn’s first permanent home for experimental art and function as a critical catalyst for the cultural revitalization of Downtown Brooklyn.
Originally built in 1926 as the headquarters for the Benevolent & Protective Order of the Elks, the building features a limestone and terra cotta facade, with Renaissance-revival style features including balustrades, egg-and-dart ornamentation, Corinthian columns, and a 4,800 sq ft. theater space with 40-foot vaulted ceilings and rare perfect acoustics for chamber ensembles. In 1940, the building was converted to serve as the New York City Board of Education headquarters. In 2003, the City of New York sold the building to Two Trees Management LLC. Through a program of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the theater space on the ground floor was reserved for use by a nonprofit cultural organization for 20 years. ISSUE Project Room was competitively selected and signed the lease in December 2008. In 2012, ISSUE moved programs and operations to the theater.
The first phase of ISSUE’s $7 million renovation project designed by WORK Architecture Company broke ground in February of this year. When fully completed in late 2017, the highly flexible space will have a 200-seat capacity. It will feature enhanced acoustic and theater systems, and new MEP and HVAC and life safety systems. It also will contain a new greenroom/recording studio, a lobby with a box office and concessions, and ISSUE’s administrative offices. The space and will be available for nonprofit rentals, recording projects and private events. In June 2015 the renovation project was granted an Award for Excellence in Design from the Public Design Commission of the City of New York.
Suzanne Fiol was an extraordinary spirit, a force of nature and a prominent figure in the visual and performing arts worlds. As both a visionary artist and the founder of ISSUE Project Room, she created one of New York City’s premiere destinations for experimental culture and avant-garde performing arts— a legacy that will resonate for decades to come.