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July 27, 2010, 3:45 pm

BAM Cultural District: The Strand Theater


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The Strand Theater, part of the BAM Cultural District, will be undergoing a major face lift starting this fall. The building, located next to the BAM Harvey Theater on the corner of Fulton Street and Rockwell Place, is the home of Urban Glass and BRIC Arts|Media|Bklyn. The plans are comprised of two separate projects — the Urban Glass space and the BRIC space, called BRIC Arts|Media House — and received an Award for Excellence in Design from the New York City Design Commission.

“It is going to be a remarkable change for this building,” said Leslie Griesback Griesbach Schultz, Executive Director for BRIC Arts|Media|Bklyn. “It’s much more open to the street.” She called the plans, designed by Leeser Architecture, a “really smart design.”

The renovations will include an open town square area as well as large windows onto the street, so the organizations inside will be more visible to passersby. The town square will house free Wi-Fi and an art gallery. The design is intended to encourage the public to interact with working artists.

“The idea is for people to come in, have a cup of coffee, look at the contemporary art,” Ms. Schultz said. In addition to the first-floor gallery there will be glass-walled studios so the public can watch shows filming for Brooklyn Independent Television, a white box theater with removable black curtains and a main theater with retractable seats.

Urban Glass is currently housed on the third floor of the building, where they have a glass blowing studio as well as a gallery and a shop selling finished work. After the renovations the store and displays will be front and center, on the first floor facing Fulton Street — the first time since Urban Glass was founded in 1977 that they will have a visible public space, said Dawn Bennett, Urban Glass’s executive director.

“We’re excited,” she said.

Their workspace will be renovated as well. They are updating and modernizing their HVAC system to better regulate the intense heat generated by glass blowing equipment, Ms. Bennett said. The work areas will also have more separation between where professionals work and where students and amateurs practice — allowing the novices to observe the more seasoned glass blowers without getting in their way. They will also open a supply store for glass artists — a big help to their community, Ms. Bennett said, because glass blowing supplies can be difficult to find.

Initially Urban Glass planned to stay in their offices during the renovations, but Ms. Bennett said it’s beginning to look like that won’t be possible. They are currently scouting temporary locations and would like to stay nearby to remain convenient for their artists.

BRIC Arts|Media|Bklyn was founded in 1979. They run the Celebrate Brooklyn concert series and offer help to Brooklyn artists. Ms. Schultz said the new facility will allow them to better do their job supporting the creative process and to deepen their commitment to creating a platform for local artists.

Ms. Schultz said that because of the accessibility of the new space, the renovations could help the institution be better understood by the public. “The space is going to function as a home for artists; as a lab for artists,” she said.

The new space could help artists get a little exposure, too. The performance areas will all have cameras at different angles throughout that will be linked to a central control room. The footage can be archived and used by the artists, but it will also be available for them to broadcast on monitors in the public space, giving their work extra visibility.

BRIC will offer residencies to artists who can activate the space and Ms. Schultz emphasized that the organization is full of public art enthusiasts.

“You can never have enough public art,” she said. “It’s what makes New York New York.”


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