Performance Space 122 provides incomparable experiences for audiences by presenting and commissioning artists whose work challenges boundaries of live performance. PS122 is dedicated to supporting the creative risks taken by artists from diverse genres, cultures and perspectives. We are an innovative local, national and international leader in contemporary performance.
Past & Future
Performance Space 122 began in 1980, emerging from a city struggling with high rates of poverty, crime, racial strife, and drugs, as well as the deaths of many vital artists and thinkers caught up in the AIDS epidemic. Together with AIDS Service Center NYC, Mabou Mines, and Painting Space 122, we’ve transformed an abandoned public school in the heart of a low-rise immigrant neighborhood into a multi-use community and cultural center. In our theaters PS122 was able to foster an open and accessible culture of aesthetic risk-taking and social experimentation. PS122 provided artists working in performance, dance, and theater with a safe space to test their own creativity, express revolutionary ideas and share artistic practices and projects with audiences adventurous enough to join them. Challenging and fun, PS122’s Open Movement created a social glue that nurtured many of the contemporary choreographers, dancers, and performance artists of the time as well as “non-artists” from the area. It demonstrated PS122’s capacity as a laboratory for not just art, but community. The first decades of PS122 also succeeded in connecting audiences to vital provocateurs like Tim Miller, Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes, Ethyl Eichelberger, Spalding Gray, Penny Arcade, John Leguizamo, Carmelita Tropicana and many others whose performances catalyzed debates and social change amongst not only the audiences who welcomed them at PS122 but at national and international levels.
As decades passed the city became cleaner, safer, greener and more expensive, and the neighborhood gentrified. Although PS122 became an “institution” during this time, it also managed to retain its gritty non-conformist character and engage artists in a dynamic and supportive environment. During this time, PS122 continued to invest in ground-breaking artists and build its local, national and international reputation, all the while navigating the waters of a recession, the shifting expectations of artists, audiences, and stakeholders, and a major capital renovation of its home. PS122 championed the transformative works by Big Dance Theater, Annie Dorsen, Yehuda Duenyas, Elevator Repair Service, Tim Etchells (UK), Maria Hassabi, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Cuqui Jerez (Spain), Emily Johnson (Alaska/Yup’ik), Young Jean Lee, Richard Maxwell, Rabih Mroué (Lebanon), Meredith Monk, Okwui Okpokwasili, Mariano Pensotti (Argentina), Philippe Quesne (France), Radiohole, Ranters (Australia), LeeSaar (Israel/NYC), Andrew Schneider, Adrienne Truscott— and many other artists who have radicalized aesthetic form, explored our precarious relationships to new technologies, and pushed audiences to engage in social or political debates on both intimate and philosophical levels.
In 2013, PS122’s East Village home began a much-needed interior renovation supported by the City of New York, Department of Cultural Affairs and Department of Design and Construction. We are invigorated by the prospect of this multi-year journey and the reopening of our custom designed theater spaces. These column-free, larger spaces raise the roof to feature a two-story ceiling allowing for more agency for artists and more expansive experiences for our audiences.
In preparation for our grand reopening, PS122 has launched “Give Performance Space” (GPS) – a major fundraising campaign to spur PS122’s growth during one of the most exciting periods in our history. GPS will increase our capacity to better serve the artists and audiences of New York City during a four-year transition period that includes two years of planning and outfitting and our critical first two seasons in our new home. GPS will provide capacity-building funds to allow us to take full advantage of our beautiful new spaces and lay the groundwork for long-term sustainability. GPS is critical to our success artistically, financially and organizationally as a growing leader within the cultural ecology of New York City.