Brooklyn Cultural District
Downtown Brooklyn is home to more than 50 world-class cultural organizations that play a central role in the community and economic development of the area. While the highly-acclaimed Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has long been one of the area’s cultural anchors, scores of other organizations add to Downtown Brooklyn’s unique character and quality of life, including the Mark Morris Dance Group, New York Transit Museum, MoCADA, BRIC Arts | Media, and more.
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership keeps a master plan for the Brooklyn Cultural District, a vibrant, multicultural arts district in the neighborhood surrounding BAM. This effort involves the conversion of underutilized city-owned and private properties into affordable performance, rehearsal, and studio space for a diverse array of non-profit visual, performing, and media arts groups. We also advocate for infrastructure improvements and strategic long-term planning and raise the visibility of the area’s performance facilities and cultural institutions.
When completed, the Brooklyn Cultural District will be home to more than 400,000 square feet of cultural space, over 1,200 units of new housing, and 52,000 square feet of public space.
- The first phase of the District's development involved the renovation of the 80 Arts - James E. Davis Arts Building, becoming the Brooklyn Cultural District’s first completed project in 2004. The 30,000-square-foot building is home to ten diverse nonprofit arts groups benefiting from below-market rents and shared amenities, as well as a ground floor gallery for MoCADA shown below.
- In October 2008, the Irondale Ensemble Project, a theater company that presents original work, opened the Irondale Center for Theater, Education, and Outreach at the former Sunday school space in the historic Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church. Performing arts space Roulette, at 509 Atlantic Avenue, opened its doors in 2011, followed by ISSUE Project Room at 22 Boerum Place, and BAM Fisher at 321 Ashland Place in 2012.
- In October 2013, the Brooklyn Cultural District saw the opening of two new cultural venues: the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, a theater and rehearsal space which is the first permanent home of Theatre for a New Audience, and BRIC Arts | Media House, the improved homes for BRIC and UrbanGlass.
- In June 2014, the City officially approved a unique streetscape designed to stitch together the various world-class arts venues of the Brooklyn Cultural District. This design encompasses special paving and scoring patterns as well as additional street furniture and LED lights embedded in the sidewalk. The plan will be implemented in phases over the coming years and will encompass the entire district from Flatbush Avenue to BAM Park.
- In August 2014, the New York City Economic Development Corporation will commence the revitalization of Fox Square at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street. This new vibrant public space will link together the Brooklyn Cultural District with the rest of Downtown Brooklyn while providing a much-needed amenity for residents, workers, and visitors alike.
Developments in Progress
- BAM North Site 1: Located between Ashland Place, Fulton Street, and Rockwell Place, this site is being developed by Gotham Organization and DT Salazar in partnership with the City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The 515,000-square-foot mixed-use development will include 586 residential units, of which roughly 50% will be affordable, 8,000-square-feet of cultural and related office space, and 10,800 square feet of retail space.
BAM North Site 2: In October 2013, the City selected Jonathan Rose Companies, Dattner Architects, Bernheimer Architecture, and SCAPE Landscape Architects to develop an affordable, mixed-use development which will create 42 units of affordable housing, new ground-floor commercial space for a restaurant, and 27,000-square-feet of cultural space.
- BAM South Site: In June 2013, the Two Trees Management project to develop the site between Flatbush Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, and Ashland Place was approved by the New York City Council. The 32-story mixed use cultural development will have 384 apartments, 20% of will be affordable, over 15,000 square feet of retail, 50,000 square feet of cultural space split between an expanded BAM Cinema, rehearsal space for 651 ARTS, a new facility for the Brooklyn Public Library, and a 16,000-square-foot public plaza.
Below is a sampling of arts and cultural organizations in Downtown Brooklyn:
Since its founding in 1988, 651 ARTS has been committed to developing, producing, and presenting performing arts and cultural programming grounded in the African Diaspora, with a primary focus on contemporary performing arts. 651 ARTS serves the cultural life of New York City, with a particular focus on Brooklyn, one of America's most culturally diverse communities.
The Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York) is the service and advocacy organization for the nation’s largest, most artistically influential and culturally diverse theatre community: Off Broadway. Founded in 1972, A.R.T./New York serves nearly 400 not-for-profit theatres throughout New York City. Its South Oxford Space in the Cultural District houses twenty-one performing arts organizations.
Founded in 1987 by composers Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, Bang on a Can has grown from a one-day, twelve-hour music festival to a multi-faceted organization that includes a touring and recording ensemble (the Bang on a Can All-Stars); a commissioning program; a professional development/music institute for composers, conductors, and performers to record projects; and other programs that bring cutting-edge music to a wide audience.
Launched in 1981, BOMB Magazine is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that publishes interviews and essays in which emerging and established artists can speak openly about their work. BOMB interviews are primary documents of American cultural history, with an archive of over 800 conversations between artists, writers, architects, directors, and musicians. The magazine aims to reveal, intimately and intellectually, the artist's creative process through in-depth conversation between peers.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has grown into a thriving urban arts center that brings international performing arts and film to Brooklyn. BAM's current programming consists of the Next Wave Festival each fall; a spring season of international opera, theater, and dance; a comprehensive Education & Humanities program; and a variety of community programs.
Brooklyn Music School (BMS) provides on-site instruction in music and dance, public school outreach programs, and professional performances touching the lives of thousands annually by utilizing a distinguished faculty of 30 artist-educators. Students come to BMS from all walks of life and with diverse goals.
BRIC Arts | Media presents contemporary art, performing arts, and community media programs that reflect Brooklyn's creativity and diversity. BRIC also provides resources to launch, nurture, and showcase artists and media makers. All of BRIC's offerings are free or low cost to advance access to and understanding of arts and media. Each year, upwards of one million people in Brooklyn and citywide are served through BRIC's programs.
Cool Culture is dedicated to facilitating low-income families’ access to and participation in the cultural life of New York City. The organization reaches over 32,000 families at 368 Head Start and city-funded day care centers and 101 Universal Pre-Kindergarten programs. Through partnerships with 71 of the City’s major museums, botanical gardens, and zoos, Cool Culture provides access, information, and support so that low-income parents and their children can take advantage of these remarkable educational resources.
Irondale Ensemble Project has a rich, 25-year history of producing and teaching experimental theater with a strong voice for social change. Located on the corner of Lafayette Avenue and South Oxford Street, the Irondale Center for Theater, Education and Outreach opened in October 2008 at its new home in the former Sunday school space in the historic Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church. The 7,300-square-foot performance space features flexible seating for up to 160 people.
Mark Morris Dance Group offers classes for adults and children in its state-of-the-art dance facility. Primarily used for the company and school, the center’s five studios, including the largest unobstructed dance studio in the country, are available for rent to nonprofit dance companies at low, subsidized rates.
MoCADA/The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts is devoted to creating innovative exhibitions which serve as a medium to address, discuss, debate and resolve contemporary social, political, and economic issues that disproportionately affect the people of the African Diaspora.
New York Writers Coalition (NYWC) creates opportunities to be heard, through the art of writing, for formerly voiceless members of society. NYWC provides free, unique, and powerful creative writing workshops throughout New York City for people from groups that have been historically deprived of voice in our society, including at-risk youth, the homeless and formerly homeless, the formerly incarcerated, seniors, and others.
Scenarios USA is a non-profit organization that uses writing and filmmaking to foster youth leadership, advocacy, and self-expression in under-served teens. Scenarios USA asks young people to write about the issues that shape their lives for the annual “What’s the REAL DEAL?” writing contest, and the winning writers are partnered with some of Hollywood’s finest filmmakers to transform their stories into award-winning short films watched by over 15 million people a year.
StoryCorps is a national project that instructs and inspires people to record each other’s stories in sound. Participants can interview their friends, loved ones, or anyone whose story they wish to hear and preserve. Anyone can make history in two StoryBooth locations in Manhattan, and in MobileBooths located around the country. Those who take part in the project receive a CD of the recording, which is also archived at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. Selected excerpts are played on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.
Urban Bush Women (UBW) is a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. UBW weaves contemporary dance, music, and text with the history, culture, and spiritual traditions of African Americans and the African Diaspora, exploring the transformation of struggle and suffering into the bittersweet joy of survival.
UrbanGlass is a not-for-profit international center that promotes the use and appreciation of glass as a creative medium and makes glass accessible to an increasingly diverse audience through its programs, educational initiatives, and publications.
WITNESS uses video and online technologies to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. They empower people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change. Over the past decade, WITNESS has partnered with groups in more than 70 countries, bringing often unseen images and seldom heard voices to the attention of key decision makers, the media, and the general public.