“Little Carnegie…it cultivates a studied unpredictability…”
– New York Magazine
ISSUE Project Room is a pioneering performance center, presenting time-based work by emerging and established experimental artists that expand the boundaries of creative practice and stimulate critical dialogue about art and culture in the broader community. ISSUE plays a vital role in NYC’s cultural ecology, facilitating the commission and premiere of new works and presenting a diverse array of artists working across and between the disciplines of sound, dance, film, performance and literature. Programming places an emphasis on bringing recognition to creative practitioners whose important contributions to the artistic field are underrepresented, often as a result of the artists’ gender, sexuality, or geographic location. Through the cultivation of innovative new work, ISSUE performs an essential research and development function that fosters a dynamic influx of ideas into the local, national, and international creative landscape.
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.
ISSUE's theater in Downtown Brooklyn, photo by Joe Holmes.
Theater and Renovation
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 at ISSUE's former home in the Old American Factory, Brooklyn.
Suzanne Fiol (5/9/60 – 10/5/09)
Founder & Artistic Director
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.
A native of New York City, Suzanne studied at Antioch College and completed her BFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, before returning home to acquire her MFA from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.
As a photographer, Suzanne has exhibited nationally and internationally. Her work was represented for several years by Ezra Mack and has appeared in many publications in the U.S. and abroad. Her photos can be found in many private collections and belong to permanent collections at The Art Institute of Chicago, The Brooklyn Museum, The Queens Museum and The Milwaukee Art Museum.
In 1985, Suzanne became Director of Sales at Light Gallery, NYC before launching the Donald Wren Gallery, NYC where she was named Director in 1987. She moved on to become the Sales Director at the Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery and the Brent Sikkema Gallery. During the fall of 2001, she met Jan-Willem Dikkers and Martynka Wawzyniak. Together they launched Issue Management, a photo agency that represents well-known art photographers such as Jack Pierson, Mitch Epstein, Richard Kern, Renee Cox and Marilyn Minter.
In February 2003, Suzanne founded ISSUE Project Room, an art and performance space on East 6th Street in the East Village. Shortly thereafter, ISSUE migrated to an iconic and beautiful silo in Brooklyn along the banks of the Gowanus Canal. Now located at 22 Boerum Place in the historic McKim, Meade, and White-designed 110 Livingston St. building in Downtown Brooklyn, ISSUE Project Room continues its mission as a performing arts center that provides artists and musicians with a dynamic environment in which to create innovative and challenging work. ArtForum has said, “Suzanne Fiol wanted to make a space for music, performance, and readings in a spirit of love and commitment and created one of the warmest and best-sounding venues in New York.” ISSUE has become one of the most beloved and important showcases for experimental culture in New York City.
On October 5th, 2009, Suzanne Fiol lost her courageous battle with cancer. She was loved deeply and missed by all.