Carol Stenakas is Deputy Director of Creative Time
Notes by Lucy Wurstlin of The Culture Company
In its early years Creative Time was an alternative arts movement which came about in response to the limited commissioning opportunities available for artists. The individuals who started Creative Time felt that ‘white box’ galleries were not answering the needs of emerging artists practice and that new partnerships needed to be ‘brokered’ to support this new work.
Creative Time wanted to continue to follow the strategy of a non-bricks-and-mortar organisation but also needed a space which was able to show very progressive works. The closest they came was using a space which was inside the anchorages of the Brooklyn Bridge. Creative Time were invited into the space and have never left. The Borough of Brooklyn administer the space and Creative Time (CT) now have a lease for the premises but have to work with a very paper pushing local government department who only care that the money is on time. They also in a very tentative position with the space as it is still owned by the Depertment of Transport (DOT)and there is a clause in the lease which effectively means that the DOT could give CT 24 hours notice to vacant the premises. On the flip side this has ensured that no developer has been interested in the space although it is in a prime development zone.
The Anchorage is 3 storied and has very unique architecture. The space is double height, and huge. However, the temporary nature of this tenancy also gives infra-structural problems because it is very difficult to justify investment in the building although it suffers from damp and dust problems. It is not in CT’s interest to invest in the space and there is no real sense of ownership.
The space is very dramatic but also very challenging. It informs the size of artworks which is also a financial challenge to fund such large scale works. The flow through the building is problematic and therefore CT have to use the geography uniquely.
In terms of programming, the space is naturally new media friendly, there are no windows and as a venue the space holds 1,280 people. The space shows lots more media based work than any other types of work but there are also performance areas. There have been some DJ events held in the evenings which have worked well to provide links to the programme for the gallery during the day.
Layered programming is used to encourage people to come and use or see the space in different ways and at different times. The space is free during the day and has pay events during the evening. Now the challenge is to encourage people to stay.
The curators have done well to encourage hybrid music-arts crowd, partnership with German Techno artists has bought a very different audience to the space, but this has meant that the space is seen as a ‘club’ rather than a cultural paradigm.
There is confusion by the audience over who CT are, Are they:Promoters
Do these perceptions matter?
In terms of funding there is funding for the anchorage based programme and also for 5 additional events around the city. The events that happen outside are not necessarily recognised as artworks. Art appears on coffee cups, in a touring ‘video truck’ and on milk cartons and cover very immediate issues like domestic violence.
The ‘Leap' project was a site specific installation for 2 Columbus Circle (originally built as a museum, a very contentious architectural space which was largely ‘empty’ and also provided a hub for the subway). It was a super huge projection in a public space showing a series of people jumping. There were also a series of subway posters which interrogated different levels of public engagement with the work.
CT is very interested in working with artists who are working at the forefront of presentation technologies but CT’s output is not necessarily on digital platforms only.
There is a constraint of what can be programmed in the space as there is’ white noise’ from the bridge of the traffic overhead. The space itself because it has very high ceilings is very resonant acoustically. The artists have to work with all these challenges. Because of the architecture of the space work also needs to draw people through the space and also seating space is needed which is sometimes part of the artworks themselves.
Finally, the funding which was available initially to fund very ambitious projects is no longer there and now the funding structure informs the work and much of it needs to have an income generating potential. The residency programme used to have luxurious process time but now this is audience driven and therefore you just want artists to come in and install quickly.
Is there a CT fan base? The way in which the space was first used defines perceptions of the space. How spaces are used are constantly in a process of change/flux. The space is very artist-centred and doesn’t naturally have good access. CT has done surveying of audiences and found that they largely come through word of mouth
A developer who is investing in the area is now giving away free space to ‘gentrify’ the area and therefore cafes and shops are starting to spring up. The developer's apartments are therefore full.
CT is constantly thought of as a 'new' space as more people discover this contemporary art for themselves.