Developer Two Trees has donated a 5,000 square foot space to avant-garde arts group ISSUE Project Room, creating a permanent home for the city’s experimental arts community in Downtown Brooklyn.
ISSUE is now the legal deed owner of a venue on the ground floor of 110 Livingston Street. In 2008, the nonprofit arts group landed a 20-year, rent-free lease on the space as part of a city deal for the conversion of the former Board of Education headquarters into apartments. Two Trees, which develops and manages commercial and residential real estate across the city, purchased the 96-year-old building from the city for more than $45 million in 2003, property records show.
But the cultural incubator’s space, which includes a cavernous room that resembles an ornate dance hall, was never intended as a performance center, and over the years has required costly retrofits. Zev Greenfield, the executive director and chief curator of ISSUE, says the security of having an enduring home is a “momentous milestone” for the group’s long-term financial health.
“It really solidifies the ground on which we stand, literally and figuratively,” said Greenfield. “We’ve been nomadic throughout our history, and so to know that we have a permanent home for experimental artists to develop their projects—it just cannot be overstated how important that is for the community.”
ISSUE was founded in the East Village in 2003 and bounced around Brooklyn until it landed at 110 Livingston Street. The goal is for the venue to become a state-of-the-art hub for experimental dance, music, theater, film and literary readings.
That will be realized through a city-led renovation using $9 million in capital allocations from the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President and the City Council. The Department of Design and Construction, which is spearheading the effort, has not publicly released a timeline for the project.
Talks about donating the space began last year, and was in part inspired by the fiscal blow the city’s performing artists have suffered due to the pandemic, says Kate Gavriel, the cultural affairs director at Two Trees Management.
“We believe it's a part of our responsibility to contribute to neighborhoods, to make them places where people live, work and thrive,” she said. “And a huge part of that is supporting artists and cultural organizations.”