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Amelie Fillaudeau

Galapagos in Williamsburgh becomes Public Assembly in Dumbo: Is Williamsburgh's loss Dumbo's gain?


The mission statement of Galapagos Art Space reads, "The most basic function of the arts is to be relevant in the advancement of society." It seems like Galapagos' job is done in Williamsburgh. Or more accurately, Williamsburgh's loss is Dumbo's gain.

The Galapagos Arts Space has moved to Dumbo (16 Main Street, in Brooklyn). As the organization changed its location, it also changed its name to a more generic-sounding, "Public Assembly." (The name was the product of a "name our space" contest on their website.) Williamsburgh had been itslocation since its creation in 1995. In Dumbo, the institution formerly known as Galapagos will still be presenting avant gardist work along with innovations in the world of art.

For more than 16 years the Galapagos Art Space presented performances of New York’s musicians, dancers, theater artists, performance artists, fine artists and burlesque dancers. The programming is not expected to change. Director R. Elmes stated a couple years ago, "We believe that if the work we present is strong, communicative, and effective, we will survive," and so they did in Williamsburg. So as they are moving to Dumbo, they are willing to keep on the same track. “We’ve successfully pioneered a neighborhood in the past,” said Elmes.

The question now is, will they be able to replicate their success in a new location? The building they moved to is a former horse stable, twice the size of their Williamsburgh location, for a lot less rent. For the past ten years the rent in Williamsburgh had been rising to the point where the monthly rent was $10 000.

Moving to Dumbo also offers the oppportunity to address a major concern of the Galapagos staff: making the institution a greener place. Director R. Elmes reported that after renovation, the Dumbo building would be the first performance space in New York City certified as “green” under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards set by the United States Green Building Council. So the former location at 70 North 6th Street will now house "Natural Selection," a new arts organization that will continue to feature cutting edge programming, art and music on the Galapagos model. Now in Dumbo, the new Galapagos Art Space--Public Assembly--has not completely abandoned Williamsburg. It will continue to create cultural and community programs in partnership with Natural Selection.

An anonymous online review presented the Galapagos Art Space as "a very intimate, yet not intimidating art space like not many in the city." Let's just hope "Public Assembly" will spread new and experimental concepts in the Dumbo neighborood like it did for more than 15 years in Williamsburgh.

For more info see: http://www.publicassemblynyc.com.

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