Pop up SLAM & FaçadeNew York, NY
The STREB Lab for Action Mechanics (SLAM) is expanding its unique programming offsite, creating “Pop Up” SLAM adaptable action zones which can occupy a myriad of public spaces including parks, vacant lots and parking lots. This project will also incorporate the design by Norwegian architecture firm Snohetta of a new façade for STREB’s Brooklyn studio.
ArtPlace talked to Streb’s Susan Meyers and Cathy Einhorn about how things are going.
ARTPLACE: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?
MEYERS AND EINHORN: STREB has collaborated with a network of partners to move its ArtPlace programming forward. This month’s activity has been focused on the SLAM renovation with Snohetta and the team of civil, structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical engineers, designers, expediters, site surveyors and code consultants necessary to realize the combined aesthetic and programmatic vision of the project.
Nic Rader, Snohetta architect and project manager, writes: “The renovation concept for SLAM has been an ongoing discussion since 2008. The main concept is programmatic transparency, rather than literal transparency. The brick façade undulates mimicking the dance movements of SLAM while creating opportunities for seating, leaning, and climbing. The brick façade is actually composed of 4 rotating doors that allow the public sidewalk to blend into the entry hall and vice versa, blurring the line and inviting in the community. Now that the project is funded, the Design Team, including consultants, is working on making this concept a fully functional and real piece of architecture. The first steps have involved working with engineers, material companies, and fabrication experts to explore how to construct this innovation solution on budget and under the guidelines of the DDC. We are in the middle of this exciting process while continuing to refine the more subtle aspects of the design and documenting it all for construction.”
ARTPLACE: Are there secrets to good partnerships?
MEYERS AND EINHORN: Throughout its 30-year history as a company and its nearly 10 years at SLAM, STREB has cultivated valuable partnerships with a broad range of organizations and individuals. A brief history of these collaborations – when and why they began and what work was done – reveals what’s at the core of successful partnerships:
Doug Steiner: In 2006, when Steiner bought the block on which SLAM is located, STREB began discussing buying the garage space with Steiner, whose family ran the Steiner Studios film and television complex in Clinton Hill. STREB had 7 years on her lease, but still found a willing ear. In 2007, Steiner agreed to sell the garage and lot to the company for $1.3 million if STREB could find financing. The company went to city and borough officials to raise the money. The pitch was simple—here was a partnership between the real estate developer and an arts organization headed by a visionary artist that would preserve high quality, public arts programming in a neighborhood undergoing rapid gentrification. It was a win for all sides.
Stephen Levin: STREB has worked with Council Member Stephen Levin since he took office in 2008. As SLAM has grown, Levin has been a consistent supporter and has for the past two years been the primary sponsor of the company’s monthly TEEN ACTION CLUB. Levin directed city capital funding to STREB in 2011 for the purchase and installation of a theatrical lighting system and in 2012 for the planned renovation of SLAM’s façade and lobby. In 2012, Levin hosted a Town Hall meeting designed to explore ways for the arts and business to collaborate in community development.
Espana Entertainment – STREB began its collaboration with aerial artists Noe and Ivan Espana in 2001 with the creation of a full-evening show. In 2005, Espana Entertainment designed and installed SLAM’s trapeze rig and the Espana/STREB Trapeze Academy was established. The relationship continues through artistic collaborations, annual master trapeze workshops and ongoing supervision of Trapeze Academy curriculum.
MIT Biomechatronics Lab – In 2008, STREB honored Dr. Hugh Herr, the director of the MIT Biomechatronics Lab at its annual ACTION MAVERICK benefit. Since then, Herr has been a creative collaborator leading the company to experiment with the integration of cutting-edge technology and action architecture. Herr and other members of the Biomechatronics Lab continue to be central to the company’s creative conversation.
Greenpoint YMCA – STREB has worked for nine years with the Greenpoint Y’s KIDS in CONTROL (KIC) program whose members, ages 7 to 11, continue to come to SLAM for weekly classes. As these members “age-out” of KIC, STREB works closely with the Y to provide scholarships to tweens and teens for STREB’s ongoing education programs and encourages participation in TEEN ACTION CLUB. Moving forward, STREB plans to work with the Y to engage former KIC participants as both STREB TEEN AOP’s and summer camp counselors-in-training.
Open Space Alliance (OSA) – For the inaugural POP UP SLAM this August, STREB chose to partner with the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn (OSA), a nonprofit organization that raises funds and works with community members, elected officials, and the New York City Parks Department, to improve existing and create new parks in North Brooklyn. STREB and OSA came together based on their shared commitment to develop spaces that nurture community and foster exchange, connections and understanding and reflect the diverse interests of community members. To reach their shared goal, each organization contributed something they could uniquely offer: STREB – a compelling program with a track record of individual and group impact and OSA – public space, access to a new constituency, the ability to navigate city rules and regulations as well as support personnel. To date, the partnership has proven to be a good fit making the implementation of the first POP UP SLAM seem natural. The seeds for future collaborative efforts have been sown and conversations are underway about next steps.
These and other successful partnerships have been characterized by:
- shared values
- shared information
- shared resources
- open communication
- interest in supporting and moving each other’s agendas forward
- creating new possibilities for new kinds of work, new types of projects and new ways to engage constituents