The impact of COVID-19 on NYC is often counted in the unbearable loss of life — and the loss of livelihood for far too many of us. Among NYC’s small businesses, the creative community has suffered its smaller theaters, galleries, music and performance venues put on endless “hold” or closing their doors forever. Yet amid the losses is also hope. There are some spaces that have managed to survive — and thrive in 2020’s Year of Suck. In this new series we’ll feature some of these, if only so we know where to go… once we can do so again.
Many arts venues have been driven from Manhattan, but there is one space that was driven to it: Grace Exhibition Space (GES). In 2006, collaborators Jill McDermid and Melissa Lockwood (Erik Hokenson came aboard in 2007) opened GES in a second floor loft at 840 Broadway in Bushwick, Brooklyn. They believed performance artists too often presented in spaces that caused them to be viewed more as incidental entertainment than serious art, and wanted a setting dedicated to — and specific for it.
As one of many DIY performance art spaces opening in (or relocating to) Brooklyn at the time, GES gave a home to hundreds of international and domestic artists, and hosted many festivals. But over the next decade, Bushwick (like Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early 00s), became a neighborhood that ejected the artists it once embraced. When rent demands on their loft became unrealistic, GES began looking for a new home — and against all odds found one — a long-term lease at 182 Avenue C in Manhattan’s East Village, a community which historically has been home to a rich performance art scene. “The irony of this is poetic, but this all came about born of practical need,” says Co-Director Erik Hokenson.
To celebrate their evolution — and survival, beginning Tuesday, Sept. 22, GES will present #Give2Grace — a seven-day virtual performance art event featuring video premieres, updates from current artists-in-residence, interviews and more — from local and international artists who embrace a multitude of performance styles. The week-long lineup includes GES alums Miao Jiaxin, Martin O’Brien, Arantxa Araujo, Nicole Goodwin, Kris Grey, Alex Romania and Nicola Fornoni, along with current resident artists Dee Dee Maucher and Dragonfly (Robin Laverne Wilson).
Says Co-Director Jill McDermid, “A silver lining around the coronavirus pandemic is that we have been given an opportunity to breathe, reflect and identify ways to remain a continued resource for artists and audiences around the world. We need support in order to make this happen. Your support goes toward 2020/21 performance art commissions and securing a development coordinator to aid in our quest for sustainability.”