In the wise and true words of Isaac Bush and Alex Orthwein, “Brooklyn is the artistic frontier of New York City.” Those two gentlemen have, after looking at over 60 venues, founded a new performance incubator: Brooklyn Art Haus (24 Marcy Avenue).
Seeking a space that could be as dynamic as the borough’s artists, the two co-executive directors would not rest until they found the needle in a haystack: a venue that can offer a main stage, rehearsal studios, podcast studio, and more to accommodate performances of all stripes. Plus, there’s a bar and kitchen to further instill a sense of longevity and community. Below, the two artists/execs catch up with Greenpointers about their new performance nucleus, where “every night offers something new.”
Greenpointers: How did you two meet, and when did you dream up this idea?
Co-Executive Directors Isaac Bush and Alex Orthwein: We met each other while asking questions about how artistic spaces, which were dissolving over the pandemic, could better serve the artistic process. Isaac’s studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and subsequent work across Europe, China, and Brazil gave inspiration to how the psychology of space affects the generation of an artist’s work. Alex’s work as a performer and events host likewise established a mission for gathering spaces. We were introduced by a mutual friend and embarked on a listening journey that then turned into a real estate search, finally resulting as Brooklyn Art Haus and Café des Artistes.
For those new to the venue, can you discuss its mission and what it aims to accomplish?
Brooklyn Art Haus (BAH) is an arts organization that premiers new and innovative productions. For our artistic community, our mission is to serve as an incubator, social environment, and performance space built for the longevity and success of artists and companies that maintain high standards and take risks with their projects. Audiences will experience the best of Brooklyn art, as well as the beauty of our international community of artists and production companies. If it’s happening in the world, we’re talking about it at Brooklyn Art Haus.
How did you find the space to house BAH?
Most artistic spaces that exist in New York City don’t have the ability to innovate or support versatile ideas. We credit this reality to the lack of space in Manhattan, lack of performance spaces in Brooklyn, zoning and ordinances that prevent radical mixed-use artistic spaces. Our fully versatile main stage, rehearsal studios, podcast studio, kitchen, café, and bar could only be possible with a new build and collaborative landlords. We visited over five dozen different options of 5,000+ square feet, which are already limited, but we kept pushing because we believed that Brooklyn is the artistic frontier of New York City.
What have been some difficulties in starting this new performance venue, and what have been some exciting milestones?
We’re performers and directors. Embarking on this process meant that we needed to learn and exercise judgment on the construction trades, design scope, permits, insurance, accounting, local/state/national laws and zoning that needed to happen parallel to our non-profit and community outreach, all while programming a space that offers 9-12 productions per week. Thus far we’ve welcomed over 5,000 members of the public to our spaces, given 70 shows over 60 days, hosted the New York Independent Theater Awards, rotated two gallery shows, hosted international projects and our first artist-in-residence, and most importantly developed strong relationships within our beloved communities in Brooklyn.
Are there any shows you are excited about or dates our readers should hold?
Our programming schedule is unique: almost every night offers something new to the public. We encourage the public to visit their local theater on a weekly basis for a number of reasons: 1) Our mission for equity keeps our ticket prices low or on par with movie tickets. Come for a human connection!; 2) We want to always stay concurrent with topical affairs as articulated by these artists and companies; 3) We hold innovation, risk taking, and multiculturalism as pinnacle for our presentation.
Mondays are three shows from the Squirrel Comedy Theater, Tuesdays offer the best of NYC’s variety and cabaret worlds, Wednesdays are contemporary circus nights, Thursdays to Sundays are production runs by domestic and international companies, and Sunday nights are film premieres including our Haus Shorts monthly film fest. The public is encouraged to visit our website at bkarthaus.com for showtimes and follow us on at @bk_arthaus for daily updates.
Anything else you’d like to add? Thanks!
While much of the focus is on Brooklyn Art Haus, we couldn’t be more thrilled to offer a new and alluring bar/café/restaurant to the Williamsburg community: Café des Artistes (20 Marcy Avenue). The café is modeled after contemporary grand European cafes and London theater bars, and offers a delicious selection of Mediterranean fare in collaboration with [our] Executive Chef team, Naama and Assaf Tamir of Lighthouse Restaurant. As art reflects culture, its most delicious intake is through culinary arts. The dialogue between art and cuisine is central to the identity of this space and all are welcome to a delicious coffee, glass of wine, and gallery tour through Café des Artistes and Brooklyn Art Haus.