Interview: Gowanus Art + Production Celebrates Its First Anniversary

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Gowanus Art + Production books all the shows at the Green Building on Union Street—and more. We spoke to GAP’s Artistic Director Sarah Brown about the state of Gowanus and all the other things the group does. At the Green Building, GAP will celebrate its first anniversary on January 16 and 17 with the dance troupe Alexandra Beller/Dances, which will preview two new dances. Plus, there’ll be h’ors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and an afterparty. Get tickets and more info here.

What would you tell people who are unfamiliar with GAP what it is that you do?
GAP began in January 2013 as the official art division of the Gowanus Hospitality Group, the umbrella company for a number of venues in Gowanus: the Green Building, 501 Union, and a gallery space. GAP’s mission is to provide innovative space for art. We all know that space in this city is a commodity, and beautiful and large spaces are even rarer. GAP regularly curates live performances and art events throughout these venues. It’s my job to make this happen. I have a background in modern and contemporary dance, so naturally this is where we started.

What makes Gowanus ideal for the sort of artistic programming you oversee?
In many ways, Gowanus is like a bridge, connecting creative and thriving neighborhoods like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens. In time, Gowanus will be filled with the overflow from these and other surrounding neighborhoods. Gowanus offers space and the chance for community. There’s some mystery to Gowanus, and that intrigues people, particularly art appreciators. Our venues provide artists with non-traditional performance spaces that offer creative flexibility and a beautiful ambiance.

What kind of changes would you like to see in the neighborhood?
I’d love to see more of the empty and abandoned spaces reclaimed. I’d like to see artist endeavors based in sustainable business practices and more common workspace for non-profit organizations. I’m thrilled about the EPA’s work on the canal and look forward to seeing the progress made. When the canal is cleaned up, which will happen one day, Gowanus will be transformed into a beautiful neighborhood. I look forward to many future outdoor performances that happen right on the edge of the water.

What impact do you think the Whole Foods and other large developments will have on the future of Gowanus and its arts community?
The arrival of Whole Foods communicates to New Yorkers that Gowanus is a noteworthy neighborhood. I anticipate other large businesses to follow Whole Foods, helping to make Gowanus a desirable place to visit—for groceries, for art, for fitness, as well as a convenient place to live. As Gowanus develops, I anticipate it becoming a destination for art, food and culture that draws Brooklynites from all over and maybe even a few folks from Manhattan.

Looking back over the year, how did what you achieved differ from what you’d hoped to?
In many ways I didn’t know what we wanted to achieve this past year. It was an experiment of sorts: “Let’s have live art shows and see who comes…”  “Let’s partner with a gallery director and open a gallery space.” I had hoped to get a phone call from Jay-Z about his interest in doing an acoustic show at the Green Building, but he hasn’t called… yet.

What are you looking forward to accomplishing in 2014?
As we look to 2014, we hope to greatly diversify GAP’s programming while continuing to provide performance space for dance. In 2014, GAP is excited to present dance, theater, classical music, opera, storytelling, film and more. We hope to expose a larger number of people to meaningful art that results in lives being a littler fuller and more meaningful. Isn’t that the end goal of art—to enhance the quality of life? So many artists and organizations are striving toward this goal all across New York City. I hope that GAP plays our role in this effort in 2014.

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