BAM sets the ‘stage’ for new theater

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Through both good and bad economic times, art continues marching forward to its own beat.

This theme echoed as the Brooklyn Academy of Music launched the BAM Next Stage campaign last week to raise $300 million for a new theatre, cinema complex, and to support current and future programming.

“BAM has withstood fire, flood, the Great Depression, natural and man-made disasters, and yet, here it stands: one of our city’s great artistic treasures,” said BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins.

“BAM’s ability to weather economic downturns is absolutely dependent on building a strong, stable institution – that’s what the Next Stage will accomplish. BAM will flourish as a unique institution for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world,” she added.

Once raised, a good part of the money is expected to go toward construction of two capital projects -- a 263-seat theatre and community use facility at 231 Ashland Place dubbed the Richard B. Fisher Building, and a second BAM cinema complex at a as yet to be determined site, officials said.

Upon completion, the Fisher Building will also provide low-cost community and artist use for about half of each calendar year.

Additionally, the building will allow for the expansion of BAM’s school-based performances, family events, and student workshops.

According to BAM officials, more than half or $160 million has already been raised for the campaign including $22.5 million from the city and $3 million from state. Additionally, BAM has received large endowments from Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the widow of Richard B. Fisher, Judith R. and Alan H. Fishman and the SHS Foundation.

BAM spokesperson Adriana Leshko said BAM currently utilizes the upstairs of 231 Ashland Place, the former Salvation Army building, for housing its archives.

The theatre is expected to break ground in the fall with performances starting sometime in 2012, she said.

BAM currently operates two other stages -- the 2,000-seat Howard Gilman Opera House and the 874-seat BAM Harvey Theatre.

The planned cinema complex will also house a visual arts gallery for local, national and global painters, sculptors, and media artists to exhibit their work.

The BAM Next Stage initiative comes as the district recently kicked off its three-year international Bridge Project joining BAM with London’s The Old Vic Theatre.

The Bridge Project kicked off recently with an adaptation of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” produced by Kevin Spacey and Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes.

Additionally, BAM will play major host of the 10-day Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas festival taking place throughout the city June 5-19.

The festival will feature Muslim artists, installations, performers and speakers spanning the globe. The event will kickoff at 8 p.m., Friday, June 5 at the Howard Gilman Opera when internationally renowned singer Youssou N’Dour takes the stage.

Now over 150 years old, BAM first opened in Brooklyn Heights in 1861.

The BAM Cultural District is generally bounded by Rockwell Place, Fulton Street, Flatbush Avenue and Hanson Place in Fort Greene.

It includes a cluster of buildings - almost all of which are related to the performing, visual and fine arts as well as some housing.

Updated 3:32 pm, October 19, 2011
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