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The Kitchen will spend some creative time in a Westbeth loft
During a renovation of its Chelsea space, the Kitchen will move to Westbeth, which houses artists, the Martha Graham company and much avant-garde history.



NEW YORK, NY.- Two storied New York City arts organizations, both with origins in the early 1970s, will soon share a roof, as the Kitchen temporarily relocates to Westbeth Artist Housing. The Kitchen announced the move Thursday.

Founded as an artist collective in 1971, the Kitchen is one of the city’s oldest nonprofit art centers dedicated to avant-garde and cross-disciplinary work. Its home in Chelsea will be undergoing a two-year renovation (designed by Rice+Lipka Architects), necessitating the short-term move, starting in late September.

Westbeth was founded in 1970, when buildings in the West Village previously used by Bell Laboratories were converted into affordable housing and studios for artists and their families. The landmark buildings also house the New School for Drama, the Martha Graham Dance Company and much history. The loft space that the Graham company took over 10 years ago was long home to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The Kitchen will be using the West Side Loft, a 6,000-foot loft space on the fourth floor.

“It’s a special space,” said Legacy Russell, who became the Kitchen’s executive director and chief curator last year. “It’s a version of New York that many folks come to the city with hopes of experiencing. So much of the history of the interdisciplinary avant-garde has that kind of loft space as its birthplace.”

Russell noted the similarity in photographs between the West Side Loft and one of the Kitchen’s first locations, in a SoHo loft. (Its first home was in the Mercer Arts Center, before it moved to Wooster Street and then to a multi-floor facility on 19th Street.) “I think it’s going to be an intergenerational touch point for the institution,” she said. For older generations, it might recall the Kitchen’s origins; younger artists and audiences will get a taste of the Kitchen’s loft phase for the first time.

The temporary home will help determine the Kitchen’s coming programming, soon to be announced. “It’s been wonderful bringing artists to the space,” Russell said. “When they see it, I think they know exactly what to do with it. We’ll be using it as a workshop or a lab, which is what a kitchen is, right? A place to test things out and explore and experiment — and to convene. Like whenever you throw a party and everyone ends up in the kitchen.”

In a sense, Russell said, the Westbeth loft is “a version of a space that the Kitchen has grown beyond.” Being there, she said, will be “a chance to revel in our history, to champion those who brought us to this point and to bring in new voices and perspectives, too.”

It’s also an opportunity, she said, to consider what “alternative space” means. “We’re in a period where there are fewer and fewer places” like Westbeth and the Kitchen. “We’re deeply committed to the idea that not everything can be a mega-museum or mega-gallery. There have to be intimate dialogues and exchanges that exist in that space between.”

“When the renovation is complete, we’ll be returning to an expanded footprint,” Russell said. But for now, the Kitchen will say goodbye to its Chelsea home with a dance party there Sept. 17.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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