Part American palace, part industrial shed, Park Avenue Armory fills a critical void in the cultural ecology of New York, supporting unconventional works in the performing and visual arts that cannot be fully realized in a traditional proscenium theater, concert hall, or white wall gallery. With its soaring column-free 55,000 square foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall and its array of exuberant period rooms, the Armory enables artists to create, students to explore, and wide audiences to experience epic, adventurous, relevant work that cannot be done elsewhere in New York. Such was its impact in its first years that The New York Times declared, “Park Avenue Armory…has arrived as the most important new cultural institution in New York City.” More recently, The New York Times has noted that: “few cultural institutions have been as adept at pushing the cultural FOMO button, triggering that ‘fear of missing out’ that New Yorkers hate…” Alongside unconventional programming, a creativity-based Arts Education program for underserved public school students has found a special niche at the Armory, offering at no cost to schools, student performances for all Armory productions; curriculum enrichment to partner schools; and a paid and highly mentored Youth Corps internship program that includes job training and engagement with Armory artists.
Since its first production in September 2007—in which artist Aaron Young choreographed a dozen motorcycles to create a 10,000 SF painting—the Armory has offered unconventional, boundary-pushing productions such as: Ernesto Neto‘s sprawling anthropodino, called “ethereal…a magical destination” by The New York Times; the final performances by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company that prompted the praise “‘Must see’ has never meant more” (The New York Times); Kenneth Branagh‘s Macbeth (where the Drill Hall became a blasted heath with rain, blood, and mud); a breathtaking production of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, directed by Peter Sellars, with soloists Mark Padmore and Eric Owens; tears become…streams become, in which Turner prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon flooded the Drill Hall with 122,000 gallons of water with the audience seated along the periphery of the lake; an electrifying new dance commission FLEXN staged by visionary director Peter Sellars and flex pioneer Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray, described as “part protest, part dance party, part collective autobiography” by The New York Times; eight-time Drama Desk-nominated play The Hairy Ape, directed by Richard Jones and starring Bobby Cannavale; Nick Cave‘s The Let Go, which invited diverse communities of New York to come together in a glittering “dance hall/town hall” described as a “religious experience…a celebration of the collective differences of all who were there” (Vogue); The Head & the Load, a scathing exposé of the treatment of African porters who served in WWI, created by William Kentridge and his brilliant collaborators Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi and acclaimed as “fiercely beautiful” by The New York Times; Satoshi Miyagi‘s intercultural reimagining of Antigone, which unfolded within an 18,000-gallon pool of water; Sam Mendes’ critically acclaimed production of The Lehman Trilogy, starring Adam Godley, Ben Miles, and Simon Russell Beale; and Theaster Gates’ Black Artists Retreat, a weekend of public programs, performances, a roller skating party, and private retreat activities and conversations that brought together an extraordinary group that included Nona Hendryx, Esperanza Spalding, The Illustrious Blacks, Toshi Reagon, Carrie Mae Weems, Staceyann Chin, and more.
In addition to the large-scale unconventional productions, the Armory also presents smaller scale performances and talks, salons, and symposia. Taking advantage of the array of rooms on the first and second floor, the Interrogations of Form series presents talks, discussions, and performances around important issues and topics of our time, including an annual symposium on “Culture in a Changing America,” whose participants have included Dick Griffin, Carl Hancock Rux, Anna Deveare Smith, Liz Diller, Nona Hendryx, and Esperanza Spalding. Other highlights have included major events conceived and led by Armory Artists-in-Residence like Carrie Mae Weems with a program entitled “The Shape of Things”; Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, who hosted an intimate literature salon featuring rising talents as well as luminaries like Lynn Nottage and Suzan-Lori Parks; and a United Lenape Nations Pow Wow and Standing Ground Symposium, the first large-scale celebration of Lenape culture and dance on Manhattan island since the 1700s, which offered performances and talks.
In the restored Board of Officers Room that has been lauded as “a space for chamber music, which marries excellent acoustics and an austerely elegant Gilded Age interior” (The New York Times), the Armory offers its acclaimed Recital Series, with the best of opera, classical, and contemporary musicians and vocalists in an intimate setting, including Barbara Hannigan, Christian Gerhaher, Roomful of Teeth, JACK Quartet, Roderick Williams, Lisette Oropesa, and Lawrence Brownlee. In the Artists Studio series, jazz phenomenon, multi-disciplinary artist, and MacArthur “Genius” Jason Moran curates an eclectic series of music and contemporary art, with such artists as Rashaad Newsome, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Pauline Oliveros. Held in the restored Veterans Room, the program features innovative artists and artistic pairings that reflect the imaginative, collaborative, and improvisational spirit of the original designers of the Veterans Room.
The Armory also supports artists across genres in the creation and development of new work through its Artist-in-Residence program, which offers dedicated space and resources to artists across a variety of disciplines. Current artists-in-residence include: Lynn Nottage, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Carmelita Tropicana, Mimi Lien, Reggie “Regg Roc” Gray and the D.R.E.A.M. Ring, Theaster Gates, Carrie Mae Weems, Christine Jones and Steven Hoggett, and Sara Serpa.
The Armory also has an active commissioning program for Drill Hall productions that includes new works from Nick Cave, Douglas Gordon, Marina Abramović and Igor Levit, Reggie Gray and Peter Sellars, and works in development by Bill T. Jones, Lynn Nottage, Carrie Mae Weems, and Reggie Gray and the D.R.E.A.M. Ring.
The Armory also offers creativity-based arts education programs at no cost to underserved New York City public school students. The program has three main components: (1) Production-based Programming, in which students attend multi-disciplinary productions and participate in pre- and post-visit workshops with the Armory’s talented corps of teaching artists; (2) Partner School Program, in which deeper relationships with schools are formed through semester and year-long in-school residencies; and (3) the Armory Youth Corps, a paid and closely mentored internship program focusing on students from underserved NYC public schools. Arts Education programs are free and are developed in alignment with the NYS Next Generation Learning Standards and the NYC Blueprint for the Arts.
Since its inception in 2010, the Armory’s Arts Education program has grown to reach 5,000 students annually from underserved NYC public schools. The Youth Corps program has grown from 8 high school students to approximately 100 active Youth Corps who complete a total of over 13,000 paid hours annually. Among our Youth Corps members, we are proud to report a 100% high school graduation rate (as compared with the citywide average of 73%).
Concurrent with its artistic program, the Armory has undertaken an ongoing $215-million revitalization of its historic building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron.
To learn more about programming at the Armory, Arts at the Armory page.
To learn more about the history of our interiors, download our interiors guide.
Thompson Arts Center
at Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065