Jake Yuzna brings FUN to the Museum of Arts & Design

Jake Yuzna, the Museum of Arts & Design’s public programs manager, explores New York nightlife with a series of arty parties.



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Jake Yuzna; Museum of Art and Design

Jake Yuzna; Museum of Art and Design Photograph: Krista Schlueter

Visitors to the Museum of Arts & Design’s website might notice something curious on its calendar. Along with tags for “design” and “cinema,” a number of upcoming events are labeled with an “X.” It’s not a typo. MAD’s manager of public programs, Jake Yuzna, requested the designation for happenings that defy simple categorization. “Some of the most exciting people who inspire me—like Leigh Bowery—we still don’t have names for what they do,” says Yuzna.

The museum hired Yuzna in 2010 to launch its first cinema series, but his scope soon expanded beyond film. Starting with the Vibrant Space series in 2011, the organization began examining NYC’s after-hours culture from the Limelight to Brooklyn’s black-metal haunts. “For Vibrant Space, we were looking at the oral history of nightlife, and I began to think about what was needed in today’s environment,” he says. “Nightlife is up against a lot of challenges in the current economic and social landscape, and we realized we could support it through the FUN fellowship.”

The program, currently partnering with four innovative scene makers—Babycastles, CHERYL, FCKNLZ and Ladyfag—might seem like an odd fit for MAD, which was called the American Craft Museum until 2002. However, Yuzna argues that the pairing isn’t so strange. “It’s in the museum’s DNA to support marginalized practice,” he explains. The fellowship provides grantees with several thousand dollars, access to MAD’s resources (including its Columbus Circle building) and the ability to experiment freely. “We didn’t want it to be something where we were just paying people to have their parties at the museum, so there are very few constraints on the events,” says Yuzna. It also serves as one piece of MAD’s broader push past a traditional craft focus. This fall, the institution will hold an avant-garde animation survey, an emerging performance-art series and the unveiling of JF & Son’s new fashion line. “We’re not interested in creating programs that are unnecessary,” says Yuzna. “There are so many disciplines that are yet to be defined and figured out, and we want to support those.”

Museum of Arts & Design, 2 Columbus Circle at Broadway (212-299-7777, madmuseum.org). Tue, Wed, Sat, Sun 11am–6pm; Thu. Fri 11am–9pm. $15, seniors and students $12, members and children 12 and under free. Thu, Fri 6–9pm pay what you wish.

FUN Fellows and upcoming series

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