37 Arts is dead! Long live Baryshnikov Arts Center!
Fri Mar 26 2010
In a firm rebuke to everything you know about blogs and new media and the Internet, I'm going to rock you with some news that is fully a year and a half old. There is no such building as 37 Arts anymore. Waaay back in 2008, the Baryshnikov Arts Center and the Orchestra of St. Luke's took over what had originally been a half-nonprofit, half-commercial presenting venue. And yet, certain people (mea culpa) insist on still referring to it as 37 Arts. If you look closely at the picture on the left, you'll spot the issue: There's still a gigantic 37 Arts sign sitting on the side of the building. It's large and it glows and fairly demands attention. Now, there's also a Fela! poster out front, so this is a facade you should take with a pinch of salt. But the switch from 37 Arts to Baryshnikov Arts Center is not just a semantic change. Why? It's because the change in ownership has also righted a great wrong. BAC's gut-renovation of the sad, creepy, asymmetrical, concrete, orange-seated, poorly sightlined Theater C into the ravishing Jerome Robbins Theater ought to get the center an award. Our own David Cote marvels after seeing North Atlantic there, "The proportions are perfect. There's something dynamic and magnetizing about the relationship of the seating to the stage—I want to see it again from the balcony." You never, never hear critics volunteering to sit in a balcony. The Jerry (catch on, little moniker!) features plush bench seating with strokeable velveteen cushions, a graceful profile as the seating sweeps up from the ground, and a rare, harmonious synergy between the seating and the playing spaces. Normally, architecture doesn't make me gush and swoon, but after the wave of chilly new theaters of similar size (think of the personality-free barn of the Duke on 42nd Street, the horrors at Theater Row), it's past time to get excited when somebody finally gets theater design right. Here are some lovely shots, from by Alexander Severin/RAZUMMEDIA, courtesy of WASA/Studio A.