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This is an archived post from our old blog. It's here for the sake of posterity (and to keep the search engines happy). Our new blog can be found at

Finding Non-Traditional Venues for Performance

[caption id="attachment_8571" align="alignnone" width="532" caption="Copyright © 2012 Philadelphia's Magic Gardens"] Philadelphia's Magic Gardens[/caption]

My Monday morning commute includes reading a weeks worth of  You've Cott Mail, the daily newsletter for arts professionals. Last Wednesday's newsletter focused on the growing importance of non-traditional venues.

As project manager of Fractured Atlas' Spaces program, I'm particularly attuned to discussions in the field about venues and space. The observation quoted below (and highlighted in You've Cott Mail) resonated deeply with me. It felt like a powerful affirmation of Fractured Atlas' commitment to define space broadly enough for non-traditional venues to fully participate in the online marketplaces for space we are building with our regional partners (ie: NYC Performing Arts Spaces, SpaceFinderLA, PhillySpaceFinder, etc.).

"Theaters, concert halls, and museums are conducive to certain kinds of exchanges between art and people. These are, and will always be, critically important spaces for public participation in the arts. But meaningful exchange occurs with greater frequency in many other settings, from old breweries to planetariums, abandoned subway platforms, barges, cinemas, and community bookstores. With the proliferation of virtual spaces for arts programs, it seems now that all the world's a stage. The new emphasis on setting is evident in the rise of site-specific festivals, growing experimentation with temporary or "pop-up" spaces, a new pattern of use of cinemas for high quality digital arts programs, and increased use of outdoor urban spaces for video presentation. It is also evident in the work of young artists who choose to curate the settings for their work as an integral part of the work itself. " -

Excerpt from "All The World's a Stage: Venues and Settings, and the Role they Play in Shaping Patterns of Arts Participation" by Alan Brown, principal in the arts consulting firm WolfBrown

Amen! to "it seems now that all the world's a stage". Brown gives many wonderful and specific examples of non-traditional venues in his full paper, and our national network of Spaces websites include examples along this spectrum. Philadelphia's Magic Gardens and San Francisco's The Mexican Bus come immediately to mind.

And, Amen! to "young artists who choose to curate the settings for their work". I consistently hear from Fractured Atlas members who think about space in this way.

Our approach to finding space is that we’re not just looking for a theater with a certain amount of space, we’re looking for a space that creates the world of our work; so one show had us searching for a tight loft space, another has us looking for a clean event space to hold a memorial service in. Sometimes it’s a theater, and sometimes it’s not.

Excerpt from member profile of Organs of State Artistic Director, Guy Yedwab

Brown observes non-traditional venues as becoming increasingly important, and makes an impassioned call to both curators and artists.
In a marketplace haunted by uncertainty, setting is one of the few variables that artists and curators can, and must, use imaginatively.

Excerpt from "All The World's a Stage: Venues and Settings, and the Role they Play in Shaping Patterns of Arts Participation" by Alan Brown, principal in the arts consulting firm WolfBrown

With all the world a stage, artists choosing to curate setting and the increased importance of non-traditional venues, what are we, Fractured Atlas, doing to make it easier for artists and non-traditional venues to find each other?

1. Building open marketplaces. The Spaces platform is purposely broad and inclusive. Rental listings are approved by a site administrator before being published, but it is free for any interested venue to participate. Theatres, concert halls, museums, and dance studios are listed along with bars, churches, gardens, rooftops, retail stores, private lofts, strip clubs, comedy clubs, historic homes, wineries, hotels and more.

2. Defining space by usage. Because space is primarily defined by the activities permitted within (ie: performance, rehearsal, special event, photo shoot, etc.) rather than the type of venue, it blows the door wide open for a performance space to simply be defined as, a space that a performance can take place in.

[caption id="attachment_8583" align="alignnone" width="201" caption="Search Filters by Space Usage"]Spaces search filters powered by Fractured Atlas[/caption]

3. Facilitating search based on the needs of the work. Unlike most venue directories where search is primarily alphabetical and you pretty much already need to know what you are looking for in order to find it, our Spaces search process is much more like match-making. By starting with the needs of the performance and the desired audience experience (audience experience is what Brown is really shining a light on, so please please read his full article) the Spaces platform offers a unique opportunity to discover or re-imagine venues.

Example Space Searches

Using Search Filters: Perhaps the audience experience calls for at least 2000 square feet, alcohol permitted, and flexible seating. An artist or a producer uses these sets of search filters to see what venues satisfy those specific needs and continue to filter down from there (most likely by location, price and availability). A similar search could be use if the audience experience calls for wifi, sound-proofing and a freight elevator. (You get the idea.)

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="626" caption="Search results from"]Search results[/caption]

Using Keyword Search: An artist interested in creating outdoor performance can search for a venue using the keyword "outdoor". This search on brings up a beer garden in Astoria, a courtyard with a waterfall in Harlem, a museum lawn on Staten Island, and the famous Westbeth Center in the West Village (famous as the long time home of Merce Cunningham studios, and increasingly a presentation space for media art on the walls of the building itself). Each of these spaces have self identified as performance venues and display their rental rates and booking policies. (Here are the search results for "outdoor" in Philly if your curious - includes a Helicopter Museum).  Similarly keyword searches for "raw" space will bring up interesting choices for both creation and presentation of work.

In summary, combining these three elements together; open markets, definition of space by usage and matchmaking based on the needs of the work and audience experience, has resulted in a valuable infrastructure for both artists and non-traditional venues to find each other.