Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Kate Peila: In "lessons learned" post, Harwell ignores DNA's efforts

Two respected leaders of New York's dance community differ in their accounts of the recent history of The Sun Building at 280 Broadway, the former home of Dance New Amsterdam (DNA), a dance education, development and presenting organization which went bankrupt and shut down last year after a long struggle to renegotiate its lease and pursue a new business plan.

[Read more here: Curtain Closes On Dance New Amsterdam: Beloved NYC Studio And Simonson Technique Hub Bankrupt, To Close Doors by Nadine DeNinno, International Business Times, August 29, 2013]

280 Broadway, located across Chambers Street from City Hall, was recently annexed by Gibney Dance Center, an organization that administers Gina Gibney's dance troupe and several rental studios developed at 890 Broadway, a Flatiron District building owned by ballet choreographer/director Eliot Feld. GDC has reconfigured the Lower Manhattan extension for a slate of dance classes and plans to create new spaces for performance at the site. In addition, the organization's well-regarded Community Action program for survivors of domestic violence will be relocated to 280.

On May 14, Lane Harwell, Executive Director of Dance/NYC, contributed a blog post to The Huffington Post about "lessons learned" in the effort to save 280 Broadway for New York's dance community. The essay, which makes no mention of DNA's accomplishments or struggles, begins,
There are lessons for the creative sector in the story of 280 Broadway, whose new tenant, Gibney Dance, opens its doors to the community to shape the future. In a real estate climate where too many are losing space and reporting escalating costs -- real threats to creative life -- some, like Gibney Dance, are making solutions.
[Read more here: Making Space Solutions for Making Arts and Culture]

Catherine A. Peila, who served as Executive and Artistic Director of DNA from 2007 to 2014, asserts that that organization's "30 years of community building has been disappeared." In her initial response, posted yesterday on Facebook and forwarded to this writer among others, Peila wrote,
Having received phone calls from the cultural community regarding Lane’s blog “Making Space Solutions for Making Arts and Culture,” I must respond. It is imperative that a deeper investigation regarding the 280 Broadway transition from DNA to Gibney Dance be initiated before any attempt of a qualified statement regarding “lessons learned” be made. As the executive and artistic director of DNA, 2007-2013, Lane’s post is devoid of information that sets the stage for the DNA to Gibney transition. DNA’s original renovations, partnership negotiations, efficiency practices and financial modeling, legal battles, bankruptcy filing and its unnecessary dissolution enabled Gibney Dance to “reengage” the 280 Broadway dance space.

DNA successfully saved a space in NYC for dance, which represented nine years of unflagging work by its staff and board, thousands of artists, pro-bono lawyers and financial analysts, foundations and individual donors, elected officials, city cultural representatives, and Fram Realty. Gibney’s team received all the benefits without the burden of DNA's renovation debt, which proved to be its ultimate unraveling. Lane omits vital information that shows the cultural, funding and government sectors colluded to transfer the assets of DNA's/Dance Space Center’s 30 years of community building and program development to what they considered to be a healthier business. 280 Broadway is reengaged. I recognize Gina Gibney's commitment, but it is important to publicly analyze 280 Broadway’s transition so a proper list of “lessons learned” will aid in strengthening the non-profit field and this city’s cultural policy.
Yesterday, I reached out to Lane Harwell for a response to Peila's concerns, and he agreed to forward a written reply by 10am this morning. I have not received his response in time to include it in this post. Business travel over the next few days will delay my ability to post a follow-up, but I still hope to receive and append anything that Harwell would like to share with the readers of InfiniteBody.

Your comments on this issue are also welcome.

1 comment:

Paul Nagle said...

A complete disclosure of the timeline of how this went down would be very interesting. I would have to disagree with Lane Harwell that the cultural darwinism that was practiced in this case represents a positive model for the future, though I fear it will certainly prove replicable.

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