The New York Times recently did a piece on Brookfield Office Properties and its strong arts involvement with the establishment of Arts Brookfield. Here’s a little bit about what Brookfield is doing. And to read the New York Times piece, "Purveyors of Office Space and Lively Arts", visit, www.NYTimes.com.
Free art exhibitions and programs are not what you would expect to find within the stately buildings of Manhattan’s financial district. However, more office workers and visitors find themselves enjoying surprise performances by artists such as Mr. Taka Kigawa. The acclaimed pianist treated his audience to a number of Debussy’s Preludes in the lobby of 1 Liberty Plaza. This building is situated near Wall Street and is owned by a real estate corporation, Brookfield Office Properties.
In 1988, the corporation created a cultural branch called Arts Brookfield. Today, the organization is run by Debra Simon, a former dancer who cultivated years of experience in cultural planning and marketing at the Alliance for Downtown New York. Ever since its establishment, Brookfield Office Properties have earned a reputation as a key player for the integration of art and business.
Arts Brookfield spends approximately $1 million per year for the production of their free dance, theatrical, musical, and visual exhibitions set against the backdrop of their New York office buildings. In addition to this local program, Arts Brookfield also operates sister programs in Toronto, Calgary, Denver, Houston, and Los Angeles. The additional spending comes up to $2 million dollars. Altogether, the programs present about 400 free events annually for an audience of about 350,000 people.
When questioned about the incentives to create such a program, Brookfield executives said that “Art is an investment in the core business that pays off in a better class of tenants and higher rents.” Despite the corporation’s conservative inclinations, the projects presented have been centered mostly on contemporary or modern art. During an exhibition of his work at the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center, composer Judd Greenstein said, “You can talk to them about the power of an idea, and that’s really liberating.” The artist arranged various concerts from his Ecstatic Music Festival, with styles ranging from hybrid chamber music to electronic programs.
The Brookfield program offers an array of cultural projects, which include a kite flying exhibition, a huge tap-dancing mob, a blues festival, a photography exhibit dedicated to Italian Cinema, and a series of Mexican science fiction movies produced by Cinema Tropical.
Theatrical productions include works by the New York Classical Theater, Nerve Tank, and the Women’s Project. Dance presentations include a piece by Elizabeth Streb called “Human Fountain” where eighteen dancers swan-dived from a 35 foot high scaffold onto a padded surface.
One of the company’s ongoing partners, “Bang on a Can,” presents a marathon jam session that draws thousands of participants each year. Composer David Lang of Bang on a Can said, “The music we present, after all, doesn’t have a name attached to it or a venue dedicated to it, and it’s hard to describe to people. So having this carnival atmosphere, where people can stumble into it and discover the music as they’re going to get lunch, or go to work, is very exciting to us.”