A low-key crowd of music fans seated on folding chairs gathered last Tuesday evening to enjoy a selection of works by Caroline Shaw, the 30-year-old singer, violinist and composer who won the Pulitzer Prize for music this year.
The venue was one of the most active locations on Lower Manhattan’s contemporary music map: the atrium on the first floor of the eight million square feet office complex recently renamed Brookfield Place.
After the concert, Brookfield executives, artists and Downtown dignitaries gathered across the street to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Arts Brookfield, the real estate giant’s public arts program.
“Real estate shouldn’t just be the buildings that are standing there,” Daniel M. Kindbergh, senior vice president for operations at Brookfield, told Real Estate Weekly. “It should integrate and be a part of the community and make the community better.”
In addition to musical performances, Arts Brookfield has a long history of sponsoring dance, theater and artistic exhibits in the public spaces of Brookfield’s 330 million square feet portfolio.
The program’s newest initiative, which Debra Simon, vice president and artistic director of Arts Brookfield, announced at last week’s reception, is an invitation to artists around the world to submit their work via social media to be considered for presentation in Brookfield buildings and online.
To participate in the “Art Set Free” program, professional and amateur artists alike can tweet, Facebook or Instagram their work using the tag #artsetfree.
“For 25 years, Arts Brookfield has ‘set art free’ for the public with free concerts, exhibitions, theater and dance performances, and film screenings at Brookfield’s indoor and outdoor public spaces. We think the best way to celebrate our 25th Anniversary is to truly make the world our stage and encourage artists working in all genres around the world to set their own art free,” Simon said.
Arts Brookfield hosts performances and exhibits throughout the company’s portfolio, but it got its start 25 years ago in the Winter Garden in the former World Financial Center, where Shaw performed last week.
John Schaffer, who hosts music programming on New York Public Radio, has been putting on his “New Sounds Live” series of concerts by emerging artists in the Winter Garden for 15 years. He commended Arts Brookfield for its commitment to arts sponsorship as well as the open mind the program’s executives bring to sponsoring new and cutting-edge work.
“It’s not like having family-friendly bands come and play for the kids,” Schaffer said. “This is some avant-garde stuff.”
In addition to building ties with the community, the arts program also appeals to the cultural and philanthropic interests of Brookfield’s office tenants, Kindberg said.
The retail and food court portions of Brookfield Place are currently undergoing renovation, but the Winter Garden is unchanged from the complex’s days as the World Financial Center.
Musicians over the years have appreciated the open, multi-story space as well as the community-oriented shows, Schaffer said.
Robert Fripp, former guitarist for the progressive rock band King Crimson, told Schaffer that playing the Winter Garden was one of the most rewarding parts of his career.