Suzanne Fiol, the stylish, spirited artist and founder of Issue Project Room, the experimental music venue in Gowanus, died October 5 at New York Presbyterian Hospital after a long battle with cancer. She was 49.
“Anyone who has met Suzanne knows that she devoted her life to creating and sustaining a space where artists— acclaimed and emerging, local and international — could develop and perform new, challenging, and exciting works. Regardless of the different venues we’ve inhabited since our inception in 2003, Issue has always been Suzanne’s labor of love, a space that housed and reflected her restless intellect, fiery spirit, and great heart,” Issue Board Chair Steve Wax said in a statement.
Fiol would often refer to herself as “Mama Issue,” Wax said, “a fitting moniker considering the unconditional love she unabashedly showed her friends, family, and the steadily growing audiences that have been coming to Issue over the years.”
Since its founding in 2003, the venue, which got its start in the East Village, has hosted hundreds of shows. For Fiol, a photographer by training, artists should be appreciated. “Issue exists to commission artists, to give them a proper artist’s fee,” Fiol told Paper Magazine last year, “We want to see the artists who move our culture forward valued for their contribution.”
A memorial is currently being planned. Programming at Issue Project Room,232 Third Street, is expected to continue. The venue is expected to relocate to a theater in Downtown Brooklyn.
“It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Suzanne Fiol, the heart and soul and extraordinary visionary behind Issue Project Room, a symbol of the forward-thinking culture that makes Brooklyn the Creative Capital of New York City, and contributes so much to our city’s intellectual life,” Borough President Marty Markowitz said in a statement. “I was thrilled to help in a small way to move Suzanne’s vision of an innovative arts space at 110 Livingston Street — what she imagined as a ‘Carnegie Hall for the avant-garde’ — closer to reality.”
Fiol is survived by daughter Sarah; sister Nancy; and parents Lawrence and Arlene Perlstein.