By Stephen Brown
The gritty home of Brooklyn public access television will be transformed into a modern, inviting “Today” show-style studio, thanks to renovations that will be completed by next year.
The $31-million upgrades will bring BRIC Arts|Media|Bklyn — the organization behind the “Celebrate Brooklyn” concert series, as well as BCAT television — to the ground level of Rockwell Place at Fulton Street, inviting the public to check out a variety of artistic endeavors that had previously been nestled away on the second floor of the same building.
“We have these fantastic — but hidden — public television facilities,” said Leslie Schultz, the executive director of BRIC Arts|Media|Bklyn, the arts group with the oddly typeset name. “Our current entrance looks very forbidding, but it will soon be open and welcoming.”
The lobby area will serve as a gallery for contemporary art, along with a café. Next to the café will be the glass-walled television studio, giving observers a window into the production process.
But it’s not just local television that will benefit from the upgrade. Many Brooklyn-based artists will likely be scrambling to take advantage of the new high-tech space as well.
A two-story, 250-seat theater will serve as a major venue for dance, theater and music acts. There will also be a smaller performance space that can accommodate around 75 people.
“It’s an exciting, state of the art playground for artists,” said Schultz, who would not hint what musicians might play at the venue, though two years ago, insiders were talking up the likes of Lou Reed and Ben Folds, who, interestingly enough, had a hit song called “Brick.”
The upgrades to the building, which once housed the Strand Theater, will mark a return to the glory days.
“This will be the first time the building has been 100 percent dedicated to cultural use since the 1950s,” said Schultz, who praised the Department of Cultural Affairs for putting up $27 million of the renovation budget.
The project recently won an award from the Design Commission for blending contemporary aesthetic with the old building built in 1918 in an economical way.
Urban Glass — a glassblowing collective in the building — will also get a ground floor gallery and store space as part of the renovations.
When complete, the new artistic hub should be a major step towards the planned “BAM Cultural District” — a Lincoln Center-like arts zone revolving around the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Two months ago, the Theater for a New Audience, a renowned Shakespeare company, quietly announced it would soon break ground on a theater a block away.