The new look of the Torn Space Theater. (Images courtesy of Empire State Development)
Fri, June 25, 2021 10:10 a.m.
Project supported by the Buffalo Billion East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund
√ The East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund brochure is available HERE
Empire State Development announced Thursday the completion of the Torn Space Theater’s $1.2 million interior and exterior renovation project. The theater, located on Buffalo’s East Side, now has an expanded and improved performance space that is integrated with the reclaimed green space surrounding the newly restored building at 608 Fillmore Ave., creating what ESD called , “a beautiful, walkable campus that invites community engagement.”
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, A vibrant arts and culture industry is crucial to any thriving neighborhood, and the Torn Space Theater is a creative performance space that will breathe new life into Buffalo’s East Side. Revitalizing the arts is essential to our economic recovery and ensuring that all neighborhoods are part of our recovery. The Torn Space Theater has all the makings of an iconic destination and is a great example of Buffalo’s comeback story.
Eric Gertler, ESD Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-Elect, said, “This project is not just an investment in the Torn Space Theater, it’s an investment in the entire surrounding community, creating an engaging environment to attract new visitors to the neighborhood while showcasing the rich history of Buffalo’s east side.We commend the theater staff and volunteers for completing a project that will be enjoyed and enjoyed for years to come. to come.
Torn Space Theater – in partnership with the Adam Mickiewicz Library and the Dramatic Circle – is undertaking a progressive initiative to create a campus setting focused on community engagement that complements and supports recent neighborhood revitalization efforts and encourages future investment in Broadway -Fillmore. The expansion and site improvements revitalize not only the theater but also a section of Fillmore Avenue that provides a strategic link to established landmarks on the east side – such as Broadway Market, St. Stanislaus and the central terminal – and emerging ones, including urban farms, the renovation of the former Schreiber brewery and a Buddhist cultural centre. The site is also on a major north/south transit corridor linking Larkinville to the Broadway/Fillmore shopping district.
The final phase of the renovation project, titled ‘Hidden Identities’, designed by architectural firm Studio North, integrates the performance space with the outdoor grounds surrounding the newly restored Light/Station design and production studio, adjacent to the theater at 612 Fillmore Ave. The project increases the capacity and volume of the indoor performance space and transforms it into a state-of-the-art multi-purpose performance facility while restoring the exterior of the historic Adam Mickiewicz Library and Drama Circle.
“The Torn Space Theater is committed to ensuring the long-term viability of the Broadway/Fillmore Historic District,” said Dan Shanahan, Founder and Artistic Director of Torn Space Theatre. “The completion of this phase of construction ensures that we will be able to produce and present the best in contemporary performance, host artistic residencies and continue to facilitate meaningful conversations with local and international artists. Torn Space, along with the Adam Mickiewicz Library and the Drama Circle, is eager to provide a space where the community can engage in thought-provoking performances, lectures and literature while enjoying the authentic Polonia Tavern.
Through the ESD, the Torn Space Theater applied for and received $748,000 from the East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund. As part of the Buffalo Billion Phase II Placemaking Strategy, Governor Andrew Cuomo has committed $65 million to revitalization efforts on the city’s east side through investments in neighborhood stabilization and ensuring home ownership opportunities; strengthen commercial corridors by promoting mixed-use and walkable neighborhoods; enhance historic and natural assets of regional significance; expand opportunities for labor relations; and supporting and developing entrepreneurship.
Since 2016, KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation have provided over $225,000 to support the revitalization of the Torn Space Theater.
“The renovations to the Torn Space Theater will ensure that this great facility will continue to be a center of culture and performance on Buffalo’s East Side that people from all parts of Western New York can visit and enjoy,” said said Elizabeth Gurney, director of corporate philanthropy. at KeyBank and Managing Director of the First Niagara Foundation. “KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation are proud to support the revitalization of the Torn Space Theater. We are honored to help this project and others that are bringing new investment, excitement and opportunity to East Buffalo.
Light/Station opened in November 2017 as a design studio, gallery, green room and performance space. Architect Christopher Romano and his firm, Studio North, won two awards from the American Institute of Architects for transforming the former gas store into an architectural centerpiece for Torn Space.
ESD said Torn Space founders Shanahan and Melissa Meola “create original and aesthetically innovative performances; bring internationally acclaimed contemporary performances to Western New York; and cultivate the collaboration of actors, composers, sculptors, videographers and designers within their productions. Drawing on the cutting edge of the global avant-garde, TST offers both original dramas and new interpretations of existing plays. Using vivid imagery that both entertains and challenges the theatrical expectations of audiences, TST fully integrates other artistic disciplines – for example, media, music and visual arts – into its design aesthetic.
The Torn Space Theater is housed in the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Drama Circle. The Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle is a private, nonprofit club founded in 1895. It is the oldest Polish-American organization in Western New York and the oldest surviving Polish library in Buffalo. The library contains approximately 12,000 volumes with 400 hand-copied pieces. The bar serves over 50 different imported beers with a wide Polish selection. The “Circle” also hosts a large annual Dyngus Day party, as well as other cultural events.
The Torn Space Theater is located in the historic district of Polonia, just five minutes from downtown Buffalo and three minutes from the Larkin neighborhood. Throughout the season, Torn Space hosts shows, parties and special events, featuring Mickie’s beverage selection as well as some of Buffalo’s favourites. The upstairs space is home to TST’s ‘Speakeasy Series’ which regularly features distinguished speakers for each production.