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Arts & Life

Well-known Brooklyn art space moving to Detroit

A pioneering performance space and cultural oasis is leaving Brooklyn after twenty years and is moving to Detroit.

Robert Elmes, founder and director of the Galapagos Art Space, said they are being driven out by New York's high rents.

Galapagos is dedicated to nurturing emerging artists - from the beginning of their careers to the midpoint- and to providing a dynamic venue for all kinds of artistic talent, according to Elmes.

Galapagos has featured a rich variety of  theater, dance, performance art, music, film, and visual art exhibits. During its almost twenty years in Brooklyn, it has produced about 7,500 programs and drawn over one million people.

Galapagos offers a weekly circus of jugglers and trapeze artists called the "Floating Kabarette," and a series called "Nerd Night" which combines science lectures with beer, according to Elmes. It also hosts a program called "Get Smart" which mixes 1920s Paris cabaret with TED talks.  In addition, it rents space for weddings, fundraisers and other events.

Elmes said Galapagos will continue this kind of programming in Detroit. It plans to start a Detroit Biennial in 2016 to showcase the work of Detroit artists and contribute to making the city a cultural mecca.

Galapagos has purchased nine buildings, totaling almost 600,000 square feet,  in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood and in nearby Highland Park, Elmes said "for the price of a small apartment in New York City." Elmes  expects that initial renovations will take about 16 months aiming for an opening day in spring 2016.

One performance space will feature a 10,000 square foot indoor lake with seating areas hovering over the water. 

Elmes said young artists around the country have given up on New York because of the high costs. He thinks Detroit can be the "national mixing chamber" that New York has been.

"I think cities are competing for young artists," said Elmes. "They see this clearly as economic development and clearly it is."

Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio News