Artist-centered and community-driven, MoMA PS1 embraces boundary-breaking ideas and generative practices. A place where audiences participate and engage, the institution has offered insight into artists’ worldviews for nearly 50 years. Driven by a commitment to realizing artist’s visions, our responsive programs celebrate the tenacity of creative expression to inspire connection.
Community and Partnerships
At MoMA PS1 we understand community is not a monolith, but an ever-evolving constellation of local and international artists, organizations, and neighbors, gathering both in-person and online to address, problematize, and envision creative solutions to the most pressing issues of our times. We challenge the notion that New York City is a “melting pot” of identities and seek to engage diverse and even disparate points of view by offering and amplifying multiple perspectives through our programming. We operate from the belief that to be in community is to nurture non-agential collective action, while recognizing our positionality as a museum and community of cultural workers capable of leveraging our tangible resources in support of the many communities in which we coexist.
“Partnering with MoMA PS1 on the Studio Museum in Harlem Artist-in-Residence program over these last few years has really shown the community-driven, partnership-focused approach to their work. During the pandemic, they created studios at PS1 so the artists could prepare their exhibitions, and created unique opportunities for performance amidst COVID-19 restrictions in a way that was nimble and responsive to the artists needs. They are generating expansive approaches to building community and belonging that is now palpable every time you go to the Museum.”
– Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem
“The Fortune Society knows firsthand that the exciting vision of MoMA PS1 is an offering made of action and deep, sustained commitment to their neighbors with justice histories. Over the last two years, the Museum has become a shared space, a creative gathering place where Fortune community members feel inspired to root deeper in their own discovery and artistry. This on-going partnership with PS1 illuminates the capacity of art—and art making in community—to make change and realize possibilities for more just collective futures."
– Jamie Maleszka, Director of Creative Arts, The Fortune Society
Founded by curator Alanna Heiss, MoMA PS1 (originally known as P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center) was a defining force in the alternative space movement that gained momentum in New York in the 1970s. A rare example of this movement still anchored in its original site, PS1—a historic nineteenth-century public school building in the heart of Long Island City, Queens—has been transformed into a world-renowned place for artistic experimentation and creativity.
Located in what was once a thriving industrial enclave minutes from midtown Manhattan, PS1 has now become a cultural landmark in one of the fastest-growing, urban residential neighborhoods in the country. Deaccessioned as a public school in 1963 and then used as a Department of Education storage depot, the building was first secured from the City by Alanna Heiss and Linda Blumberg as part of the Institute for Art and Urban Resources Inc., a non-profit founded by Heiss in 1972 to provide studios and exhibition space in underutilized buildings across New York City.
In 1976, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center opened with the seminal Rooms exhibition, which was an invitation for artists to transform the building’s unique, run-down spaces with site-specific installations. Over seventy artists activated the campus, which is a tradition that continues to this day: 15 interventions in the interstitial spaces give the building and Courtyard its “second skin” and mark artists’ enduring presence on site.
From its beginning, PS1’s Studio Program was a defining fixture, offering free workspace to artists from across the world, creating a vibrant community of practitioners, and utilizing the institution’s resources to support the work and careers of artists during and beyond their residencies. This initiative ran for nearly thirty years until 2004, when the studios were converted into exhibition spaces. However, since the museum reopened after being shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic, artists and their communities are once again utilizing spaces for studios, meetings, and rehearsals.
Community partnerships and collaboration are also part of PS1’s DNA. Beginning in 1980 and lasting a few years, the basement housed the Department of Cultural Affairs Materials Donation Program—a creative reuse initiative that provides the city’s arts nonprofits, public schools, and agencies with access to free materials—that is now known as Materials for the Arts, and remains headquartered in Long Island City. Today, PS1’s partnerships continue to build bonds in Long Island City and beyond—with organizations such as The Fortune Society and The Studio Museum in Harlem—creating models of collective impact, where resources and expertise are shared to amplify and support artists.
Championing grassroots innovation, Sunday Sessions (started in 2009) commissioned and presented projects organized with NYC collectives, DIY spaces, and community organizations, from Black Radical Imagination to Other Music, Art + Feminism to Topical Cream. Now integrated into PS1’s year-round programming, these performances, residencies, and events have grown to include to date more than 3,000 artists, scholars, activists, cultural instigators, and thought-leaders.
Far from the “white cube” spaces of most contemporary museums, PS1’s idiosyncratic rooms have long had their challenges alongside their charm. In 1997, a campus-wide renovation included creating the large outdoor Courtyard, harnessing a rare parcel of public open space in the rapidly growing neighborhood. Here, two signature programs launched, bringing new audiences to the Museum: Warm Up summer music series (established in 1998 and ongoing) connects fans to innovative, underrepresented musicians; and the Young Architects Program (1999–2019), was a collaboration with MoMA that became one of the few showcases for designers to create experimental public environments in New York. Then, in summer 2020—a time ripe with questions of gathering in an era of social distancing—PS1 launched two new programs: the Courtyard Commission, which invites artists, designers, and architects to create year-round installations that enable participation and collaboration; and the Courtyard Coalition, which convenes creative thought leaders to tackle critical questions around the agency of cultural institutions and civic space, imagining new urban ecologies today. Furthering this commitment to steward public space, in 2021 PS1 partnered with NYC’s Department of Transportation to establish the 46th Avenue public plaza, an area in front of the Museum’s entrance that hosts an array of programming and provides opportunities for respite. Through diversifying the uses of the building and Courtyard, and by undertaking a proactive rethinking of the modes and duration of programming that is responsive to creative producers now, PS1 bolsters New York’s cultural ecosystem and in turn is galvanizing like-minded artists and institutions around the world.
To celebrate the affiliation with the Museum of Modern Art in 2000, one of PS1’s most ambitious projects—Greater New York—was launched and has taken place every five years since. The only ongoing survey of artists living and working in the New York City area, each iteration is curated by a different team of MoMA and PS1 staff alongside guest curators. To date, more than 500 local, emerging, and under-recognized artists have been championed on an international stage. Since 2021, the mantra “Artists Make New York” has embraced a commitment to nurturing that talent year-round. Embodying PS1’s artist-centered ethos, this initiative—which includes residencies, mentorship, and activations in a new space that celebrates the work of PS1’s partners and collaborators called Homeroom—asserts an institutional commitment to supporting the ideation, production, and presentation of artists’ practices.