NationalSawdust+ connects artists and thinkers to the dynamic, artist-led music venue in Williamsburg Brooklyn that opened its doors in October 2015. Curated by Elena Park, the series brings artists and thinkers together for stimulating, and often unexpected, events in an intimate setting.
From rocker Patti Smith to thinkers Jad Abumrad and Maria Popova to artists Marina Abramovic, Yo-Yo Ma and Carrie Mae Weems, the NS+ series brings together leading figures from the worlds of film, theater, science, media, literature, and art. Artists are given a platform to share their musical passions with the Williamsburg audience, to explore art and creativity with musicians and composers they admire, and to ask provocative questions about what is happening in the social, political, and cultural world around us.
In its debut season, NS+ Concerts were curated by RadioLab’s Jad Abumrad; distinguished directors Richard Eyre, Michael Mayer, and Julie Taymor; writer Adam Gopnik; and visual artist Elizabeth Peyton. These artists have showcased their deep musical interests, from spirituals to Broadway, opera to punk and indie rock – often in revealing, personal conversation with the musicians they present. Programs have ranged from Taymor’s “Made in Brooklyn,” which featured the work of composers hailing from that artistically fertile corner of New York: Copland, Gershwin, Corigliano, and Goldenthal (who both took part in a Q&A with Taymor), to Mayer’s Laura Nyro Night, with performers such as Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home; Caroline or Change) and Pulitzer-Prize winner Michael Cunningham (The Hours) sharing a love for an extraordinary muse.
In Season Two, NS+ Concerts served as incubators of new work. Carrie Mae Weems, “a superb image maker and a moral force” (The New York Times), reflected on questions of appropriation, equality, and history in her program called “Gentle on My Mind”; her work-in-process, featuring narratives, photographs and video, was created for this special NS+ evening. Visual artist Mickalene Thomas made her first foray as a veejay, teaming up with jazz great Terri Lyne Carrington to create an improvisational piece with arresting music and visuals.
The 2016-17 NS+ season also featured concerts curated by National Book award-winning novelist Jacqueline Woodson (whose program featured Toshi Reagon and Carl Hancock Rux), "Brain Pickings" creator and writer Maria Popova (who created an evening of singer-songwriters paying tribute to "Heroes"), and RadioLab's Jad Abumrad performed works-in-process created in collaboration with Eric Whitacre. The NS+ season ended with “Who Owns the Story?,” an afternoon of performance and conversation, as artists gathered to discuss issues of ownership in the wake of the Whitney Biennial controversy surrounding Dana Schutz's painting of the corpse of Emmett Till. Monologist Mike Daisey, theater-maker Dael Orlandersmith, Lakota master musician Tiokasin Ghosthorse, writer-musician Carl Hancock Rux and Hawaiian practitioner Kauila Kanaka’ole were among the thinkers who shared their views on this timely, and often painful, question.
The 2017-18 season featured collaborations with two literary mainstays: Regarding Whitney, presented with London Review of Books, featuring artists such as Esperanza Spalding, Du Yun, and Rux and writers Doreen St. Felix and August Kleinzahler; and Sam Stephenson's Wide Angle with Gene Smith, presented with The Paris Review. Mariana Sadovska and Daniel Bernard Roumain were showcased in a provocative program called "From the Frontlines." Explorations included "Elements of Taste + Time," a night of inventive food, mixology, and music; and "The Perception of Beauty" created by Lab of Misfits' Beau Lotto and musician Oded-Lev Ari. And Mozart in the Jungle was in the house for a Season Four kick-off event featuring show runner Will Graham and composers Caroline Shaw and Missy Mazzoli (who performed their work), among others.
NS+ Talks, expansive. hour-long conversations pairing artists and thinkers from different walks have life, have featured (in date order):
- Terry Riley + Francois Girard
- Jad Abumrad + Caroline Shaw
- Patti Smith + Waltraud Meier
- Marina Abramovic + Laurie Anderson
- Meredith Monk + Yuval Sharon
- Anat Cohen + Jon Glaser + Oded Lev-Ari
- Chris Jackson + Rachel Eliza Griffiths
- Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina + Vivien Goldman + others
- Paola Prestini + Isabel Behncke + Mario Livio
- Yo-Yo Ma + Maria Popova
The state-of-the-art, non-profit venue opened its doors to the public on October 1, 2015. Adopting the name of the factory once housed within the century-old building’s shell, the $16 million, 13,000-squarefoot space welcomes the public for an inaugural season. A diversity of world-class artists and composers are working with the venue’s CEO and Artistic Director, composer Paola Prestini, to curate the space, which also features an array of artists- and groups-in residence and partners.
In a city teeming with venues, National Sawdust, located at North 6th Street and Wythe Avenue in the heart of Williamsburg, is founded upon a singular, expansive vision: to provide composers and musicians across genres with a setting in which they can flourish, and a place where they are given commissioning support, mentoring and other critical resources essential to create, and then share, their work. It will be a resource not only for the community of musicians, but also for audiences in search of remarkable musical experiences—serious fans and casual listeners alike—at accessible ticket prices. National Sawdust will also offer progressive public programs and educational initiatives.
Designed by Brooklyn’s Bureau V, National Sawdust preserves the authenticity of Williamsburg’s century-old industrial past while providing a refined and intimate setting for the exploration of new music. At its core: a flexible chamber hall, acoustically designed by renowned engineering firm ARUP to provide the highest-quality experience of both unamplified and amplified music.