NEW YORK CITY — In a city packed with artists and performers, a new web platform is aiming to solve the biggest headaches for New York's performing-arts community — the availability of rehearsal and show space.
Much like the rental/booking companies Zipcar and OpenTable, the citywide website NYC Performing Arts Spaces connects owners of available rehearsal spaces to those in need using a real-time booking calendar. Utilizing search criteria including each show's specific needs, organizers hope to free up dance, theater, music and film artists to do what they do best — create.
"Space is one of the most universal and timeless needs in the arts," said Adam Huttler, the founder of Fractured Atlas, the nonprofit that runs NYC Performing Arts Spaces. "It doesn't matter whether you are a dance company, theater, film — you need space to do your work, and it's expensive and hard to come by."
The website allows performers to search for venues using 20 different pieces of criteria ranging from location to cost to availability — even down to the space's floor type and whether or not it includes a piano.
"It doesn't help to have a space down the street from you if it doesn't have what you need," said Huttler, adding that a sprung floor, ballet bar, no pillars and instrument availability might be particular needs for a performance group.
The website originally began as a simple directory in 2001 with another nonprofit, Exploring the Metropolis. While the site provided a listing of venues, artists were left visit them space themselves to determine availability and see if it met their needs.
Fractured Atlas took over the directory in 2008 and has used about $300,000 in grants and private donations to create the new site, according to Huttler.
It has been testing the platform since April on a select group of performance-art spaces, including the East Village nonprofit arts organization Fourth Arts Block.
"Our phone just went off the hook," said Tamara Greenfield, 41, executive director of FAB, speaking of when the organization plugged its venues onto the website's real-time booking calendar. FAB reported renting the same amount of space in one month using the service as it had in the previous four months, she said.
One of Fourth Arts Block's roles is to help local theaters, organizations and spaces manage their bookings, creating added income for venues while helping performances find cheap rentals.
"We had this great asset to offer people, but we didn't have any way to get it out to people," said Greenfield, who has headed up the organization for seven years.
"You don't have to work long with arts groups to realize there is a lot of frustration in trying to find space," she noted.
During the test phase, Fractured Atlas found that the site became particularly useful for those looking to book last minute, with less than 48 hours notice.
"Sometimes those renters become regular customers going forward," said Huttler, who hopes to expand the platform to other cities where Fractured Atlas facilitates a directory.
Of the 20 venues that the new site has been tested on, about 14 of those have signed on to pay a $20 monthly fee that allows their booking calendar to sync with the site.
Artists can still use the site for free using the old directory, featuring 2,200 different spaces around the city, Huttler explained. He is hoping to one day get all those venues onto the calendar.
"Rental space is a perishable inventory," he said. "If it goes unused, it is lost forever."