When PS122 Became Performance Space New York

The initial outcry has subsided, but as Performance Space prepares to present the East Village Series — the first series organized by Ms. Schlenzka — this weekend, questions linger about the new identity. To what extent does a name matter? What happens to the history it holds? How to reconcile this renaming, a break from the past, with the East Village Series programming, which takes inspiration from the history of Performance Space and its neighborhood?

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The first draft of Sarah Ortmeyer’s new logo for Performance Space New York.

Credit
Sarah Ortmeyer

Speaking by phone last week, Ms. Schlenzka said that although she had read some negative comments online, she felt the reception of the name over all had been “so much more positive and understanding than I anticipated, especially from people I was very nervous to tell.”

Among those people, she said, was Tim Miller, a founder of PS122 whose designs for brochures and posters helped to create its original visual identity.

“I think PS122 already was quite a good brand, and obviously I would,” Mr. Miller said in a phone interview. “But what happens there is what will matter more.”

The performance artist Lucy Sexton, who served on PS122’s board of directors in the 1990s, said that the heated reactions stemmed from a strong sense of community and ownership of the space among artists, beginning with the founders. “Continuing generations have also felt that ownership,” she said.

More important than the name, she added, was that “we maintain the ethos of the space.”

For others who guided PS122 through its early years, the new name has been harder to accept. Mark Russell, the artistic and executive director from 1983 to 2004, noted the importance of places and names within the elusive medium of performance.

“What’s left after a performance is so ephemeral that the theater dust of this, the…

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