An old theater has gotten a 21st-century makeover.
The roaring 1920s-era Strand Theater on Fulton Street in Fort Greene began its new life as an arts and media center today and its new operators, Bric Arts, a community arts organization and UrbanGlass, a glass art group, let us have an early peek inside the stunning new venue that they say was a long time coming.
“[The Strand] has been a gleam in our eye since 1996,” Bric President Leslie Griesbach Schultz said.
The old structure was home to a 38,000-seat vaudeville theater when it first opened in 1919 and became a movie house when vaudeville’s stars faded, Schultz said. In the 1950s, the space went into tax foreclosure and the city took it over, demolishing the grand interior and turning it into a three-story industrial building. UrbanGlass moved into the third floor in the late 1980s and Bric took over the second floor in 1993.
The bottom floor was occupied by a printing company, but when that company left in the mid-1990s, Bric began dreaming about restoring the theater, Schultz said. The commitment of $27-million in funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs got the ball rolling in a big way.
The renovation doubled the size of the cultural center, bringing performances to the theater for the first time since Bric was founded in 1979. A two-story, 250-seat theater will serve as a major venue for dance, theater and music acts. There will also be a smaller performance space that can accommodate around 75 people. The reclaimed space also includes a contemporary art gallery, a cafe run by Prospect Heights favorite Hungry Ghost, an artist work and performance studio, and a new media broadcasting center.
The new building will showcase artists, screen movies, and host dance parties, Schultz said.
To celebrate the opening, the center is hosting three days of free programming from Oct. 3 to 5 that will include art exhibitions and live performances.
Bric runs a public television network and organizes the Celebrate Brooklyn program that brings free concerts to the Prospect Park Bandshell every summer, in addition to supporting artists throughout the borough. With this venue, Schultz said Bric hopes to have concerts like Celebrate Brooklyn all year long.
The Strand Theater [647 Fulton St. in Fort Greene, (718) 855–7882, www.bricar