In this bleak era for arts funding — particularly for arts education in our public schools, small theater companies (and non-profit arts organizations in general) — it is comforting to know there is a quiet renaissance taking place over at the University Settlement. The Performance Project brings in professional performing artists to perform, create, and interact with members of our ever-changing Lower East Side community. Since its inception in 2007, such diverse groups as the Mud/Bone Collective, the band The Wiyos and The Nerv Tank have presented work. The series also offers free “Monday Night Salons,” which allow artists to connect with Lower East Side residents (and other artists) in a relaxed environment. There is usually a potluck, along with a performance and then a conversation about important issues facing the arts and the local community.
I recently had a chance to sit down with the innovative Program Curator for the Performance Project, Alison Fleminger. We met in the historic Speyer Hall, a gorgeous refurbished performance space, at the University Settlement’s home base on the corner of Rivington and Eldridge. Fleminger grew up around a Settlement House environment (her mother, artist Susan Fleminger, was the director of visual arts and the arts-in-education program at The Henry Street Settlement for many years before becoming Deputy Director) and has a keen interest in theater and performance, which made her a unique candidate for the position.