Breath of fresh air— New York


A good radio station can be the voice of a city, the meeting place for like-minded folk. But in New York, Alanna Heiss has turned the dial to create something unique – AIR, a radio station for the city’s art crowd.

AIR, Alanna Heiss, Beatrice Johnson

New York is the ultimate “second act” city, a place where personal and professional reinvention are not just accepted, they’re downright applauded. But few second acts have been more eagerly anticipated than that of Alanna Heiss, the legendary arts maverick who founded the p.s.1 Contemporary Art Center in a disused Queens public school back in 1976. Over the subsequent three decades, Heiss emerged as one of New York’s, and America’s, most celebrated cultural leaders – credited not just with establishing the city’s contemporary art scene but hel…

Art and life

Alanna Heiss CV

1943: Born Louisville, Kentucky
1966: Graduates from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin
1972: Establishes the Clocktower Gallery, eventual site of WPS1 and AIR
1976: Establishes P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in a former schoolhouse in Long Island City, Queens
1981: P.S.1’s seminal “New York/New Wave” exhibition introduces the world to rising talents such as 21-year-old unknown Jean-Michel Basquiat
1997: P.S.1 undergoes an $8.5m expansion transforming it into the second largest contemporary art centre in America
2000: P.S.1 merges with MoMA
2008: Heiss leaves P.S.1 and returns to the Clocktower and forms AIR

Doing it in public

New York

WNYC is one of the US’s premier public radio stations, as keen tapping its foot as addressing current affairs through editorial collaborations with the BBC and the New York Times. Using its new performance and studio space and its “curiosity bender”, Radiolab, it’s also upsetting national public radio’s more conservative inclinations.

After becoming independent from the city two years ago, the station set out to find a new studio downtown that it could invite the public into. The Greene Space, which it unveiled last spring, is New York’s only multi-­platform, street-level studio and performance space open to public view. Positioned in West Soho on Varick Street, the site, designed by Kostow Greenwood Architects, hosts live radio shows, readings from local writers, film screenings and audio plays written by local high school students.

Open to view 24 hours a day, the public is invited to events in the auditorium and almost every event is webcast. “We did have to close it once,” says Jennifer Houlihan, WNYC’s director of publicity, “but that’s because there was nudity.”


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