When Tyler Myers was first introduced to the Knockdown Center, he immediately saw the potential for the place to become a mecca for large-scale artwork.
“I was working as a project manager for Frieze Art Fair here in New York three years ago, for the non-profit wing,” said Myers. “We were working on a project with Ulla Von Brandenburg and she wanted to do a shadow puppet tent, so we needed an area where her assistants could come over from Belgium and paint a really big tent.”
David Sklar let Myers use the old factory floor of the Knockdown Center for the project, and that is when Myers realized the potential. While things started slowly at first, it wasn’t long before he was overseeing the production of a fantastical mini-golf course commissioned by the center that had a very positive response from the surrounding community.
“I thought it offered a unique opportunity to New York and to culture makers of all stripes that I thought I could, with my combination of venue management and design experience and also my deep fine arts experience, I could make this a sustainable and welcoming generator of culture,” he said.
Since then, the venue has been home to some of the coolest happenings in Queens, including a brief residency by Roberta’s Tiki Disco – which lasted from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. and caused no community complaints.
That is, until some Instagram pictures surfaced showcasing the alternative lifestyles of some of the Knockdown’s patrons, resulting in severe backlash from the greater Maspeth community and the denial of permanent liquor and occupational permits.
Though Myers said these denials would make it harder for the Knockdown to produce the income they need for hiring staff and commissioning artwork, he and his colleagues are committed to seeing their vision through.
“In my mind, we have existed for two years, and done everything above board and safely, and had a good relationship with our neighbors,” Myers said. “With the liquor license, it got very politicized, and to some folks I think it feels like a big change in terms of what’s been here before – and it is – but I think it’s appropriate. We have restored this building and want to keep it. We want to use its natural beauty and absolute uniqueness to deliver something amazing.”
The next exhibition at Knockdown Center is being curated by Clocktower, an art collective established by MoMa PS1 founder Alanna Heiss, and will open on July 5.