Published: December 11, 2007
Park Avenue Armory has received a $35 million gift from its board chairman Wade F.B. Thompson †one of the largest gifts ever made to a New York cultural institution and the largest private gift given for the renovation of a historic site in the United States. Thompson founded the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy in 1993 with the goal of renovating and revitalizing the neglected building by drawing upon its unique potential to serve as an institution dedicated to the visual and performing arts.
This unprecedented gift brings the capital campaign to the halfway mark of its $200 million goal. In honor of the gift, Park Avenue Armory will name its monumental Drill Hall, “Wade Thompson Hall.”
“Wade has been steadfastly focused on the revitalization of the armory,” said Rebecca Robertson, president and chief executive officer of the Park Avenue Armory. “His breathtaking gift exemplifies his love for the legacy of New York City and helps ensure the armory can play an enduring role in its continuing cultural vibrancy.”
“I take great pleasure in helping make progress toward realizing our long-term vision for revitalizing the Park Avenue Armory,” said Thompson. “Already, the armory is developing projects that are only possible in this matchless space. Our goal is to create a world-class center for the arts, thus enabling it to make a dynamic contribution to the life of the city, rather than simply preserve it as an artifact frozen in time.”
A series of projects to restore, renovate and upgrade the armory have been completed or are under way since the conservancy was granted stewardship of the building in December 2006. Concurrently, the armory is emerging as a collaborative partner for programs that would otherwise not be possible in traditional art and performance venues, or other New York institutions.
Aaron Young’s recent project, “Greeting Card,” a 9,216-square-foot painting created by the tire marks of 12 motorcyclists, was performed and exhibited in the Drill Hall in September. In March 2008, the Park Avenue Armory is collaborating with the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Art Production Fund to host large-scale artworks, performances and installations as part of the Whitney Biennial. In association with Lincoln Center Festival 2008, the armory will present an epic production of the opera, Die Soldaten, with the vast space in the Drill Hall enabling it to be staged as it was originally conceived by the composer.
A retrospective exhibition about the wide range of events at the armory is currently on view in one of the historic period rooms. The armory will also continue to be a home for major national and international art and antiques fairs.
Despite the major significance of the building’s interiors by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White and others, the building had been deteriorating for decades. The impetus to save it came in 1993, when Thompson looked out of his apartment window facing the neglected building and decided that it needed to be rescued. He enlisted the Municipal Art Society and concerned citizens to assist in what became a 13-year struggle. Today, the conservancy has a 99-year lease for the management of the armory.
Funding for operation, maintenance, restoration and renovation comes from a variety of sources, including the City of New York, the State of New York, private donors and revenue from the art and antiques fairs.