Roulette’s mission is to support artists creating new and adventurous art in all disciplines by providing them with a venue and resources to realize their creative visions and to build an audience interested in the evolution of experimental art.
Roulette Intermedium was founded in 1978 at the height of the Downtown Experimental Arts revolution by four graduates from the University of Illinois (Urbana), trombonist/composer Jim Staley, composer/producer David Weinstein, intermedia artist Dan Senn, and graphic artist Laurie Szujewska. The informal concerts they presented in a small loft space in TriBeCa in Manhattan soon attracted an audience and critical attention. The first donation – an unsolicited and unexpected check for $1,000 – arrived in the mail from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, suggested by noted composer, John Cage. By the mid-1980s, Roulette had emerged as “a landmark for New York’s downtown new music composers.”
Over the next three decades, Roulette attracted a steadily growing audience and worldwide reputation as a center for musical innovation. Seminal pioneering figures who have presented their work at Roulette, oftentimes early in their careers, include Maryanne Amacher, Robert Ashley, Anthony Braxton, Simone Forti, Bill Frisell, Philip Glass, Yusef Lateef, Christian Marclay, Meredith Monk, Ikue Mori, Pauline Oliveros, Zeena Parkins, Arthur Russell, Kaija Saariaho, Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, and John Zorn. Roulette continues to make a mark as a venue where scores of promising avant-garde artists make their first professional statements. Representatives of the latest generation of composing artists who have recently developed and presented works at Roulette include Aaron Burnette, Maria Chavez, Phyllis Chen, Jennifer Choi, Mario Diaz de Leon, Mary Halvorson, Darius Jones, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Alfredo Marin, Tristan Perich, Matana Roberts, Tyshawn Sorey, Ben Stapp, C. Spencer Yeh and many more.
As audiences grew and rents in lower Manhattan began to rise, the staff and Board members began the search for a larger, more flexible and affordable home. On September 15th, 2011, Roulette opened a new chapter in its history when it moved into the 1928 Memorial Hall in the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District. The new 400-seat theater allows us to expand our presentations along with our services to artists and our community; each season, we now present more than 100 music, dance, and intermedia performances. Our annual attendance now tops 60,000.
In recent years, Roulette has effected a major transition, expanding programs, audiences and community, but it is still an artist-driven space, valued for its payment of professional guaranteed fees, its insistence on the best presentation conditions, and the provision of other critical artists’ services. Our GENERATE Program, supported for more than 30 years by the Jerome Foundation and other private and public support, awards emerging and established composers commissions and/or monetary stipends along with extensive rehearsal time in Roulette’s theater, access to audio and lighting equipment and technical staff to help them with their experiments, and full production support for performances of the work created during the residency.
Our programming has expanded globally through Roulette’s online and television broadcast programs where audiences all over the world can explore the treasures of our archives. Roulette TV features senior figures of the avant-garde movement and their young successors.
Roulette is one of the few surviving organizations to maintain its identity as an Artists’ Space and its commitment to bring the experimental performing arts to a wider public; its history of performances (preserved in an archive that contains nearly 3,000 hours of recordings and videos), leaves a detailed and distinguished record of almost four decades of artistic development, experimentation, and achievement.
Board of Directors
James S. Staley, President
Ned Rothenberg, Chairman
Paul Gertner, Secretary
Joseph Walker, Treasurer
Frederick Sherman, Esq.
Artistic Advisory Council
Mario Diaz de Leon
James Brandon Lewis
Winter 2019: Sarah Beard, Connor Chase, Lee Gilboa, Jenno Snyder, Cassie Wieland