Julia Kaganskiy on the New Museum Incubator’s New Name and Plans for the Year Ahead

On Tuesday, the New Museum announced the name of its new art, design, and technology incubator and opened the floor to applications for its inaugural year. NEW INC., helmed by newly appointed director Julia Kaganskiy, is set to launch at 231 Bowery in the summer of 2014. The goal of the not-for-profit initiative is to create a fluid professional development program and creative workspace that will support members working at the intersections of the arts and technology.

Benefits for members of the twelve-month residency at the incubator will include access to the 8,000-square-foot communal workspace, shared resources and equipment, and professional development events and programs. The center will be designed by SO-IL architects (Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu) in collaboration with Gensler and will also have 3,000-square-feet of studio space for New Museum artists in residence.

Applications, which are due April 1, will be evaluated and selected by Karen Wong (Deputy Director and co-founder of the incubator), Heather Corcoran (Executive Director of Rhizome), David Benjamin (Director of Studio-X New York), and Lauren Cornell (curator of the New Mu’s 2015 Triennial).

We spoke with Kaganskiy by phone on Tuesday about naming the incubator, what qualities they are looking for in applicants, and her hopes for the year ahead.

The incubator now has a name, New Inc., how did you decide on it?

We spent a lot of time looking at the language and the space, and we were thinking, “do we even want to use the term incubator?” because it’s so mired in tech-speak these days. We looked around for other terms and didn’t come up with anything that really approximated what we intended and what we meant. The New Museum has been referring to itself as an incubator for artists, curators, and ideas for years, so we decided that we would totally own and take it back from the tech sector.

We worked with two branding agencies, Anomaly — which was really instrumental to us in the naming process — and Naming Names, which is a subsidiary of Project Projects. We wanted to come up with a name that was consistent with the New Museum’s existing branding, put a cleaver spin on the term incubator, and also implied some of the more business-oriented aspirations of the people, organizations, projects, and programs of the space. So, New Inc. seemed to be a fun and playful way to do that, and to also imply that this is based on the incubator model: a place where we’ll develop new ideas and new business-oriented creative practices. It all came together in that one name for us.

What will you be looking for in applicants? What kinds of work do you envision or hope will be done over the next year there?

The incubator initiative was inspired by the creative practice that is already happening in and around New York City. Looking at the historic breakdown between different kinds of disciplines is disappearing, you’re seeing artists who are creative coders working with software, you’re seeing designers and architects who are working with bio-technology, and this kind of interdisciplinary thinking and way of working is really emerging as a new trend. I think because a lot of these hybrid creative practitioners defy traditional categorization, they’re having a hard time finding a home for these ideas, to develop these projects further. Those are some of the people we’re targeting in this phase; people who are in the art and design practice but are working with technology and experimenting with new modes of cultural production.

To give you a more concrete example, it might be projects that recently raised a bunch of money on Kickstarter, and they are now realizing what fulfillment and execution of the idea entails. We’ve been inspired by a number of various Kickstarter projects, whether it’s the + Pool, the LowLine, the MaKey MaKey, and all kinds of really great things that are happening on that platform. But, so many of those projects run into difficulties even after they’ve raised the capital on Kickstarter. To have a great idea and raise the funding is one thing, but then to navigate all business questions that go along with bringing that idea to life is a whole different challenge in and of itself.

We’re also looking at the types of projects and ideas that are coming out of various types of university programs. NYU’s ITP program is a really big influence and MIT’s Media Lab is another. I would say those resemble the types of communities that we see these hybrid people and projects coming out of, but certainly not limited to that.

How loose or regimented is the structure going to be for members?

We are still getting that outlined, but to start out we are thinking of it as a 12-month program for full-time members, with the option to extend to a second year. We envision having a baseline of one professional development lecture a week with thematic topics each months. Each month would delve into a different issue like legal, branding, and PR concerns, talking about the gallery space, with the hopes of peeling back the curtain on some of these more insider art world and business practices and ideas.  We certainly have really big ambitions about how the program might evolve, but we want to make sure that we start with something that feels doable, and something that we feel good about — and also allows this nascent community to organically evolve.

We want to encourage members to organize talks and workshops in addition to things that we program, and to collaboratively work together on projects in addition to opportunities for collaboration that we’ve structured in. We are looking for a balance between wanting to provide structure for the program, and wanting to leave things open enough so that organic ideas can emerge. If you over program it can stifle some of that energy.

How will the work done at New Inc. be incorporated with New Museum programming? Will New Museum programming help provide any structure or direction for the first year?

We definitely want to develop a relationship between the New Museum, its programming, and its curatorial and education departments. That includes the initiatives that are happening within the museum like Ideas City, Museum as Hub, and Rhizome (which is moving over to be one of our anchor tenants), but we haven’t devised a more formal relationship.

Some things we can see happening are possibly hosting a symposium at the end of our year at the New Museum theatre, or having some kind of event at the museum. I think we’ll definitely be bringing in a lot of the museum staff to share their expertise and to act as mentors and advisers for the incubator community, but we haven’t yet figured out how it will go the other way. We’re interested in using museum programs like Ideas City as a platform to showcase the work that’s happening inside the incubator.

We’re still exploring, and it’s difficult to say how it will unfold until we get a better sense of who the people and the projects that are going to be in the incubator are. A lot will depend on the members and the kind of work they’re doing.

— Alanna Martinez (@lanna_martinez)

(Photo: New Museum)