Philanthropist Iris Cantor Gives $10 Million to NYU Tisch To Build New Professional-level Proscenium Theater

Allyson Green, dean of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, has announced that noted philanthropist, businesswoman, and Tisch Dean’s Council member Iris Cantor is giving $10 million to support the construction of a new proscenium theater.

Photo by Cesar Villoria

Allyson Green, dean of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, has announced that noted philanthropist, businesswoman, and Tisch Dean’s Council member Iris Cantor is giving $10 million to support the construction of a new proscenium theater. The performance space – part of a planned multi-use building on Bleecker St., due to break ground next year – will be named the Iris Cantor Theater.

Proscenium theaters are the standard for professional theaters. The new space will provide students in the performing arts programs at NYU to learn their craft in a setting with the same standards as working, professional theaters.

“We are so grateful to Iris Cantor. For decades, she has earned a reputation not only for her generosity, but also for her civic and artistic leadership, transforming medical, cultural, and educational institutions throughout New York City and the world and encouraging others to do the same. This gift goes right to the heart of what we most needed as a premiere arts education institution – space for student performances,” said Dean Green. “She has graciously chosen to support us over the years through the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Film Center and through student scholarships. Now this new Iris Cantor gift ensures that Tisch's next half century will be every bit as glorious as its past 50 years."

“What distinguishes Iris Cantor is not just her generosity, which is enormous,” said John Sexton, president of NYU. “It is her discernment, her ability to make gifts that really make a difference. With this gift, she bestows on NYU – a school renowned for its performing arts – a proscenium theater performing and training space, which will be part of a new signature building for the University that will serve many needed roles under one roof. We are very grateful to Iris Cantor; this will mean the world to generations of theater students and faculty.”

“Education is the foundation of our intellectual existence, teaching us to challenge convention and push beyond boundaries. The arts remind us of what it means to be human - a mission never more important than it is today,” said Mrs. Cantor. “With this most recent gift to NYU, I hope to reaffirm all the tremendous progress made by the Tisch School of the Arts in its comparatively brief history and position the School for an even brighter future. I’m thrilled to be a part of expanding its operations to create a space where young minds can create, expand, and soar.”

The Iris Cantor Theater will be a performance space that embraces all manner of current and evolving scenic, lighting, audio, and video technologies. Much like Georgian courtyard playhouses, Elizabethan playhouses such as Shakespeare’s Globe, and traditional Italian opera houses, the audience will be wrapped around three sides of the stage to remind them they are participating in a live event, with their response vital to the success of the performance.

The theater will reside in NYU’s major new facility along Mercer Street between Houston and Bleecker streets, and will also incorporate classrooms and teaching spaces, serving students at Tisch as well as the Steinhardt School’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions.

“Iris Cantor’s support for the new theater was the cornerstone on which we’ve been able to plan for the creation of a varied and much-needed arts-related facilities, designed to our specifications, within a new building,” said Dean Green. “Mary Schmidt Campbell, when she was dean, began planning for the new performing arts center. We are so thankful for her leadership and for encouraging Iris to be our stalwart champion. This will transform the Tisch experience for students in drama, graduate acting, dance, performance studies, and design, lightening the load on our existing facilities at 721 Broadway and 111 Second Avenue. The result will more than double our current rehearsal space, while making more numerous, professional grade performances possible.”

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Iris Cantor serves as head of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, which has donated several hundred million dollars to museums, universities and hospitals since 1978. She and her late husband “Bernie” Cantor, art collector and founder of the bond-trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald, were committed to sharing the treasures in their art collection with the broader public. Their particular admiration for the work of French sculptor Auguste Rodin led Mrs. Cantor to co-produce a documentary film, Rodin: The Gates of Hell, which chronicled the Cantors’ commissioning of a new bronze cast of Rodin’s monumental work of the same name, which went on to win nine awards at film festivals throughout the country.

Mrs. Cantor is also a strong supporter of medical causes, and through the foundation has established a number of groundbreaking programs and facilities, many of which are devoted to women’s health. She is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, awarded by President Clinton in 1995, and was awarded the rank of Chevalier in the French National Order of the Legion of Honour in 2000.

About NYU Tisch School of the Arts
For 50 years, the Tisch School of the Arts has drawn on the vast resources of New York City and New York University to create an extraordinary training ground for artists, scholars of the arts, and creative entrepreneurs. One of the world's leading centers of undergraduate and graduate study in the arts, the Tisch School of the Arts offers acting, dance, design, performance, film, animation, writing for musical theatre, stage, screen & television, preservation, recorded music, photography, interactive media, games, and public policy.



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