About Art Spaces Archives Project

Overview of AS-AP

Art Spaces Archives Project [AS-AP] is a non-profit initiative founded in 2003 by a consortium of alternative arts organizations, including Bomb Magazine, the College Art Association, Franklin Furnace Archive, New York State Council on the Arts [NYSCA], New York State Artist Workspace Consortium, and The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, with a mandate to help preserve, present, and protect the archival heritage of living and defunct for- and not-for-profit art spaces in the United States from the 1950's to the present.

With funding provided by NYSCA, The National Endowment for the Arts, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, AS-AP was initiated with a mandate to begin the documentation process by constructing a national index of the producers and presenters of alternative and avant-garde art.

In the summer of 2007, AS-AP announced a new partnership with The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard), an exhibition and research center dedicated to the study of contemporary art and exhibition practices from the 1960s to the present day.
Bard College Press Release

AS-AP’s mission is beyond simply identifying the whereabouts of centers of artistic activity. We also acknowledge that there is an underlying need to document, assess, catalog, and preserve important formative materials for study by historians with a critical distance from the creation of the material itself.

National Index of the Avant-Garde

AS-AP’s National Index of the Avant-Garde includes over 1,300 galleries, publications, artists’ groups and collectives, non-profit organizations, performance venues and nightspots. These centers represent a broad spectrum of activity and were initially identified with the help of the Franklin Furnace Archive of the Avant-Garde, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council for the Arts, the National Association of Artists’ Organizations, and ongoing independent research by AS-AP.

If you are or were part of an avant-garde center, gallery, non-profit organization, publication, artist group, or other type of artistic initiative that operated according to an alternative or avant-garde mission or practice, we are interested in hearing from you. Please take a few minutes to register with AS-AP’s National Index of the Avant-Garde Click here to register!

Surveying the Field

In August 2005, AS-AP launched a detailed Survey Project seeking extensive information regarding the archives of arts organizations. Specifically the survey inquires about the physical state of organizational archives, the types of documents held, their condition and state of preservation, the existence of inventories and finding aids, and the terms of access for scholars and researchers. Survey respondents receive a modest stipend for their participation.

The completed surveys are all available online, providing students, scholars, and the public with an entry point gain insight into the history, evolution, and practices of alternative and avant-garde organizational structures, art spaces, artists’ groups, galleries, publications, and collectives nationwide.

Additional Information

In Julie Ault’s groundbreaking volume Alternative Art New York, 1965–1985 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, in association with the Drawing Center, 2002) Ault makes a persuasive argument that New York alternative art spaces and artists’ groups and organizations continue to influence the contemporary international art world. The cross-pollination of artistic venues during this time exemplifies how communities overlap, thrive, and otherwise extend themselves in multitudes of directions—be it through artists’ books, periodicals, and publications, in performance spaces, within gallery-like venues, or in public spaces as small as alleyways and as expansive as Times Square.

But how do later art historians research the avant-garde of not only New York but also the nation, especially when these spaces were busy promoting new art rather than commodifying or institutionalizing artistic practice or even documenting their own activities? The history of the American avant-garde is largely unwritten, unaccounted for, or undervalued, though it is generally accepted to have transformed contemporary artistic practices. Few exhibition publications were produced as part of programming, occasional reviews appeared in newspapers or periodicals, and perhaps a postcard, handbill, or other ephemeral materials document the moment of artistic production. Often, only a few individual artworks can speak to the time, space, and energy of avant-garde activity and it is the record of these works that marks its realization, relevance, and understanding.

Avant-garde and alternative art was and is still produced through disparate communities in venues that can go unnoticed by contemporary art discourse. Many producers and centers of activity have only the most cursory grasp of their own histories and perhaps do not recognize their file cabinets, banker boxes, or waste bins as valuable historical repositories. A comprehensive process of investigation and documentation of the archives of the producers and communities that formed the foundation of alternative and avant-garde culture across the United States is the first step in uncovering this history.


Art Spaces Archives Project [AS-AP]
Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College
Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504
Ann Butler, Project Director

Butler (at) bard (dot) edu

Advisory Group

Michael Fahlund, College Art Association
Milan R. Hughston, The Museum of Modern Art
Andrew Perchuk, Getty Research Institute
Marvin Taylor, New York University, Fales Library & Special Collections
Martha Wilson, Franklin Furnace Archive

Founding Members: Elizabeth Merena, Betsy Sussler, Ann Kalmbach, Kerry McCarthy


Art Spaces Archives Project [AS-AP] has received generous support from The New York State Council on the Arts [NYSCA], The National Endowment for the Arts [NEA], and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. AS-AP also gratefully acknowledges operating assistance from the College Art Association.