NEW Graduate Builds Arts and Events Complex in Manhattan

NEW Graduate Builds Arts and Events Complex in Manhattan

My name is Robin Sokoloff, I am the founder of the non-profit organization Sokoloff Arts. I build performance and event spaces. My mission is to provide affordable, hi-tech space that is women and minority focused for New York City’s entrepreneurs and innovators. 

I am a proud graduate of NEW. Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) prepares, trains, and places women in careers in the skilled construction, utility, and maintenance trades, allowing women to achieve economic independence and a secure future for themselves and their families. This is how NEW helped me achieve mine. 

Like so many post-recession, both my husband and I were unemployed. In 2011, I was fortunate to earn a spot in NEW’s intensive apprenticeship program. The apprenticeship was a highly structured curriculum preparing us for conditions on the job. NEW provided a rigorous coursework in trade-focused mathematics, hands on general contracting skills, green building principles and engaging seminars by working union tradeswomen. The intensive was designed to mimic the hours and physical demands we could expect on-the-job, and prepared us for what challenges we would face as a minority class in a heavily male dominated workplace. 

When I was down and out, NEW believed in me. They welcomed me in their doors and 6 weeks later I emerged a working tradeswoman. My apprenticeship gave me the qualifications to land my first job as a non-union carpenter building residential brownstones in Harlem. Shortly thereafter, NEW gave me a path into The United Brotherhood of Carpenters as a union dockbuilder with Local #157 building the HOV lane on the Gowanus Expressway. I actually built a New York City roadway!

NEW also offered me classes in small-business entrepreneurship, providing me the tools to open my own company and build my first space venture, Loft227. I’m proud to say that Loft227 was a one-of-a-kind theater and event space in Chelsea which became profitable in less than a year; seeing nearly 70,000 in its doors in under 5 years, while supporting close to 900 innovative works and small business owners.

NEW took my desire to build, and crafted me into someone who could not only build, but employ and support others who want to build too. I am not only a tradeswoman, I am a female business owner and activist who is reshaping New York City’s cultural landscape to make more space for women, minorities, and immigrant classes.

My next building venture, TOWN STAGES, expands the mission started at Loft227. Town Stages is a state-of-the-art, flexible performance and event space. Measuring six times our initial footprint, Town offers four customizable stages and an elegant storefront event space that can support the entire lifecycle of New York’s hallmark industries. We will host all types of events, from civic to corporate, tech to theater. Town will provide world-class cultural experiences and opportunities for all.  

As Kevin Spacey says, “If you're lucky enough to do well, it's your responsibility to send the elevator back down”. Town Stages is a new shared space model that is one part rentals, one part incubator, and one part subsidized production venue for emerging business leaders. Through our non-profit Fellowship Program, we incubate projects from start to finish, and offer a home for up-and-coming artistic and entrepreneurial works. We assist young creators with not only space, but resource generation, production, and community. 

New York City residents and small business residents are caught in a real estate crisis, the likes of which it hasn’t seen since the 70’s. Commercial rents have far exceeded the cost of doing business, storefronts are 38% vacant and climbing. Whether you sell a product, service, or experience, you can no longer afford to go it alone. Through its five year span, Loft227 specifically tailored a highly successful shared space model to remedy this real estate debacle. Loft227 became a beacon of hope to those needing a platform for their ventures and with overwhelming demand quickly outgrew our humble walls.  

Our new facility at Town will offer a larger audience capacity for Women’s Leadership Conferences, World Premier Performances, Charitable Fundraisers and… most importantly, a beautiful space to gather with family and friends on the most important day of their lives. It is a one-of-a-kind collaborative arts complex connecting like-minded innovators under one roof to address economic challenges emerging business leaders face. We expect 750,000 people in our doors over the next 15 years. 

New York City’s landscape is rapidly changing on many fronts, and I feel it’s paramount that we embrace what is coming with innovative and progressive thinking. Now more than ever, we must take responsibility for building the city we want to see. 

As I learned at NEW, I cannot do this alone. Nothing is created in a vacuum. Collaboration is the key. Dedicating supplies and/or labor, committing resources to build or even naming the space are just some of the impactful ways you can help build this TOWN.

NEW took the leap and believed in me. As a supporter of NEW’s incredible mission, I’m asking you to champion my mine. 

Make this YOUR Town. 

Sincerely, 

Robin Sokoloff,

Executive Director Town Stages | Sokoloff Arts