The Ultimate Guide to the USA's Top 10 Performance Art Spaces

Photo of Marcelina Morfin
11 December 2015

Local, national and international artists are taking risks and pushing boundaries everyday in their various forms of expression and performance. The USA has many venues from small centers to larger establishments dedicated to supporting and presenting groundbreaking performances. Here is a look at some of the best venues in the USA to experience contemporary performance art.

Exterior of Performance Space 122 | © Eden, Janine and Jim/Flickr

The Chocolate Factory

Amy Ell's dance company Vault at DiverseWorks
Amy Ell's dance company Vault at DiverseWorks | © Ed Schipul/Flickr
Founded in 2005, The Chocolate Factory is a 5,000 square-foot, artist-led art center focusing on the disciplines of dance, theater, performance and multimedia productions. Located in Long Island City in Queens, NY, this award-winning center — recipient of both the Bessie and Obie awards — hosts several productions throughout the year featuring local, national and international talent. One past show included Larissa Velez-Jackson‘s Star Crap Method,which was an improvisational performance piece on contemporary dance that challenged audiences to ‘rethink what a dancer is expected to deliver onstage.’ One future multidisciplinary performance, I Will Understand Everything Better, will feature the choreography of acclaimed performer David Neumann.


Started by artists in 1982, DiverseWorks is a non-profit art center located in Houston in the Midtown Cultural Arts District. The center focuses on the visual, literary and performing arts and provides a place where artists in various stages of their careers are free to test new ideas and take risks. Presenting a variety of stimulating performances each year, DiverseWorks strives to host experimental shows. It’s current project which can be seen in the current project Oliver Herring: Areas for Action by German artist Oliver Herring is also a social experiment because the show relies on the participation of volunteers.

DiverseWorks, 4102 Fannin St., Suite 200, Houston, TX, USA, +1 713 223 8346


The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performance Arts Center, better known as EMPAC, is a space where the arts, sciences and technology come together and interact. Located in Troy, New York on the campus of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the venue strives to give visitors different sensory experiences than what might be familiar. A 220,000 square-foot center complete with four main spaces plus studios and labs, EMPAC hosts numerous, diverse performances each year from live filming to multidisciplinary shows. A future production, Extra Shapes, created by DD Dorvillier, will feature three different media—sound, light and dance—on three separate horizontal spaces taking place at the same time.

EMPAC, 8th St. & College Ave., Troy, NY, USA, +1 518 276 3921

Highways Performance Space

Art Gallery, Theater
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston | © Brandon Baunach
Highways is a Santa Monica-based art space focusing on contemporary, experimental performances. Founded in 1989, the company is known for its bold, new presentations by those artists who are pushing the boundaries. Hosting over 200 performances and 12 exhibitions that explore performing and visual art each year, there is always something new and exciting happening from theater to dance to solo shows and much more. Showcasing both renowned and emerging artists, Highways has hosted talent such as choreographer and dance artist Stephanie Gilliland, choreographer Rudy Perez and performance artist Karen Finley.

ICA - Boston

Building, Museum, Market
Founded in 1936 as The Boston Museum of Modern Art, the museum changed its name to the The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in 1998. Striving to provide the public with access to not only art but also the artists themselves and the art process, this venue is a wonderful place to experience a variety of contemporary art forms from visual to music, to film and performances. The ICA hosts performing art shows featuring storytellers, choreographers, media artists and more at least 80 nights per year. A future show by Urbanity Dance seeks to impress and challenge viewers with a stimulating combination of dance, infrared lighting and music.

The Kitchen

Founded in 1971, The Kitchen is one of the oldest nonprofit spaces in New York City and one of the first spaces to fully embrace video and performance art. An internationally acclaimed art space, the center features both emerging and established artists who work in a variety of media including dance, art and more. Known for being a place where artists can experiment with their craft, The Kitchen hosts numerous exhibits and performances each year. Throughout the years, artists such as post-modern dancer and choreographer Lucinda Childs and choreographer and performer Elizabeth Streb have been showcased here.

The Kitchen, 512 W. 19th St., New York City, NY, USA, +1 212 255 5793

On the Boards

Established in 1978 in Seattle, On the Boards is an art center with an emphasis on experimental performance. Hosting artists from the Northwest along with those from around the world, the center features two theaters — an intimate space with 30 seats and a larger one with seating for 84 — in which to experience contemporary dance, theater, and music. Striving to provide ‘one-of-a-kind’ opportunities, On the Boards presents over 40 shows with 100 performance nights each year. A future show will feature the award-winning choreographer and performer Kyle Abraham in a new production inspired by jazz great Max Roach’s We Insist Freedom Now. On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle, WA, USA,

Performance Space 122

Building, School, Theater
Exterior of Walker Art Center
Exterior of Walker Art Center | © Mark B. Schlemmer/Flickr
A performance art space located in New York City in the East Village, Performance Space 122, better known as PS122, is a venue where artists from diverse backgrounds can take creative risks with their art form and be supported. Located inside an old public school building, the space is currently undergoing a major renovation, but by working with other venues across the city, the center continues to present contemporary shows to audiences. Hosting local, national and international artists working in a variety of contemporary arts from music to performance to dance, the center has featured artists such as the Blue Man Group, composer and performer Meredith Monk, and Verdensteatret, a group of art performers from Norway who create live art.

Walker Art Center

Art Gallery
Founded in 1879 by Thomas Barlow Walker in Minneapolis, Walker Art Center is one of the most visited contemporary art museums in the United States. A multidisciplinary venue, the center focuses on contemporary visual, media and performing arts. Hosting artists from around the globe, the museum sometimes holds performances within its galleries, including the upcoming Sound Horizon, which explores the space between live sound and visual art. The center also features a European-style theater with a contemporary feel where spectators can watch various productions such as choreographer Tere O’Connor‘s dance show BLEED.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Art Gallery, Museum, Theater, Theatre
Center for the Arts in Yerba Buena Gardens,San Francisco,California,USA
© Richard Cummins / Alamy Stock Photo
Established in 1993 in San Francisco, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is a venue that places an emphasis on contemporary arts and performance. The center encourages artists to be innovators and take risks with their art and to work together to create and grow. Each year, the YBCA presents many performances with an emphasis on contemporary dance. Upcoming shows include two new dance productions, Invention of Wingsand Dead Reckoning, by choreographers Brenda Way and KT Nelson plus a show featuring the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"