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Torn Space Theater interior renovations completed at its Performance Space on Buffalo’s East Side

Project is Supported by the Buffalo Billion East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund

Empire State Development (ESD) has announced that Torn Space Theater, in partnership with the Adam Mickiewicz Library & Dramatic Circle, has completed a $1.2 million interior and exterior renovation project that is helping to transform a significant corner lot in the heart of the Fillmore neighborhood. Located just down the street from the Central Terminal, this tremendous cultural asset is now considered a “campus setting,” featuring:

  • A newly restored building at 608 Fillmore Avenue
  • A state of the art indoor performance space
  • A walkable campus, with reclaimed green space for outdoor site-based performance, public art and community engagement
  • Light Station* design and production studio adjacent to the theater at 612 Fillmore Avenue
Photo by Mark Thomas Duggan

“A vibrant arts and cultural industry is crucial to any thriving neighborhood and the Torn Space Theater is a creative performance space that will inject new life into Buffalo’s East Side,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “Revitalizing the arts is vital to our economic recovery as well as making sure all neighborhoods share in our recovery. The Torn Space Theater has all the makings of an iconic destination and is a prime example of Buffalo’s comeback story.” ​

Light/Station was opened in November 2017 as a design studio, gallery, green room and performance space.

“This project isn’t just an investment in Torn Space Theater, it’s an investment in the entire surrounding community, creating an enticing environment to attract new visitors to the neighborhood while also showcasing the rich history of Buffalo’s East Side,” said Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-Designate Eric Gertler.  “We applaud the theater’s staff and volunteers for completing a project that will be enjoyed and appreciated for years to come.”

Light Station – Image courtesy Torn Space

This latest phase of the renovation project – referred to as Hidden Identities – is designed by architectural firm Studio North. The idea behind the project is to “integrate the performance space with the outdoor grounds,” thus creating a vibrant campus. Already, a number of outdoor gatherings and events have occured on the campus grounds, which also helps to create a tangible link to the diversifying neighborhood.

Along with all of these new additions and advancements, a historic bar and library are additional resources located at the site, which can be used for lectures and community gatherings. The project included the restoration of the exterior of the historic Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle.

Photo by Mark Thomas Duggan

“Torn Space Theater is committed to the long-term viability of the historic Broadway/Fillmore neighborhood,” said Dan Shanahan, Torn Space Theater Artistic Director, who co-founded the theater with Melissa Meola.  “The completion of this phase of construction ensures that we will be able to produce and present the very best in contemporary performance, host artistic residencies and continue to facilitate meaningful conversations with local and international artists. Torn Space, along with the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle look forward to providing a space where the community can engage with thought provoking performance, lectures and literature while enjoying the authentic Polonia tavern.”

ESD led the way for Torn Space Theater to apply for $748,000 from the East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund, which it was duly awarded. On top of that, $65 million was dedicated by the Buffalo Billion Phase II placemaking strategy as part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s bid to revitalize the East Side – see the East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund Booklet. And since 2016 KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation have committed over $225,000 to the project.

Photo by Mark Thomas Duggan

“The renovations at Torn Space Theatre will ensure that this great facility will continue to be a center of culture and performance on Buffalo’s east side that people from all areas of Western New York can visit and appreciate,” said Elizabeth Gurney, Director of Corporate Philanthropy at KeyBank and Executive Director of the First Niagara Foundation. “KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation are proud to support the revitalization of Torn Space Theater. We are honored to assist this project and others that are bringing new investment, excitement and opportunity to Buffalo’s East Side.”

Photo by Mark Thomas Duggan

Senator Tim Kennedy said, “This investment in Torn Space Theater and our greater community will further foster a welcoming, collaborative energy, while also preserving this impressive city corridor. This renovation is a clear example of New York’s continued commitment to restoring essential components of our city’s history and incorporating them into Buffalo’s future.”

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “The Broadway-Fillmore community has always been near and dear to my heart, as I grew up here and have represented Buffalo’s East Side for decades. I know the value of investing in areas that feel forgotten, which is why I secured $175,000 for Torn Space Theatre for the renovation and restoration of the Adam Mickiewicz Library, the development of adjacent lots and construction at 608 Fillmore Avenue, among numerous other projects. I congratulate Torn Space Theater and I applaud Empire State Development for their commitment to complete this project, which will positively impact the community’s cultural enrichment and economic development.”

Photo by Mark Thomas Duggan

County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “With the renovations complete, Torn Space Theater has been transformed into a community hub for art, creativity, and expression that connects neighborhoods and brings people together. We have seen what art can do to elevate issues, spark dialogue, and raise awareness about topics that affect our lives. This investment in Torn Space Theater brings art and its connective abilities to the forefront and will benefit the entire community.”

*Light Station design and production studio adjacent to the theater at 612 Fillmore Avenue | Architect Christopher Romano and his firm Studio North (Chris Romano, Daniel Vrana) won two American Institute of Architects (AIA) awards for the transformational repurposing of the former gas mart into a stunning architectural centerpiece for Torn Space.


Agents of Change

A community collaboration between Torn Space Theater, Just Buffalo Literary Center and Lafayette International High School.

  • Dates (mural installation): On-going Summer 2021
  • Location: Light/Station, 608 Fillmore Ave. Buffalo, NY 14212; Public mural will be on display at Brayton St and West Utica in the Five Points District
  • Tickets: Free
  • Reservations Required:  
  • More Info & the Digital Installation:


Torn Space Theater’s newest original site-based concept designed for the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood and for Artpark.

Five Songs for Fillmore Avenue

World-premiere by Kenneth Collins of the acclaimed company Temporary Distortion.

and the sun sets in golden circles

Torn Space Theater’s annual early harvest ritual at Silo City.

Lead image: Photo by Mark Thomas Duggan

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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