Since establishing the Pioneer Works nonprofit cultural center in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood in 2013, artist Dustin Yellin has slowly grown the place into a powerhouse hub at the nexus of art, technology, music, and science (with literature and food sprinkled in). Like the beautifully complex glass sculptures he creates, Pioneer Works is a richly layered mishmash. Consider this spring’s lineup of programs: One night this April, there’s a performance by the Ghanaian electronic and rap artist Ata Kak; another night, there’s a “Supper Club” dinner featuring traditional Japanese home cooking by chef Emily Yuen and owner Maiko Kyogoku of the New York City restaurant Bessou; on May 2, there’s the institution's annual benefit, this year co-chaired by Austin and Gabriela Hearst, and honoring poet, essayist, playwright Claudia Rankine, as well as economist Marilyn Simons and her billionaire hedge-fund manager husband, James. Currently on display in the galleries is a performance set by artist Jaimie Warren (through April 12) and a showing of four Japanese avant-garde films from the 1960s and ’70s (through April 19). This is to say nothing of the classes, roundtables, and residencies Pioneer Works offers, or its book-publishing arm.
Pioneer Works’s eclectic, wide-ranging buffet of intellectual offerings is pure Yellin. With boundless energy, enigmatic bravado, and a collaborative spirit, he has built a multifaceted community not unlike what Andy Warhol had at The Factory from the ’60s to ’80s—only it’s somewhat more institutional and professionalized, and with a new executive director, Eric Shiner (formerly of White Cube gallery, Sotheby’s, and the Andy Warhol Museum), at the helm. As Yellin points out on this episode of Time Sensitive, maintaining a certain scale and intimacy at Pioneer Works is essential to him, with future growth potentially coming from building satellite locations in other cities. As he sees it, the institution could become the next Stanford, Harvard, or MIT Media Lab—a new outlet for education, an incubator that brings together the best and brightest minds on earth in a fresh way, a place to foster the shapers of the future.
On the episode, Andrew speaks with Yellin about everything from his wide-ranging dreams for Pioneer Works; to his ambitious plans for “The Bridge,” a large-scale monument to the end of oil; to his harrowing memories of Hurricane Sandy.