Sciences at Pioneer Works

Click to view brochure


This patent truism is wildly underestimated in significance, undermining the observation. Central to our philosophy is science’s most organic and most powerful broad-spectrum impact to society: the natural role of science in culture.

At Pioneer Works we are primed to advance the cultural impact of scientific thinking and discovery and irrepressible curiosity. We believe Pioneer Works can become a singular model for the natural integration of science in a cultural organism. We can prove that integration of science is not only possible, but essential for the full expression of a center for innovation. Already, in our most nascent endeavors, we have demonstrated the potential for science to have an impact on a novel context, outside of the university walls. We feel better poised to fulfill this vision than any other place in the world.


We will expand our live science events. We will grow internally to support scientific residences and workshops and the development of an incubator space. We will move beyond the walls with podcasts and a video channel to disseminate our programs to a wider audience. We are confident that we will quickly become known for the quality of our content globally, just as we quickly became known for the quality of our content locally.

Pioneer Works welcomes scientists to be as singularly focused as they need to be on equations and measurements. We welcome our artists to be as interested as they need to be in political conflict on the ivory coast, and as uninterested in astronomy as suits them. Collaborations will undoubtedly erupt spontaneously and be supported during their development. We firmly believe that if vastly unlike-minded individuals are confined to silos, they lose the ability to comprehend the complexity of the big picture. Friction between groups and individuals can lead to sparks of inspiration, epiphanies, conflicts, confluences. That is the climate we’re excited to foster here at Pioneer Works—vibrant, energetic, unpredictable.

In that spirit, our vision for sciences is layered. There is a saying that the perfect physics lecture should have something that everyone can understand out of respect for the audience, something that only a few people can understand out of respect for the experts, and something that nobody can understand out of respect for Physics. We will run programs that hit all three requirements in that adage.


Through a broad range of exhibitions, performances, residencies for artists and residencies for scientists, and educational programs, Pioneer Works seeks to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries, foster community, and provide a space where alternative modes of thought are supported and activated in tangible ways.

The organization was founded in 2012 by artist Dustin Yellin and is located in a 25,000-square-foot manufacturing warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn. After an extensive renovation, the facility now houses artist studios, exhibition and performance spaces, a science laboratory, a recording studio, and other spaces as needs arise. The floor plan is open and flexible, encouraging a transparent, collaborative environment where international artists, musicians, scientists and educators can co-exist and create together.

To quantify the reach of Pioneer Works, we note the metrics of 2015: There have been 53 residents, 100 classes, 1,000 students, 7 exhibitions, 16 lectures and symposia, 27 performances and screenings, 20 concerts, and over 70,000 visitors.

Expanding conceptually to encompass fundamental scientific research, aggressive debate on impactful subjects, and blue-sky dreamers, is the next frontier for Pioneer Works.

In January 2016, Janna Levin became the first Director of Sciences. Janna is the Tow Professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University, and has contributed to an understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions, and gravitational waves in the shape of spacetime. Her previous books include How the Universe Got Its Spots and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, which won the PEN/Bingham Prize. She was recently named a Guggenheim Fellow. Her latest book, Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, is the inside story on the discovery of the century: the sound of spacetime ringing from the collision of two black hole over a billion years ago.

Credit: Béa de Géa for Quanta Magazine


Janna hosts a popular live series at Pioneer works, Scientific Controversies. The format is simple but surprisingly effective. Janna invites two guests to discuss an unresolved scientific quandry in an extemporaneous conversation. Event topics have included Many Worlds, Time’s Arrow, The Goddamn Particle, One-Way Ticket to Mars, Containment. The nights regularly draw audiences of 350 to over 600 people. There are pop-up art shows, theme-inspired cocktails, and a DJ to complement the heady conversation. Guests have included Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek, Richard Dawkins, Glennys Farrar, astronaut Mike Massimino, Melissa Franklin, and Sean Carroll, to name a few.

The Scientific Controversies series continued in its second season with the events ‘Are We Alone’ and ‘Dark Matter’ to audiences of several hundred people. In March we will host George Church and Siddhartha Mukherjee for ‘Genetic Manipulation’ and in May we will host Cristoph Koch and David Chalmbers for ‘Consciousness’. In addition to Sci Con, we held an extraordinary evening in conversation with Richard Dawkins. We have hosted book events for the astronaut Mike Massimino and the writer Dava Sobel. We’ve acquired telescopes for public viewing during many of our evenings. In sum, our live events reflect our commitment to creating a space where the forefront of science becomes accessible to everyone.

With a generous gift from the Simons Foundation, we are currently renovating the Pioneer Works Science Studios - a 3000 square-foot area entirely dedicated to science. These studios will house influential scientists in residence, science-based events, and foster a relationship between scientific experimentation and culture.

Together, Founder Dustin Yellin, Director Gabriel Florenz and Janna Levin have shared their dreams for the future of Science at Pioneer Works. We would be thrilled to partner with our friends in the beginning of our new initiative to foster fundamental science in an exceptional and unique cultural center.


Donations can be tailored to the particular funder and their mission. Below is a list of possible categories, intended as a guide.


We wish to build an observatory at Pioneer Works for public astronomical viewing and for use by the artists. We have exceptional telescopes that will be donated. We have partial funding for the actual structure (walls + dome). Ideally we seek to build 2. We have scouted an antique dome for the garden (more accessible to children) and a newly built dome for the roof. This is a major goal of the Science Studios and will have a beautiful indelible presence at Pioneer Works.


In each live event of the Scientific Controversies ongoing, Janna Levin engages two guests in conversation on an unsolved scientific quandary. World-class scientists, Nobel Laureates, and radical thinkers hash out their ideas in an open exchange that often leads the audience and the guests to reconsider their stance. Do we live in a multiverse? Are there many worlds? Why does time always march forward? Is reality beautiful? These are the topics that launched the series and fueled its popularity.
Sci Con sponsorship includes
• Live event with two world-class scientists and thinkers in conversation with Janna Levin
• Special acknowledgement from the stage
• Named sponsorship on postcard announcement and website
• Honored guest for the night’s Sci Con dinner party


$120K – $180K
• 4-6 Events per season


There has been persistent interest in distributing Sci Con to a wider audience. We intend to cut the first season into a podcast series. Janna Levin will narrate each podcast to give a greater context to the topics covered, editing in the live conversation into a visually compelling mini-doc. We envision the podcasts will be roughly 30 minutes long, graphically strong, and available in both audio and video formats. Even those in the audience on the night will find more depths to plumb by following the podcasts. We will also leave trails on the host site to more material on the guests and the topics. We envision audio podcasts roughly 30 minutes long. Sponsorship includes
• Podcast episode as edited narrative of live event
• Named sponsorship in podcast and special acknowledgment on the site
• Honored guest at podcast party


• 4-6 episodes per season


Support a Scientific Workshop held at Pioneer Works
2 days-1 week targeting a real soluble problem
<20 participants hand picked for their expertise Topics under development: AI Quantum Computation & Decryption VR Futures Quantum Measurement


Support 4 residents for 6 months.

• The residency season will be named in honor of the donor.
• Donor will be honored guest at resident events


Support an evening at Pioneer Works
We invite 20-40 people for a private exploration of the Science Studios, a salon style evening with creatives in the sciences, and a dinner prepared by a world-class chef.


In our Inewly renovated Science Studios we have built a separate room, about 25' X 12' that would be an ideal location for a laboratory. We have in mind a biology labor with an emphasis on new techniques in genetic editing. This will allow us to expand our residency program to those in need of a wet lab.


$1 Million
• Director of Sciences position will be named in honor of donor
• Programming director hired
• Events named in honor of donor
• Expansion of Scientists-in-Residence program
• Wing named in honor of donor
• Sponsor invited as member in our open-plan studios for science residencies


$5 Million
With a generous endowment, Pioneer Works will expand our most ambitious plans to create a new building inhabited by permanent members and visiting residents. Members will be selected for their promise and potential for impact. Rare opportunities for collaboration across subjects such as biomedical sciences, nanotechnology, physics, and mathematics will encourage both blue-skies research and practical solutions to real-world problems.