NEW INC: Writing a History of Art Incubators


Built with passion for new art and ideas, the New Museum is regarded as a good example that completely transformed the Bowery community in New York’s Lower East Side. The Museum has been growing its reputation by showcasing works of experimental artists. Its passion goes beyond creating traditional art spaces to serving as an impetus to realize new ideas. In 2008, the Museum’s leaders purchased a six-story brick building located right next to the Museum. However, they contemplated and waited for a few years as they did not want to turn it into a place where people feel that they have already seen or been to. While pondering over their plan to start a new, different program, Director Lisa Phillips and Deputy Director Karen Wong noticed that New York is yet again gaining traction as a technology-centered city. The two agreed that they are interested in startup incubators and cooperative spaces booming in New York and that art also is in need of such space. Phillips and Wong say they were fascinated to pool artists, designers and engineers and see what kind of synergy would be created when they learn from and cooperate with each another.

Their efforts led to the birth of NEW INC in 2014 as Julia Kaganskiy[1], an art tech expert, joined the project to take charge of the new space. The Museum’s Board of Trustees funded $2 million to prepare 60 desks, 2 conference rooms and studios all in a 11,000-square-foot area. Over 100 members were recruited to participate in projects for 6 months to a year. NEW INC is the world’s first museum-led incubator for creative artists and entrepreneurs dedicated to art, design and technology. NEW INC is a co-working space and innovation lab where art meets technology.

NEW INC charges its members based on their duration of stay, providing in return services for them to meet, learn and advertise. Artists enjoy workshops on introduction to business and cultural technology startup members get to meet lawyers and investors to gather tailored information. NEW INC’s acclaimed Advisory Council consists of industrial movers and shakers, including: John Maeda, master of digital art; Neri Oxman, professor at the MIT; Fred Dust, Managing Director at IDEO; Yancey Strickler, founder of Kickstarter; and Andrew Weissman, partner at Union Square Ventures.

 “Our goal is to help the members to contribute to NEW INC’s ecosystem while allowing them to realize their maximum potential,” says Julia Kaganskiy. As the first director of NEW INC, Kaganskiy has set the vision of NEW INC and been managing its programs, growing her influence within NEW INC. “I really thought about what NEW INC should be, how it will influence New York and local communities, and what kind of space it should be in the current era of technology,”[2] explains Kaganskiy. She herself worked every day with the members, matched those who need help, came up with marketing strategies, organized workshops and established new partnerships. The biggest task for her during the first year was setting the long-term structure of the program and devising strategies to establish the brand identity, and ensuring that all these made progress. Thanks to her dedication, NEW INC today is recognized as a space where the most creative thinkers at the forefront of culture and technology come together.

NEW INC’s members range from individuals like artists and designers, to collectives, studios, non-profit organizations and startups. They prioritize social impact in line with NEW INC’s vision to foster cultural values, focusing on projects committed to humanistic concerns such as surveillance, climate change, discrimination and disability. New Reality Co., one of Kaganskiy’s favorite members, is a filmmaker duo who produce virtual-reality short films. Tree is one of their productions that allows the audience to become trees in the rainforest and experience with all the five senses. Affiliated with the Rainforest Alliance, the film conveys the importance of the environment by engaging the audience to feel the wind and vibrations and smell the scents. Kaganskiy has been helping them to continue to receive grants, while connecting their works and techniques with businesses and looking for bigger potential and opportunities. Another team worth mentioning is Micro, a team of a former scientist at NASA and marketing designer. The duo built the world’s tiniest science museum that goes anywhere around the world. The museum can be installed in public places like airports and hospitals, making it more accessible for all. NEW INC has offered them a chance to meet Y Combinator, one of the best startup accelerators in the US, and enter the more profitable business market. However, pursuing their original goal, Micro decided to remain nonprofit, engaging in various projects. “I learned that if you want to advance and grow, you need to stick to your mission and values and remember what’s most important for you,”[3] recalls Kaganskiy.

NEW INC itself was a startup, thus in need of support and funding. “We had to prepare our annual budget from a zero base every year, but finding the right businesses or sponsor partnerships during fundraising events was never easy,”[4] says Kaganskiy. However, she learned that hard work and pitching always bring her the right partner in the end, whose interest and values match those of NEW INC. There have been times when she’s been continuing fundraising endeavors and partners appear in front of them at the least expected moments. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is also a group whose values resonated with those of NEW INC and is investing $600,000.

Celebrating its 5th anniversary this September, NEW INC upgraded equipment and resources, expanding the mentoring network and partnerships to welcome new members, each in the following categories: Museum Technology Track; Social Impact Track; Creative Experiments Track; Immersive Experiences Track; Nokia Bell Labs; E.A.T. Residency; and Community. NEW INC provides the new members professional development training and mentorship sessions to facilitate their growth. In addition, Demo Day offers them the opportunity to present their final projects.

An art incubator created 5 years ago at a museum brought about growth and change in many artists – in a totally new, unconventional way. NEW INC today is a test bed for new ideas. NEW INC develops creative projects and businesses to respond to reality and pave ways to the future by pooling forward-looking artists, fashion designers, musicians, virtual-reality filmmakers, product designers, software developers and architects. Former NEW INC members have created over 300 jobs in the creative industry, raised $150,000 in funding, and showcased their works at the Art Basel in Miami Beach, the Cannes Film Festival, the Panorama Music Festival and more. Cultural incubators like NEW INC are popping up in other cities and countries as more people are recognizing their potential.

Julia Kaganskiy, who has created and developed NEW INC, has left the role of Director two months ago and since been serving as its curatorial advisor, focusing on strengthening E.A.T. (Experimental in Art and Technology) Residency with Nokia Bell Labs. In July, the baton was passed to Stephanie Pereira, now the new Director of NEW INC. Pereira has six years of experience at the crowd funding platform Kickstarter and is dedicated to opening NEW INC’s new chapters with her insight in creative business, entrepreneurship, and passion for communities. Those who dream never get old: NEW INC will always stay young, filled with dreams and never-ending innovations.

[1] Art tech curator, editor and culture creator. She was Global Editor of ‘The Creators Project’ and the founder of ‘ArtsTech Meetup,’ a monthly event series that explores the meetup point of art and technology.
[2] Art19, April 19, 2018. 
[3] Art19, April 19, 2018. 
[4] Art19, April 19, 2018.