The Watermill Center — ‘A Laboratory of Inspiration…’



The Watermill Center is a laboratory of inspiration and performance, founded by theater and visual artist Robert Wilson, which provides a unique environment for a global community of emerging and established artists and thinkers to gather and explore new ideas together.


Photo ©Maria Baranova-Suzuki.


Photo ©lovis ostenrik.




A reproduction of Clementine Hunter’s “Africa House” on view at The Watermill Center. Photo © Maria Baranova-Suzuki.


Tall grasses leading to The Meditation Garden.  Photo © Lovis Ostenrik.


The Watermill Center Collection. Photo ©Maria Baranova-Suzuki.


The Watermill Center Collection. Photo ©Maria Baranova-Suzuki.


“Tree of Life” on view at The Watermill Center. Photo © Maria Baranova-Suzuki.



Collegio del Cueurpo & Shinnecock Nation.


Mapai burial column, on view at The Watermill Center. Photo ©lovis ostenrik.


The Watermill Center’s Main Building. Photo ©kristian kruuser.


The Knee Building. Photo ©kristian kruuser


Grand Room. Photo ©lovis ostenrik.


Main Dining Room. Photo ©julian mommert.


“Desk and Two Chairs” by Donald Judd, on view at The Watermill Center. Photo © Lovis Ostenrik


Archive Room


Robert Wilson´s Watermill Center.


Photo ©lovis ostenrik.


Photo ©lovis ostenrik.


Wilson Terrace. Photo ©kristian kruuser.





The original Western Union building, courtesy The Byrd Hoffman Water Mill Foundation



Searching for a new artistic base and incubator for his work, theater director Robert Wilson found a former Western Union research facility in 1986. Abandoned since the 1960s, the building, on the outpost of the Shinnecock Reservation in Water Mill, was in terrible condition, but it had the potential he had been looking for. The building also had a storied history as it was the site where the stylus for the first fax machine had been developed.

By 1989, Wilson’s mind was made up and he was convinced that there was magic in the old and obsolete buildings, and purchased the deed for the building and land. In 1992, The Watermill Center was founded by Wilson and The Byrd Hoffman Water Mill Foundation, with the first International Summer Program being held in collaboration with the Trisha Brown Dance Company. Wilson envisioned Watermill as a laboratory for experimentation, technological and otherwise—a space accommodating artists-in-residence, students, and collaborators, housing an extensive collection of art and artifacts and providing a “think tank” in which artists could conceive, develop, and rehearse new work.


Photo ©kristian kruuser.




Completed in 2006, The Watermill Center stands an eight-and-a-half acre arts compound, with verdant lawns and outdoor sculpture gardens. The Center is Wilson’s summer home and home to an ever-burgeoning collection of artifacts, textiles, sculptures, furniture, and other art objects that are available for study.

Watermill serves as a place for young and emerging artists to work, learn, create, and grow with each other, it integrates performing arts practice with resources from the humanities, research from the sciences, and inspiration from the visual arts. Watermill is unique within the global landscape of experimental theatrical performance, and regularly convenes the brightest minds from all disciplines to do, in Wilson’s words, “what no one else is doing.”

In addition to the long-standing International Summer Program, expanded programming in the fall and spring includes an Artist Residency Program, workshops and classes, conferences and lectures, and a variety of local and international educational partnership programs. Watermill has collaborated with institutions such as The Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, The Baryshnikov Arts Center, Park Avenue Armory, Kampnagel Hamburg, CUNY’s Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, ArteEast, Performa, Taipei Cultural Center, Chez Bushwick, CPR – Center for Performance Research, New York Theater Workshop, Summer Play Festival, MRI – Métamatic Research Initiative and RADIALSYSTEM V in Berlin, among others.

For schedule of performances, exhibits, events, lectures & tours, and related information on The Watermill Foundation, please visit




The Byrd Hoffman Water Mill Foundation, operator of The Watermill Center, is an organization founded by Robert Wilson to provide a supportive environment for emerging artists to explore new ideas and foster their career development. Watermill provides a haven for the next generation of artists who embrace avant-garde, multidisciplinary approaches. The Foundation also documents the work of Robert Wilson and his collaborators and manages The Robert Wilson Archive, The Watermill Study Library. A not-for-profit, 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, The Byrd Hoffman Water Mill Foundation was chartered in 1969 in the State of New York.

Photo ©lovis ostenrik.

Click here to view our 2017 season brochure.

Visit: Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center: ‘Containing the Universe’ by Jan Garden Castro 

         Plans for Watermill Artist Residence

Image Credits: The Watermill Center A Laboratory for Performance: Robert Wilson’s Legacy


By |2023-10-15T12:39:46+00:00September 27th, 2017|Archive, Art Portfolio, Contents, Issue 1 Archive, Portfolio|Comments Off on The Watermill Center — ‘A Laboratory of Inspiration…’