Tonight, skill-share network Brooklyn Brainery — along with CourseHorse, 319 Scholes and dozens of other skill-share organizations and art and co-working spaces — await you with open arms at a free event sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery. Local author and writing workshop instructor Robin Grearson organized the informal networking mixer, “What’s Next? Creating Community,” so that members of the now defunct 3rd Ward — a long-standing creative education network that suddenly shuttered its doors on October 8th amidst much controversy — could connect in person.
“I was following the story and my heart went out to this group of people,” explained Grearson. After the closing of 3rd Ward the Brooklyn blogosphere erupted with pissed-off members who felt they had been misled and ripped off by the owner of the creative collective, Jason Goodman. However, what made more of an impression on Grearson were all the organizations and individuals who offered a helping hand to the 3rd Ward community.
Grearson decided she could contribute to the recovery effort by organizing a gathering of all the people and organizations who were willing to help out. “It would be not only great for them to hear about everyone who wants to throw free stuff their way, but it would also help this community begin to move forward, because they just didn’t really have an opportunity to get together and even just make sure they had each other’s contact info,” she said.
Grearson teamed up with Brooklyn Brainery to coordinate tonight’s event, which starts at 7:30 p.m. and runs until 9:30 at Brooklyn Brewery’s tasting room.
“My goal is to try to create a community opportunity for people — if they want to talk to someone they can, if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. I was trying to avoid creating a platform where anyone will be trying to sell to a bunch of people,” Grearson said. “There’s a whole lot of individuals who want to contribute to making something good come out of this bad thing, and so I’m just trying to facilitate that.”
As to the lessons that can be learned from 3rd Ward’s closing, Grearson explained, “I feel that one of those things that 3rd Ward was trying to sell in its memberships is community, and I think that we don’t need that to be sold to us. I think we can create it.” Grearson spoke to 3rd Ward’s botched attempt to commodify a creative community: “It wasn’t theirs to sell, really. So this does feel a little bit like taking it back, and going forward, like this is a blank canvas.”
A creative start-up founded by Jason Goodman and Jeremy Lovitt back in 2006, 3rd Ward offered classes and studio spaces aimed at Brooklyn artists and creatives. Over the next several years the company grew into the massive, over-extended venture it was at the time of its closure. The creative corporation’s expansion was funded by what New York magazine called “a slow, random, party-fueled growth.”
Hyperallergic chronicled the owners’ muck-ups over the years, highlighting the organization’s “frighteningly anemic cash flows,” and outlining the shady profiteering 3rd Ward’s rotating cast of investors engaged in while at the helm. Often students and instructors suffered from what was seemingly a business experiencing growing pains, while 3rd Ward leadership only benefited from the “organization’s weird but skyward trajectory.” For example, Gothamist reported that while Jason Goodman’s “3rd Ward enterprise went into a financial tailspin, that he and his wife kept busy decorating a very charming pair of houses on Montauk that he bought this year for over $700,000.”
On October 8, 3rd Ward members found the doors to the building locked, Gothamist reported. No announcement was made until the night of October 9, when members received an email instructing them to pick up their belongings from the building before the official closure the following day. The company also announced that paying members would not be receiving refunds.
3rd Ward’s closure came as a serious shock to most members. From outward appearances the company seemed to be doing quite well — having just announced pop-ups at Chelsea Market, an expansion to Philadelphia, and maintaining a pristine studio space in Brooklyn. In 2010 the Times characterized the company as a “thriving” arts and design collective.
However 3rd Ward’s downfall wasn’t surprising for everyone. One former employee of the company wrote an e-mail to Free Williamsburg, describing Jason Goodman as “a selfish, duplicitous crook disguised as a pioneering leader of the Brooklyn arts/hipster community.”
Goodman, the only guy left at the helm after co-founder Lovitt and his successor Besso both left the company in 2008 and 2010 respectively, explained to the Times that the closure resulted from “a short-term liquidity issue, and we unfortunately ran out of time.” A few days later, Goodman sat down for an interview with the Village Voice in what looked like an attempt to clear his name following days of angry backlash. Yet Goodman still resisted providing any real answers as to the lack of transparency in the company’s failure and why the shut down happened so abruptly.
The Observer picked up on what was apparently a last ditch attempt just weeks before closing by 3rd Ward to raise $1.5 million dollars to stay afloat. The company attributed their financial need to a decrease in revenue from their Brooklyn location, greater expenditure on their Philadelphia location than 3rd Ward anticipated, and the costliness of their culinary pop-up.
Though the hilariously bad behavior of 3rd Ward investors is gossipy goodness for many of us (especially this Facebook gem dug up by Hyperallergic) the fact remains that at least hundreds of people, including paying members, instructors, and students, have been duped out of dollars and left treading water.
Tonight’s event will hopefully be the springboard for a real recovery of the substantial network and placement of artists, skill-share instructors, and students that 3rd Ward held together for so long.