It wasn’t easy for Elle Burchill and Andrea Monti to find a space in Bushwick to house their expanding gallery, Microscope. The two started looking in October 2013, and finally signed a lease just under a month ago. “We saw at least 30 spaces,” Burchill says. “We lost several just as we were supposed to go sign a lease, and then the landlord had someone slip in and offer more for rent. That was fun.”
Microscope Gallery is a hybrid space in Bushwick that showcases artists who specialize in moving image, sound, digital, and performance art. It hosts exhibitions during the day and events at night. The impetus for moving is a New York story as old as the city itself: not enough space. Their current location at Myrtle and Bushwick is a measly 420 square feet.
“Often when we had a bigger event, we had this relationship with our neighbors next door [Running Rebel Studios] who had about 1,400 square feet, and we would do the night over there,” Burchill says. “Then they started having issues with our landlord, and basically were pushed out ten months before the end of their lease. So it sent a signal to us that we should also look out for what might happen when our lease came up. We were very worried.”
Their current exhibition, Marni Kotak’s “Mad Meds,” has such an elaborate set-up that it restricts Microscope from offering its usual night events. In a bigger space, Burchill says, “You can do events where you don’t have to worry about touching or ruining the artwork; in our space right now, it’s inches away from people. We don’t want to not be able to do the exhibitions because of the events. But it’s very important for us to do both.”
Burchill and Monti finally found (and secured) a space that fits their needs; it’s a two-story warehouse just off the Jefferson L stop in Bushwick. “It’s raw and we have to do a lot of work,” Burchill says. “But I guess in the end it’s actually the best place we saw, for us.”
Finding the best place comes with a price, so Microscope launched an IndieGoGo campaign to help cover the costs of converting the new space, including new speakers and projectors, additional seating, and soundproofing walls. They’re also planning to expand their event series. “But none of the basic things that we’re doing will change,” Burchill says. “What will change is that a lot of the stuff that we took off site can stay on site.”
The IndieGoGo campaign has raised almost $7,000 of their $16,000 goal, and only seven days remain of the 30-day campaign. Funding is flexible, meaning that if they don’t reach their goal of $16,000, they still get to keep any funds they have raised.
Microscope plans to open its doors the first week of September, and they want to share the good news; not just that they’re opening a new space, but that independent art galleries have reason to be optimistic. “There’s a lot of galleries, especially at the Troutman Building, who are facing rent increases,” Burchill says. “So I think maybe the fact that we found something gives people hope. There are some still some reasonable landlords out there.”