In the farthest reaches of Bushwick, right on the border of Knollwood Cemetery, Moffat Street drops off into oblivion. The sidewalks are cracked and few working street lights are there to illuminate the barren warehouses. Last night, long after the sun had set, I was walking down this end of Moffat in search of The Muse‘s new space.
It was pitch black, so I had a hard time finding the address, and was almost led astray when a motion sensor light clicked on and revealed an open door and a black limousine. This couldn’t be the place. I pressed on and finally found it– out of the darkness loomed a massive, 7,000 square foot warehouse that The Muse will be transforming into a circus school and performance space.
When I walked in, Angela Buccinni (who Ayla, the intern, describe to me as “Mama Muse”) was talking excitedly to another visitor about The Muse‘s plans for the new space, which is more than seven times the size of their previous location on the Williamsburg waterfront at Kent and S. 1st Street. By the end of November, the circus school became yet another name on a growing list of casualties– The Muse, like Death By Audio, lost their home of three years to the Vice expansion.
“We were supposed to have the space through the end of the year,” Angela, founder of The Muse explained. “But construction started two months ago.” The remodeling made workshops, classes, and performances in the building unbearable. There were sparks, debris, and significant dust. Walking around barefoot, something essential to some of The Muse’s circus and dance classes, became hazardous. Massive holes in the roof meant that when there was a storm outside, rain fell inside the building as well. “We lost a third of the flooring,” Angela said. “It was a nightmare.”
But the landlord didn’t seem to care there was time left on the lease. “They damn well knew we had three months left,” Angela said. The lost time also made for lost revenue to the tune of $16,000.
But despite the significant setbacks, Angela and the people at The Muse were undeniably optimistic about the future when I spoke with them last night. “This is going to be circus heaven compared to our old space,” Ayla beamed.
They only locked down their lease on the space this past Monday, but Angela was able to give me a detailed run-down of how they plan to transform the warehouse, which has some incredibly convenient amenities including towering ceilings, a massive crane that can move across the length of the building, and a large backyard. The warehouse is less than a five minute walk from the Wilson Avenue stop on the L train, yet it is fairly isolated from residential buildings.
Though a great deal of work remains to be done on the spot. “You have to imagine a lot,” Angela said, while giving me a tour. The Muse’s equipment and flooring from the old space was all piled in the center of the warehouse, and the building was just as cold as the outside, if not colder. “We’ve already gotten offers to rent the raw space out,” something that Angela said will help keep the circus school financially solvent. “But I’m like, just let me hook up the toilet and the heat first!”
Angela led me around the building and pointed to various empty spaces that will be transformed into an elevated dance studio, green rooms, a large stage, a coffee shop, and more. The Muse is still just short of their $60,000 Kickstarter goal, but Angela is confident it’ll be met: as of this afternoon, it has raised just over a mind-boggling $48,000.
“A lot of young artists are really pulling for this,” Angela said. “Having this type of programming means so much to this community.”
What started out years back as informal classes in Angela’s Bushwick backyard grew into a large community. “At first I was teaching my friend how to dance,” Angela explained. “Then it was 100 people coming to shows.” Eventually the events and courses became a part of The Muse. “When we first opened the place, we understood the need for affordability and accessibility,” she said. “We always aimed to make it feel like home.”
Before the move, The Muse held workshops and classes dedicated to the art of circus performance, which includes silk acrobatics, dance, and fire breathing, among other things. The courses drew about 100 regulars and, in the last year, over 500 people total attended classes. Angela says The Muse plans to continue the same types of classes and expand its programming. With the new possibilities that come with a larger space, events and performances will also be a big part of the new Muse.
At the end of February the Muse will tentatively be available for raw rental, “when people just need a space with heat, light, and running water,” Angela said. Classes could be up and running as soon as March.