There’s been many a Bushwick disappearance lately. Punk venue The Acheron recently said their goodbyes, acclaimed restaurant Northeast Kingdom put away their plates for good, and Palisades is closed until at least August. In nearby Williamsburg, the Experiment Comedy Gallery, DIY space for funnies, just had to relocate to a new spot that’s quite literally underground.
Recently, another Bushwick (technically East Williamsburg, but whatever) multidisciplinary haven is experiencing pressure to get outta here. IDIO Gallery, which is solely owned, operated, and curated by Montana Simone, has started a $60,000 GoFundMe page as a plea to keep their doors open.
After a year and a half of operation, 10 art shows, and 75 events, IDIO’s future is now uncertain.
Simone explains on her GoFundMe that the space owes $10,000 in the next month in just taxes, utilities, and insurance, and their rent has increased to $4,000 per month, totaling $48,000 through July of next year. Their lease is up in a year, and she tells me their landlords have threatened not to renew it next July, citing “parties” (i.e.: IDIO’s art and performance events, which draw crowds) as the reason. Due to this, they’ve had to cut down on programming, which has in turn made it more difficult for the space to survive.
We visited IDIO a few months ago for the opening of their art show Phantasmagoria, curated in collaboration with Gillian Zinser and co-presented by A Women’s Thing Quarterly. What we found was a vibrant space tucked away in the midst of industrial sprawl, unassuming on the outside but bursting with activity inside. Rather than a stuffy art opening punctuated only by chatter, IDIO offered a more authentic and enjoyable way to experience visual art, with just enough of a party atmosphere to also give you a new friend or two. These could be fancy friends: Simone tells me attendees of their last opening included Josh Tillman (a.k.a. Father John Misty) and bestselling author Tom Folsom.
IDIO is unique in that it’s able to mix the vibes of both a DIY music space and a more traditional art gallery while also offering more eclectic programming, like their sound art series. Some DIY spaces can start to feel niche or scene-y, but IDIO has maintained an impressively wide spread.
IDIO’s current exhibit is Best Friends, showcasing the multidisciplinary work of two artists and longtime friends, Stephen Koharian and Eliot Greenwald. The show takes over both floors of the gallery, offering a contrast of “finely finished paintings” in the more traditional white space upstairs and a more rough-and-tumble installation piece downstairs, which takes a “peek into their inner worlds, woods, and studios.” It’s a clever architectural wink at the artists’ history of making work—the exhibit description mentions the two would create in each other’s attics and basements.
Despite looming hardships, Simone has not stopped brainstorming. She tells me she wants to start a “KEXP-style production company” in IDIO’s basement for bands to record their performances in high-quality sound, as well as a combination class series and publication called NURD that will offer general education like figure drawing and ultra-specific lessons by creators in the community, such as “color theory from a video artist’s perspective” and “how to make a synth glitch out of a TV screen.”
She’s also partnering with friends in Woodstock, Mary-Evelyn Pritchard and Ryan Pearson, to assist in transforming their 27-acre property into a sister venue for IDIO, with “a recording studio, a festival stage and camping in the woods, as well as wellness treatments for artists to either go stay in a cabin and write, or play a big show in the woods with friends, or get well from the urban grind.”
For those who don’t have pockets a-flowing, Simone says there are plenty of other ways to help support IDIO. “Anyone who wants to come work and help run Idio is more than welcome!” She specifies, “We need to do construction, maintenance, cleaning, booking, curating, handling, errands, fundraising, grant-writing, so many things I can barely do alone.” She writes in her GoFundMe that running the space had become a 70+ hour-per-week job.
This news isn’t exactly surprising; it seems that nearly every day there’s another art space threatened with closure. “Maybe it’s crazy to try to create something in New York, where the cost is so high,” Simone notes in her GoFundMe. “But if we don’t keep places like IDIO open, there will be no reason to be in New York at all. My parents met on the Lower East Side and fell in love in the art and music spaces of New York. They felt free to create, to think, to be a part of a beautiful, wild community making the world they wanted to live in. I want to believe that it is still possible to do this here.”
Update, July 15: The original version of this post was revised to include the names of Simone’s partners in the Woodstock project.