Venerated art space, punk venue, and community center ABC No Rio has filed to have its building torn down, Department of Buildings records show. And thus ends an era filled with countless art exhibitions and Saturday hardcore matinees, stretching all the way back to 1979. Unlike just about every other venue closure we’ve seen in the last few months, however, this one promises to have a happy ending, as ABC No Rio will be back in just a little while with a shiny, new building at its current location. The new space at 156 Rivington will be bigger and more modern—complete with LEED certification—and is poised to provide artists, activists, and other weirdos with a place to congregate for years to come.
While its closure is only temporary, the cracked, crumbling walls of the old building– and the many memories of murals painted on them and bodies smashed against them at shows—will be missed. As bittersweet as its demolition is, the new building comes mostly out of necessity: after 36 years as an arts space, the former tenement building has seen better days.
What originally started in 1979 as the Real Estate Show—a squatting art show held in an abandoned storefront around the corner—eventually morphed into ABC No Rio in 1980, when the city allowed the collective that ran the show to use a space on Rivington. The group organized shows there for years, drawing some of the best of the fringe NYC art scene together under one roof and becoming synonymous with the LES in the process. After several years of negotiation and forceful protesting against eviction, ABC No Rio organizers formally purchased their longtime home from the city for $1 in 2001—inarguably the coolest thing to happen under Bloomberg. The city granted them the building on the condition that they raise money and make some much need repairs, which they did.
But after another 15 years of use, it had become increasingly clear the building was on its last legs. With an adjacent building being demolished to make way for condos, the crew at ABC No Rio decided they couldn’t risk their own building collapsing on them, even if it would be a truly die-hard punk way to go. Instead, the collective’s organizers decided to bite the bullet and build something more permanent. Since announcing plans for the restart, the collective has raised $1.5 million in private donations, which they will use, in addition to the $4.5 million they got from the city, to create their new, energy-efficient space.
While they haven’t said when the rebuild will be complete, ABC No Rio’s organizers have already proven they’re not going anywhere. Since earlier this month, the venue’s organizers have been regularly holding a series of ABC No Rio in Exile shows at venues around the city, including several at Silent Barn. The next two hardcore matinees in exile are scheduled for August 6 at Silent Barn (with Organ Dealer, Lucid Terror, Limbs Bin, Chepang and BillxNye) and August 12 at Backdrop in Brooklyn (with HIRS, Night Witch, Gorgeous and Hiss). In addition, the extensive zine library is on display just around the corner, at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center at 107 Suffolk Street.
All of this is to say that, while it might take a minute to get things back up and running at 156 Rivington, the level of noise the space contributed to New York will remain more or less the same until that happens.