Powrplnt– the ambitious non-profit pet project of artist, proud weirdo, and retired Bushwick party girl Angelina Dreem– has officially flipped on the lights and begun watering the plants, so to speak. “Hey–” she started, glancing over at Jake Sollins, one of the teachers setting up to teach teens about Photoshop and Illustrator for a class called “How to Make Money.”
“Jake– if no one shows up, you’re gonna have to be cool, alright?” She sipped her tea. “My whole thing is slow grow, I’m doing the work but we’re gonna be here for three years, and I’m not really worried about immediate adaptation.”
While Powrplnt has posted some flyers around the neighborhood, hit up people they’ve worked with before, and coordinated with organizations like Mayday to bring students in, Angelina once again emphasized that the goal is to appeal to people in the immediate area. Powrplnt is located in the southeast portion of Bushwick. Far from so-called Morgantown and even DIY Row close to Myrtle-Broadway, it’s a much less gentrified part of the neighborhood. “Having the door open is a major advertisement– I really believe that just being here, and being present brings people in,” Angelina said. “The first adopters are the people who are curious enough to walk into a place, and once people see their neighbors using the computers, and not just transplants, I think that will make a big difference.”
Classes for teens started on Tuesday, after an open house last weekend. (There are three of them so far with a maximum capacity of six for no, and will eventually cap out at 10.) “There were two people that showed up for the first class– some were recommendations from past students, and there were some people who popped in to use the computers,” Angelina explained. A small donation of $5 gets you access to the Mac computers that are hooked up to printers and loaded with programs like those found in Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop). “But no one has to pay,” Angelina confirmed.
She admitted they’re still smoothing out the details. “We haven’t figured out how to have consistent hours just yet,” but for now, expect Powrplnt to be open Tuesday through Thursday and then Saturday, “noon to seven or beyond.” And the cafe concept is still up in the air (though coffee and tea are available).
Dreem is no stranger to running (and defending the honor of) DIY spaces. In 2014, Powrplnt had a temporary residency at Stream Gallery, and Dreem was a co-founder of the legendary and now RIP’ing Body Actualized Center. As such, save for some real nice Bose speakers and a gaggle of powerful Mac computers, Powrplnt has maintained a shoestring DIY vibe.
The former Dominican hair salon has the laid-back, artfully thrown-together feel that only an artist-run, free art school could pull off. There’s a black-and-white oversized checkered floor, various hanging plants, a namesake banner bedecked with bright green foliage, a few choice pieces of colorful artwork, and a movable wall and enough open space so that the arrangement can easily be changed up. Angelina admitted that while the decor and furniture is “pretty bare bones” right now, she plans to bring in more plants, is in the process of building some fountains, and will set up more “co-working” tables and chairs. “I want it to be a space where people can hang out on the computers together,” she explained.
As for the teachers, most are artists or creative professionals like Martha Hipley. Jake, for example, has worked as a freelance graphic designer and archivist. All of them would describe their use of these programs as “second nature,” Angelina explained. “Hopefully, once it gets more consistent and active we’ll be able to do some sort of compensation, but for now it’s all volunteers,” she explained. “I like working with people consistently who I know have a good practice, a lot of them haven’t really taught before, but are passionate about trying it.”
Angelina emphasized that Powrplnt will be a “very open” sort of place. “I’m reaching out to people to see if they want to do anything– [classes and events],” she said. They’re “definitely” open to pitches from anyone in the community, “as long as it aligns with the mission.” So far, Powrplnt has a handful of events lined up for the coming months, including a film screening. “Right now we’re looking for volunteers, anyone who wants to teach something, and volunteers who just wanna hang out and help with resumes, signing up for Facebook, or printing DMV stuff. We’re also looking for teens,” Angelina said. “I want it to be a place for creatives who are on their computer most of the time. I really think the human interaction part is so valuable.”
You can sign up for classes by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Powrplnt, located at 562 Evergreen Avenue in Bushwick.