The Front Room says goodbye to Williamsburg this weekend (Photo courtesy of The Front Room)
From the outside, New Yorkers might come across as exceedingly transient people who, for some reason, find joy in completely upending their lives and sacrificing what little pittance they make to participate in the moving industrial complex, forking over mountains of dough for stuff like brokers and “cleaning” fees, which don’t actually do anything except dig a pit for your money to fall into. The truth is that– for most people, anyway– moving is rarely the result of voluntary circumstances.
As we know, the cycle of buy-out/get-price-out hurts more than your wallet, it’s a real bummer for communities (i.e. real people) and cultural institutions as well. A few places defy all the odds and hang on through gentrification, and an art space called The Front Room is one of them. For 18 years, Kathleen Vanuce along with her husband and business partner Daniel Aycock, have operated their gallery in the front, and living quarters in the back (switching up the usual party/business arrangement), meanwhile Williamsburg transformed around them. This weekend, however, will be their last.
(Via Secret Project Robot Art Experiment/ Facebook)
No matter how much you love your favorite DIY venue, there’s no sense in getting too attached– as anyone who’s been in the game for a while will tell you. But having lost seemingly countless art caverns and show spaces in the last year, we’ve reached a certain moment where posi vibes and healthy acceptance of the city’s natural ebb and flow, suddenly feel less like rational bits of wisdom and more like things we say to make ourselves feel better because everything is terrible right now.
Whether by force of landlord, party police, or unnatural disaster, we’ve lost some of the greats– Palisades is gone (for good), Market Hotel (indefinitely, save for some vegan markets here and there) maybe too, and Secret Project Robot went away as well. Since the beginning, the duo behind the latter, Rachel Nelson and Erik Zajaceskowski, have vowed to return in one form or another, and now good things are finally happening. “Secret Project Robot just signed a new lease!!” they announced on social media last week. “the art zombie rises!!!”
It’s only been about two years since Stuart Solomon, Zack Wheeler, and Olivia Russin first secured a barebones warehouse in Greenpoint’s small sliver of an industrial corridor and turned it into a DIY show space called Aviv, so it’s been something of a shock to hear that the venue will be closing its doors at the end of October. Add the fact that Brooklyn recently lost another one of its heaviest hitters, Palisades, and Aviv’s passing will almost certainly mean that, as far as indie/underground/punk shows are concerned, there’s going to be a period of relative quiet to follow.
The Experiment Comedy gallery has moved to 272 Grand Street (Photo: Nicole Disser)
When The Experiment Comedy Gallery opened last fall, just steps from a fast-changing corner on the Williamsburg waterfront where Broadway meets Kent Avenue, it was a little surprising to hear that a DIY comedy club catering to up-and-coming standups and underrepresented comics was setting up shop in an area that, strangely, seems to be shriveling up as it hurdles toward major development. “Vice isn’t here yet,” joked The Ex’s founder, Mo Fathelbab, when we first met last October. That might have been true, but the luxury developments were definitely there already– and funny thing was, the venue was actually located on the ground floor of one such condo building, Broadway Riverview, which had been around since the start of the Williamsburg condo boom. More →
Verb Cafe is back, this time on Nassau Avenue (Photo: Nicole Disser)
It was one of the last vestiges of a bygone Williamsburg– a grungy, cavernous little coffee shop with worn-down wood floors and a lifetime of coffee grounds seemingly plastered onto every surface. Verb Cafe, which opened in 1999, was nothing fancy– no one went there to get a pour-over or fawn over bespoke beans with tasting notes. But when the place closed in June 2014, there was more than a bit of sadness (which was compounded when life imitated every joke ever told about Brooklyn hipsters and the coffee shop was replaced by an artisanal soap boutique with handmade, organic cupcake soap).
Winston Scarlett: curator of Slackgaze and founder of Nola Darling (Photo: Nicole Disser)
For the city’s DIY scene, the year 2014 was anything but static– openings, closings, you know the drill. And while one little venue might seem like it’s simply joining the list of short-lived venues and tragic casualties, in all probability, Nola Darling is just getting started.
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. More →
Marni Kotak’s “Mad Meds” Exhibit; Photo Courtesy of Microscope Gallery
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.” More →
The St. Mark’s Bookshop just sent out an e-mail announcing that it’s moving in June, not in fall as indicated in a New York Times item reporting that the bookshop has finally, finally, finally signed a lease for its new location. More →