Brooklyn DIY Haven The Silent Barn Is Closing

The Silent Barn, one of Brooklyn’s most important DIY spaces, is shutting down after 12 years. The Silent Barn Collective issued a statement today explaining that by the end of April it will vacate the Bushwick-area building it’s called home since 2012. “Despite the incredible support we have received from our community,” they write, “the financial and functional challenges of running a space on this scale have created an unsustainable environment with no realistic way forward.”

Described as a “multi-functional all-ages art incubation space,” under the Silent Barn crew’s supervision the building at 603 Bushwick Avenue has been a hub for underground music as well as a community organizing center and live-in workspace for artists and other creatives. A 2015 electrical fire resulted in cancelled shows and displaced several residents, necessitating a fundraising drive to get Silent Barn up and running again. Last year, the collective held a series of benefit concerts and a crowdsourcing campaign aimed at keeping the space operational, but according to today’s statement, profits only covered about a month’s worth of expenses.

Read the Silent Barn Collective’s full statement below.

In 2012, the Silent Barn entered a new phase of our ongoing project by moving into a massive three-story building at 603 Bushwick Avenue. From the start, we were aware of the risks that this building and our intended collective organizational structure presented, but we took on those challenges knowing that the resulting space would be unique and vital. Despite the incredible support we have received from our community, the financial and functional challenges of running a space on this scale have created an unsustainable environment with no realistic way forward.

The money we raised at the end of last year, for instance, was only enough to cover one month of rent, payroll, utilities, emergency repairs, bar stock, and other overdue expenses. At that time, we began a round-the-clock collective attempt at tightening our organizational structure and improving our long-term funding prospects, and tried our hardest to sustain long enough to see it through to the end of our ten year lease. But ultimately, the clock has run short. After a prolonged assessment of the financial realities of this project, the leaseholders have decided that the most responsible option left is to end operations at 603 Bushwick as of April 30, 2018. We plan to maintain our scheduled calendar of events through then.

Silent Barn is mostly known for our nightly shows, but our space is also home to artists-in-residence and studio tenants, and employs dozens of staff members—all of whom are now seeking new homes, workspaces, and jobs. The organization that will suffer the most due to our closing is Educated Little Monsters (ELM), a grassroots program that provides artistic outlets for youth of color and has met regularly in our space since 2014. We feel a particular sense of urgent responsibility in encouraging donations to ELM, whose music and arts programming serves kids of all ages, while centering involvement from Bushwick natives—those who were living here long before the Silent Barn opened, whose neighborhoods continue to be severely impacted by gentrification, and whose programs will now experience further displacement.

ELM is now raising money to open a new all-ages venue and event space in collaboration with its community partners Bushwick Street Art, The Lab Recording Studio, and Color Scenes—the native-focused art movement that curated the murals covering our entire three-story building, and creates opportunities for youth to paint and connect with professional artists. Over the years, we’ve seen the role that D.I.Y. music venues play within the greater machine of gentrification, and how often the communities who would most benefit from these resources—the neighborhood’s native communities—are excluded from them entirely. ELM and their collaborators pushed open Silent Barn, and created cultural relevance in the space for the long-standing Bushwick community. Read ELM’s full statement here.

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The Silent Barn would like to extend our gratitude to ELM and the Bushwick community, as well as everyone who has ever performed, booked or attended events here; those who have provided generous support via donations or volunteer time; the residents, studio artists, organizations, staff, and collective members whose tireless effort brought our space into existence, and kept it running.

Opening an aboveground, up-to-code space in NYC (or anywhere) comes with limitless challenges—financial, structural, emotional. Attempting to run as an open, non-hierarchical, and collectively-directed project only complicated those challenges. How do we all work together? What does it mean to provide a safe(r) space? How can we responsibly serve a neighborhood while contributing to its rapid gentrification? These are some of the ongoing conversations that have arisen or stayed with us during this phase of the Barn. Though we often learned the hard way and in many ways still have more learning to do, this structure fostered perpetual dialogue and growth. In time, we’d love to share as much information and perspective as we can from our time collectively running this space: the ways we succeeded, and where we ran into the most trouble. We encourage future collectives to explore this model further, to continue having these difficult conversations, and to keep investigating non-traditional forms of organization.

Since our founding in 2006, Silent Barn has been committed to an art-first, all-ages ethos, prioritizing independent artists, and work that isn’t commercially motivated. In our new space, our programming team facilitated events through a collaborative process, platforming voices from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and prioritizing those who don’t always feel comfortable in other spaces. We urge the city to keep these values in mind and start widely supporting small, artist-run community spaces in a material way, because these types of relationships are crucial for NYC’s arts landscape.

The end of the current location does not mean the end of Silent Barn as an organization, but we will first be taking time to reflect on our experiences at 603 Bushwick Avenue. When we shut these doors for good, the community that has been forged around the Silent Barn will not be gone. Keep an eye out for updates via Silent Barn’s email newsletter and social media pages; find our final events and volunteer opportunities on our website and Facebook. And please, stand in solidarity with ELM via their fundraiser page, keep up with their work on Facebook and Instagram, or reach out directly to [email protected]