The Future Of Silent Barn: The Public Shows Up To The Venue's Second Public Meeting
Like a lot of panel discussions about art, Saturday's Silent Barn Public Meeting #2a talk and concert sponsored by the currently on-hold DIY space in the carpeted and wood-paneled upper room at Ridgewood's Gottscheer Hallhad a lot of talk about community engagement. Unlike a lot of arts panel discussions, however, the community was actually there to talk back. In a way, it's a mark of success: here are a dozen young arts entrepreneurs basically spinning theoretical yarns about how, eventually, they'd love to involve people from the community in what they do. As it turned out, the community was already there. And they didn't always appreciate being talked about like some foreign body, loosely orbiting the artistic world.
Karen Plemons Silent Barn's Nat Roe; Alison Sirico; Mustard Beak's Nicolai Kurt and Niina Pollari; Parallel Art Space's Rob de Oude; Ashcan Orchestra's colorful hand bells
Longtime DiY impresario Todd "Todd P." Patrick outlined a vision for his current project, the revamped Market Hotel (set to re-open, Patrick says, sometime this year, possibly as soon as August or September), where each week it would host "two or three days of buzzy indie rock bands and another five days of Ecuadorian Cumbia bands and another night of Polish acts, and another night of Dominican Bacahata bands." Nat Roe, representing Silent Barn from inside his floppy oversized polo shirt, said the people involved in planning the new venue wanted it to be "a space for socioeconomic and political integration."
Eventually, Robert Hobson raised his had. A twentysomething African-American Ridgewood native, he felt he had to speak up. "You keep talking about Ridgewood as a place people are coming to," he said. "But, I mean, people are already here... Like you talk about you want to integrate things a lot, but I'm the only black person here." His comment was met with thunderous applause. Hobson stormed out, briefly, obviously unsatisfied with the answers he got. (Ray Cross of Bushwick Print Lab cited a small budget and long hours: "We're doing the best we can... cut us some slack.") "I didn't say anything to try and be a martyr," Hobson told me later. "I just really care about my neighborhood."
As it turned out, he was far from alone. Hobson's comment sparked something of a miniature revolt in the room; at that point the assembled had spent about 60 minutes listening to a dozen alternative-leaning upper-middle-class Caucasians operating music or art spaces in Bushwick and Ridgewood talk about enticing their audience to make the trek to Ridgewood, or the strategies they would employ, at some point in the future, to reach out to "the community." What the panel perhaps hadn't noticed was that "the community" had actually shown up. (The event doubled as the end of the Actually, It's Ridgewood art crawl, organized and promoted by the Queens Museum of Art.) And they had plenty of suggestions.