The Future Of Silent Barn: The Public Shows Up To The Venue's Second Public Meeting

Categories: Silent Barn

silentbarn_meeting.jpg
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
Like a lot of panel discussions about art, Saturday's Silent Barn Public Meeting #2—a talk and concert sponsored by the currently on-hold DIY space in the carpeted and wood-paneled upper room at Ridgewood's Gottscheer Hall—had 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.

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.

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anonymous
anonymous

Man I sure would appreciate a comment approval time that was less than 24 hours... I wrote y'all something really heartfelt and personally important > 24h ago, and it hasn't shown up yet, awaiting moderation.  That's not acceptable for a commenting function on a news website! 

Kunal
Kunal

Hey all - 

It's Kunal from the Silent Barn.  I appreciate the criticism about the Silent Barn's much diminished Silent Barn-ish activity in this round than the next, I was hoping there would be more barn-ness myself in this event.  The truth is that as much as we are expanding in participation to a group of 20 people, we have also gotten much busier with opportunities that define the future of the Silent Barn (insanely exciting real estate opportunites), and the public meeting took a sort of supplementary event stance rather than a full representation of the Silent Barn - wrongfully so. Let's bring all of our news and hands-on activity back into the next public meeting and make it an entire representation of the Silent Barn again. Silent Barn Public Meetings will be a monthly occurrence that hopefully will carry over into our new space, so we want to get these right!  In the meantime, we are trying to maintain a bi-weekly newsletter that better encapsulates some of the madness the Silent Barn engages in every day, which you can look through at http://silentbarn.org.   Meanwhile, I'm personally pretty happy about the way this panel turned out, reading from this excellent article (I was not present.).  No one is saying Todd Patrick is ever right, or that Bushwick Print Lab is ever right, or that Silent Barn is ever right, or that even Robert Hobson is ever right - how could our narrow visions suffice, if we barely ever have these conversations? But the Queens Museum organized a celebration of Ridgewood arts, centered around a particular area of New York and its relationship to the growth of art.  This was a tremendous opportunity to get our unpracticed, naive voices to talk to each other and build a vision that thinks about the communities surrounding the venues we build, the communities that are enabled AND the communities that are left out, the different interpretations of a "community" organization, and think about and understand our serious civic responsibilities that come with DIY art.  Sure the conversations are awkward all around, but let's keep on talking, and stop being oblivious to each other's realities.  Thank you, Queens Museum.As Silent Barn, public interface is the single most exciting thing we are working towards - inhabiting a legal venue with public signage, no longer limited to benefitting only those in our private, secret social networks as we try to stay under cover from NYC authorities.  These kind of conversations ARE the new Silent Barn project. The truth is that if arts organization does not steadfastly improve and strengthen the lives of people in a neighborhood, the neighborhood will be left out of the value of art and it will overwritten over time.  It's absolutely vital to build a strong answer to that pattern directly into our city's beloved DIY arts model.  These conversations are equally important to and intertwined with the progress of Silent Barn's real estate search, which we will indeed work to express better in our newsletter and our next public meeting.love,Kunal Gupta AMC

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