3rd Ward Co-Founder Jason Goodman Addresses Questions About the Art Space's Closure
Late on Friday afternoon, the 30,000-square-foot art space at Bushwick's 3rd Ward is mostly empty. The spacious atrium where the popular "drink and draw" night was held, the digital lab filled with rows of brand-new Apple computers, the pristine photography studio, the sewing room--all are deserted. A pit bull is curled under a worktable in the metal shop, where a man and a woman are packing up their belongings.
3rd Ward's photography studio
From behind the front desk, a young woman is explaining to a confused man who purchased a membership a few days ago that he has been issued a credit but not a refund of his money. He'll be able to use the credit if 3rd Ward reopens; if it doesn't, he will have to get in line with the rest of the members when the space's assets are liquidated.
Jason Goodman, co-founder and CEO of 3rd Ward, sits with two friends at a picnic table on the patio, drinking Tecate, smoking cigarettes, and reflecting on the closure of the arts center he started eight years ago.
It has been a rough few days for the man who helped create this pillar of the north Brooklyn arts scene. He has been roundly criticized for the way he handled the closure.
Gothamist posted a photo gallery of his second home in Montauk, where a former associate said Goodman spent much of his time while the organization struggled financially. Free Williamsburg published excerpts of a letter from a former employee calling Goodman (among other things) "a selfish, duplicitous crook disguised as a pioneering leader of the Brooklyn arts/hipster community."
Goodman characterizes the things that have been published online as "deeply disturbing, and a lot of gossip.
"Somebody published my home address," he adds, shaking his head.
Other than a brief comment to the New York Times, Goodman has not spoken to the press, so in addition to the flak he's taking for for closing abruptly and not offering refunds, he's being criticized for disappearing. He rejects that idea. If people want to talk to him, he says they can come on down to 3rd Ward.
"I'm literally here every day," he says. "The doors are open."
Among the folks who have come to say goodbye and clean out their workspaces, he says, the reaction has been "a lot of tears and hugs."
Goodman doesn't have a lot of answers about how 3rd Ward collapsed so quickly and completely. "We've been raising capital since the beginning of the summer," he says. In September, 3rd Ward launched a campaign to raise $1.5 million in investment on the website Fundrise. That campaign was called off on Wednesday.
Pressed about why 3rd Ward continued to accept money up until the day the arts space closed its doors, Goodman insists that he did not believe he was going to have to shut down. He maintains that he was in negotiations with potential investors through Tuesday evening, when the final decision was made: "It was down to the wire."
There is still a possibility that 3rd Ward could be saved, he adds. "Over the last two days, there's been an outpouring of interest" from potential investors who could contribute or buy the space outright. Former members have mounted a campaign, too, with a website, Save3rdWard.com. Goodman says he's not affiliated with that campaign.
Under a deal he made with the building's landlord, he says, he has about a month to figure out what will become of the space.
If no savior comes forward, 3rd Ward's assets--the woodworking tools, the sewing machines, the computers--will be liquidated, and Goodman says creditors, including former students, teachers, and members, will be reimbursed. The organization's biggest creditor, according to Goodman, is a bank.
Until the closure, 3rd Ward had been pursuing ambitious plans to expand to a second location in Philadelphia and unveil a culinary institute, which some say diverted resources from the entity's original location.