Don’t go it alone: A guide to Brooklyn’s community arts spaces for emerging artists

Don't go it alone: A guide to Brooklyn's community arts spaces for emerging artists
Follow the party animals to the Barn. via Instagram

Solitary suffering needn’t be a rite of passage for a life in the arts, especially not if you reside and produce artworks in Brooklyn. Here, you can avail yourself of a range of free and low cost resources borough-wide without ever resorting to ramen or giving up your dating life (though occasionally, we encourage you to do that anyway). Do you seek a gallery for your sriracha bottle installation? A windowed rehearsal space for your choreo? An audience for your jazz sax? There are art-loving professionals who will take your dreams seriously, and it’s time to befriend them.

While the following list can’t hope to encompass all of Brooklyn’s incredible arts initiatives, this guide corrals arts organizations and community spaces that 1) support emerging Brooklyn-based artists of all disciplines and 2) operate as nonprofits. These groups provide creatives with a spectrum of resources — from teaching artist and residency calls to O-1 visa consultation. Whether you’re after a grant or a grant-writing workshop, a DIY playground or industry tips, the diversity of services represented by these top five picks reflects the great diversity of the borough itself. Read on to find your next creative oasis in a Brooklyn near you! 

603 Bushwick Ave., Bushwick
Open 4pm daily – past midnight (when a show is happening)

Don’t be fooled: you don’t have to use library voices at this chill venue-incubator-residence. More organism than building, this all-ages grunge palace is known for its eclectic programming of experimental music, avant-garde performance, pop-up exhibitions and cross-disciplinary “salons” — hosting borough-based groups like Bushwick School for Music — and then some. Not to mention the A+ bathroom graffiti.

After last year’s fire, the alt-arts phoenix has returned full force, spinning out 400+ performances and exhibitions per year for free or low cost. Here, both emerging and established talent draw crowds. Helmed by more than 70 volunteer “chefs,” Silent Barn’s diverse collective is bound by a die-hard DIY spirit. Wanna join this psychedelic constellation of collaborators? Rent studio and residential space on the cheap, volunteer, or submit your art, installation or mural projects for consideration. You could also come see a show and introduce yourself.

Title:Point, Silent Barn’s resident experimental theater company, has churned out five original productions, dozens of monthly salons, full-novel readings, parties, over 20 art gallery shows, and two new festivals since 2013. As a Title:Point co-leader and one of the Barn’s theater chefs, Theresa Buchheister has watched this storied space mature.

High praise: “The community is incredible,” said Buchheister, 34, who also works as a voiceover director and actor for cartoons and audiobooks. “As artists, collaborators, creators, producers, we have grown rapidly because we were allowed the space to do so . . . to try and fail and make things. As a space, the evolution is constant. Communication [among the chefs] is valued . . . It is a wild, complicated project.”


No need to dance around the subject of support here. via Instagram user @allie_baller
No need to dance around your passion here. via Instagram user @allie_baller

421 Fifth Ave., Park Slope
Open 9am-10:30pm daily

“Chill. Progressive. Community.” That’s how current artist-in-residence Kristine Haruna Lee, 30, sums up BAX’s vibe. This year-round revolving door of artists, teachers, curators, and audiences has been nourishing the arts and education community for 25 years. BAX houses a 70-seat theater (available for performance rental), four clean rehearsal studios, gallery space, and a kid-friendly environment. Heck, you can even throw your kid’s b-day bash here.

Youth classes include dance, theater, and tumbling, whereas grown-up options include Katy Pyle’s Adult Ballez sensation. Attention emerging performance-makers: BAX’s Upstart Festival programs dance, theater and performance works by artists with no more than three years of experience. For longer commitments, check out BAX’s financially supported artist and teaching artist residencies or space grants. If you’re more inclined to take one day at a time, BAX offers low-cost rehearsal rentals to artists every day of the week, so there’s no excuse to abandon that Butoh/hip-hop fusion solo you’ve been dreaming up.

They’ve been an incredible support to my work and my theater company as I figure out my next moves,” says Haruna Lee, who co-founded harunalee theater company.

Who does she recommend take advantage of BAX’s residency program?

“If you’re looking to hunker down and really take some time to reflect on your artistry by yourself and with a group of artists and mentors who are there to start a dialogue with you,” she told us. “If you’re into experiments, growing, and wanting to navigate career stuff as well as thinking about bigger artistic/aesthetic issues and ideas that are about the individual and the New York art and performance scene at large.”


BRIC, at the crossing of arts and culture. via Facebook
BRIC, at the crossing of arts and culture. via Facebook

647 Fulton St., Fort Greene
Gallery open 10am-6pm Tues-Sun
Media center open 8am-10pm Mon-Fri and 10am-4pm Sat-Sun

You might know this venue from their BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn festival that graces the summer stage in Prospect Park each year (2016’s lineup was just announced, FYI, and you should volunteer!) but this vibrant organization has much to offer beyond the bandshell. Are you a Brooklyn-affiliated artist? Join the BRIC Contemporary Artist Registry, “Brooklyn’s oldest visual artist registry,” for free global access to see and be seen via a virtual arts community. Need a haven for the afternoon? Nosh and caffeinate at BRIC’s café (a Hungry Ghost) that overlooks their sunlight-flooded gallery space. And with caffeine-boosted confidence, apply to one of BRIC’s trio of residencies that encompasses visual and live arts projects alike.

BRIC also leads a couple of cutting-edge media initiatives like BK Live and #BHeard, the rad documentary and live-streamed town hall series that grapples with social justice issues. Don’t you want to be making stunning shorts featuring Brooklyn high schoolers’ observations on race and the criminal justice system? Celebrate Brooklyn, indeed.

Before photographer and visual artist Tahir Carl Karmali, 29, applied to BRIC’s Visual Artists Residency, he became acquainted with the organization through attending several music and theater events. Now in residence over the summer, he receives studio space, a stipend towards materials, and studio visits from curators.

“This is a very big opportunity for me to explore and expand my practice as an artist,” Karmali said of BRIC. “Also an opportunity for me to work with and discuss work with my fellow artists.” Up next for Karmali is a project that explores his heritage through paper artifacts and objects.


Since 2013, EOarts has shepherded international artists toward their own American dreams. via Facebook
Since 2013, EOarts has shepherded international artists toward their own American dreams. via Facebook

802 Wyckoff Ave., Bushwick
Open 12-5pm Wed-Fri, 12-3pm Sat

Upon receiving her O-1 visa (which grants artists nonimmigrant status up to three years), Spaniard visual artist Kika Espejo began leading fellow foreign artists through workshops and consultations to help forge their own careers in the U.S.

You might be ‘Murican born and bred, but maybe you know of an artist seeking citizenship who’d benefit from EOarts. Creatives pursuing an O-1 visa can receive 30 minutes of free consultation and help with application prep. In addition to visa support, EOarts’ International Creatives Mentoring Program affords non-American artists and creatives career coaching, a crash-course in freelancing, and promoted opportunities to present their work.

For info on next year’s call for artists-in-residence, sign up for EOarts’ newsletter and keep an eye out (According to Facebook, they’re keeping performance art alive and well). There’s also a current call for artists and writers to contribute to EOarts’ upcoming magazine.


Jump for joy: BAC’s Folk Arts program partnered with BRIC to present Georgian dance from the Dancing Crane Company. via Flickr
Jump for joy: BAC’s Folk Arts program partnered with BRIC to present Georgian dance from the Dancing Crane Company. via Flickr

20 Jay St. #616, Dumbo
Open 10am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-3pm during summer

Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC) turns an impressive half-century old this year! Since the 80s, BAC has doled out Community Arts Grants supporting Brooklyn-based projects in the arts. They support every art form individually and equally with an approach that extends to East New York, Brownsville, and other neighborhoods that historically have not accessed the same level of institutional support as central Brooklyn zip codes.

BAC’s teaching artists serve nearly 100 schools, community spaces, and senior centers across the city, and experienced candidates are accepted on a rolling basis. Free and low cost professional development activities entail networking events, grant-writing workshops and portfolio reviews. If you’re a Brooklyn-based artist or arts organization, you can register for free to join BAC’s massive registry/directory, where you can update a public profile and promote your upcoming events.

For their unique Arts Consultancy program, BAC unites art-seeking developers and building owners with BAC grantees and affiliate folk artists. If an artist’s work is accepted, BAC petitions for their fair compensation. In an effort to embrace and preserve Brooklyn’s many cultural heritages, BAC’s Folk Arts program collaborates with traditional artists and their immigrant communities. Seek out the Folk Arts program this summer at a handful of festivals.

BAC’s funding was key to us being able to afford a venue that could accommodate concert dance in Brooklyn,” said choreographer and performer Candace Thompson of Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE, a BAC Grantee, in an interview on BAC’s tumblr. “Our work this year requires a traditional proscenium theater which is unfortunately super-expensive in our borough. Through the grant funding we’ve been able to secure a venue and ensure that all participating artists would be paid independently of ticket sales.”

Complement this guide with Brokelyn’s survey of Brooklyn theater companies and check out art happenings at your nearest Brooklyn co-working space, too!

What’s missing from our list? Tell us in the comments!

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @SarahMatusek

One Response to

  1. While not as established as some of these amazing non-profits supporting emerging artists, our organization, THE CREATORS COLLECTIVE works to provide opportunities for emerging artists to collaborative and present their work in unique spaces across Brooklyn. We’ve worked with many artists across disciplines and are always looking for more artists to work with and support! More info here:

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