Park Avenue Armory

There may be a million music venues hidden underground or in well-established locales, and another million art galleries nestled around the city, but what about a combination of the two? Although they are few and far between, and often in Brooklyn where there’s a little more space, more and more visual and performing art collectives are popping up around the city and offering creative spaces for artists and the general public alike. 

Some of these venues are immersive experiences, offering live performances alongside or within art exhibitions, while others maintain a more community oriented, art collective feel. The Kitchen, Chelsea’s over 40-year-old nonprofit artist collective, is one such space that seeks to foster and share artistic work ranging from music, dance, theater, and performance to art, video, film, and literary events. Out in Ridgewood, there is Trans-Pecos, a space that is part-venue, part-community center and focused entirely on inclusivity, representation, and creativity across all artistic platforms. Those locations, however, are just a sampling of existing spaces you can find around the city:

1. Silent Barn, Bushwick

Silent Barn first appeared in Ridgewood in 2006 as an underground performance collective, but moved to 603 Bushwick Avenue in Bushwick in 2012 where it grew into a community art collective and performance space. Focused on experimentation and interaction, it “is home to a complex of studio and living spaces which serve as an experimental sandbox and public platform for a variety of individual artistic, cultural, and entrepreneurial projects.”

Their living and working “stewdios” allow artists to inhabit the spaces they work in and collaborate with one another in shared spaces. The interior and exterior “yard” areas enable artists to perform live music, curate exhibitions, and create public art (or “barn art”) that is not made within their “stewdio” spaces.

2. Trans-Pecos, Ridgewood

First used in 2005 as the venue for Silent Barn, what is now Trans-Pecos is one of the most inclusive and community driven art spaces in and around the city. During the day, it functions as a community center, working with local partners to bring events such as free coding seminars, self-defense classes, and yoga to the area.

At night, it serves as a venue for all artists and events, from musicians and exhibitions to events like their recent Queer Valentines Day. With an environment strongly build on inclusivity, Trans-Pecos, located on 915 Wyckoff Avenue in Ridgewood, is a valuable space for art-driven youth and the community at large.

3. The Living Gallery, Bushwick

Image courtesy The Living Gallery

An eventful space located on 1094 Broadway in Brooklyn, The Living Gallery hosts a collaborative community in which visual and performance art as well as music thrive. Described as “a space where passion meets action,” The Living Gallery was founded by Nyssa Frank in April 2012, and exists today as a place where artists and creators can let their dreams manifest.

Through classes, workshops, and exhibitions, artists are encouraged to learn, grow, and present their work within the gallery. Its facade is also a work of art on its own, displaying rotating murals by different artists.

4. Freddy’s Bar and Backroom, South Slope

Image by Saskia Kahn courtesy Freddy’s Bar and Backroom Instagram

Though technically a bar, Freddy’s, located on 627 5th Avenue, has a long history of serving as a haven for activism, creativity, and the arts. Originally a private drinking club, it played host to policemen and firefighters, then later morphed into a workingmen’s bar and speakeasy, during which it’s “Backroom” turned into a performance and event space.

After the controversial Barclays Center construction project and a subsequent re-location, Freddy’s opened with renewed vigor and attention to the arts scene. Today, it still serves plenty of alcohol, but it also functions as a music venue and a space for art exhibitions and free events.

5. Elsewhere, Bushwick

Photo courtesy We Are Gold Diggers

Designed and built by the team behind the Williamsburg Glasslands Gallery, Elsewhere exists in an enormous, converted warehouse which serves as an arts space, live music venue, and nightclub. Located on 599 Johnson Avenue, its interior spaces are The Hall, Zone One, Skybridge Project Space, The Rooftop, and The Loft; the first three being spaces for music performances, immersive art experiences, exhibitions and other installations, and the last two being bar areas and community spaces.

Elsewhere’s artistic and party mentality reflects “an ethos of creative risk-taking, progressive music programming, respect for all people and art, and a desire to support and grow the community that makes it possible.”

6. Littlefield, Gowanus

Image courtesy Littlefield

Another veteran arts and performance space is Littlefield, a quirky, refurbished textile warehouse located on 635 Sackett Street in Gowanus. The idea for the space came about when an environmental engineer and chef joined forces to create “one of NYC’s premier independent live venues.”

With an eco-friendly mission and a physical spaces comprised of recycled materials, it serves as a venue for live music, art, film, theater, comedy, and dance parties. Additionally, it’s home to a state-of-the-art sound system, which makes its live events all the more thrilling.

7. Secret Project Robot, Bushwick

Born out of a desire for alternative and subculture representations of art and music, Secret Project Robot, on 1186 Broadway, was established in 2004 as a gallery and not for profit artist run space. Its self-sustaining environment provides a venue for art installations, music, performance art, craft nights, gatherings, and dance parties in which experience is valued above all else.

From the outdoor sculpture garden and bar to the indoor exhibitions and “special projects,” Secret Project Robot “seeks to build a strong artist, musician, and intellectual community as a tangible way to mitigate the feelings of alienation brought on by tyranny and a failing world order created by the neo-liberal capitalist system.”

8. The Kitchen, Chelsea

Jeff Weiss & Richard C. Martinez, And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid, performance at The Kitchen, New York, 2016. Photo © Paula Court, courtesy of The Kitchen.

Located on 512 West 19th Street in ChelseaThe Kitchen is one of the city’s oldest nonprofit spaces, beginning first in 1971 as an artist collective and later establishing itself as an environment built for artists to experiment and share their work. Its programs include music, art, dance, performance, theater, film, video, literary events, and lecture series as well as in-school programs and workshops designed to educate children and expose them to the arts.

The Kitchen supports artists from a diverse range of disciplines and ultimately helps to launch their careers to large-scale prominence. According to its website, the space was also one of the very first American institutions to embrace the emerging fields of video and performance.

9. The Caffeine Underground, Bushwick

Pictured: Artist Aisha Lopez setting up for “Wavy Baby” exhibit. Image courtesy The Caffeine Underground.

A coffee shop that feels like a modern art gallery, Bushwick’s The Caffeine Underground on 447 Central Avenue boasts rotating art installations, live music events, and a vibe inspired by New York City’s underground music and DJ-ing scene. With neon lights, walls lined with art, and a lounge-like feel, the shop serves as a peaceful retreat, where immersive art experiences and delicious coffee is offered.

The brainchild of New York City DJ Ian Ford, The Caffeine Underground really cultivates a unique ambiance, complete with the free WiFi you would expect to find at any cafe. Also, check out a few must-visit spots in Bushwick.

10. The Park Avenue Armory, Upper East Side

Once one of the grandest of the armories in New York City, the Park Avenue Armory has a storied history and comes with a wonderful story of adaptive reuse. Like many institutional buildings in New York City, time and circumstances led the armory to fall into disrepair, and by the year 2000 it was named one of the 100 most endangered historic sites in the world by World Monuments Fund. Luckily, it has since been revitalized through the efforts of the non-profit group Park Avenue Armory, and today opens its doors to a full calendar of exhibits and performances.

Focused on supporting unconventional art projects in need of non-traditional spaces, The Park Avenue Armory has become a mainstay for artists, students, and audiences in the visual and performing arts world. This 2018, its immense space will present theater, hybrid installations of performance and dance, recital series, and artists studios. From its arts education programs to its support of artists’ monumental dreams and work, The Armory is essential to New York City and the artistic world at large. Also make sure to check out the top 10 secrets of The Park Avenue Armory.

For more insight and recommendations into the arts, music, and culture of NYC, check out these DIY indie music venues or the 19 art installations not to miss this February.