I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published April 27th 2010
Third Ward. The name is enough to conjure images of ink dark Rorschach patterns, but don't let it scare you. Third Ward is a member-based artist collective in Brooklyn—a terrifically fun and inspiring place where you can improve talents you already have (and maybe even discover new ones).
Located in a huge, 20,000 square-foot loft space in Williamsburg, 3rd Ward caters to artists of all skill levels and interests with a vast array of ongoing classes, events, exhibits, parties, cutting-edge performances, film screenings, and more. There is literally so much to choose from that you can drop in at any time, look around, and leave feeling satisfied for having made the trip.
Third Ward was founded by Jason Goodman and Jeremy Lovitt in 2005, two artists who moved to New York a year earlier, but who found working at home too isolating. After realizing that joining forces with other locals would not only afford them the ability to share materials and ideas, they also realized the overwhelming desire in Brooklyn for a shared workspace. By 2006, 3rd Ward was up and running and off to a rousing start. Today the collective is as strong as ever, boasting two locations, an ever-growing schedule of events and classes, and even a quarterly print magazine and blog.
The facilities at 3rd Ward are broken into four main categories: photo studios, wood and metal shops, a MAC-based digital media lab, and office space.
Membership is offered in two levels—basic and unlimited—and each can be somewhat tailored to meet individual needs. Did I mention that each membership also comes with a free bike?
Before signing up, visit the space and talk with employees and other members. They'll be more than happy to answer your questions. You can tour the digs, check out exhibits, and whet your desire to do things that you never thought you could, like say, building a loft bed, shooting a Super-8 film, or etching designs into metal. Take home a copy of the magazine, read members' profiles, and keep tabs on 3rd Ward's daily schedule and class offerings.
Classes are eclectic and include everything from digital design (Flash, HTML, CSS, InDesign, and Illustrator) to more tactile arts, such as felt making, sewing, and upholstery. Almost anything you can think of can be found there, such as classes in jewelry making, sculpture, painting, digital textile and furniture design, and photography. Instructors are working professionals, so collaborating maximizes your chances for networking, increases your potential client base, and helps you forge new friendships while learning or refining your skills.
If your technique is not quite ready for prime time, 3rd Ward is still an excellent destination for some of New York's quirkiest (and most practical recession-biting) events. Moviehouse, a free event that takes place every second Sunday of the month, screens video, film, and animation by local artists, usually based around a theme. Four times a month the collective hosts its famous Drink-n-Draw on Wednesday nights. For the cost of a $20 admission fee, artists can enjoy complimentary beer and a cash bar while trying to keep a steady hand—and a steady eye—on as many as ten costumed and nude models, all in tune to DJs and live sets by local bands. If you like sewing, come by on the last Monday of every month for another free event, Sweatshop Social. Hosted by the nonprofit group Bags For the People, Sweatshop Social is a night of custom bag making. Sewing machines and instruction are provided (just arrive with your desired fabric).
During your visit, check out 3rd Ward's gallery space. One recent exhibit—Just Women—showcased the portraits of photographer Linda Gastaldello whose work explores the exploitation of women in Kathmandu, Nepal, and Mexico City. If you're feeling truly inspired, submit your own work to 3rd Ward's open call.