3rd Ward, the East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, artists' space and school, has closed abruptly amid reports of mismanagement and “unfavorable” loans. Member Victoria Valencia, a furniture designer who until this week ran her small business from a studio there, learned of the imminent closing on Tuesday, from a 3rd Ward staff member and friend.
“Not everyone was alerted,” Valencia said. “I’m not surprised that the members weren’t notified.”
She also wasn’t shocked at 3rd Ward’s shuttering, which indeed came as a surprise to many when Free Williamsburg and the New York Observer broke the news Wednesday.
“I saw signs,” Valencia said. “There was a reduced number of members; they kept changing their member structure.” (Indeed, 3rd Ward recently launched a since-discontinued fundraiser on Fundrise, and the campaign statement cited a loss of revenue due to a "change in membership products" as a main reason for the need for a large cash infusion.)
“A couple of years ago when they totally revamped to become a school, they took artist studios and made them into classrooms,” Valencia continued. “[They] did not how to run a school correctly. They weren’t paying teachers on time, they weren’t getting proper enrollment.
“The way it has been managed has not been inclusive of the members. It’s been like ‘guess what, we’re changing this,’" Valencia said.
And now she and a small but growing group of 3rd Ward member artists are organizing to raise enough money to somehow save their workspaces from what Valencia believes is a building foreclosure.
The initiative is not “to save 3rd Ward, but save our studio spaces,” she explained. “A lot of us depend on those spaces for our livelihood. I wouldn’t be where I am today without this space.”
On Wednesday, the group launched a website, Save3rdWard.com, in the hopes of attracting both capital and people with real estate and business acumen to help the artists’ efforts.
“We [need] to figure out what a co-op would be like and how much money we would need. We would like [the workspace] to be member-owned and -run.”
Valencia provided IBT with Save 3rd Ward’s mission statement, which will soon appear on its website.
Last evening, October 8th 2013, we were told that 3rd Ward - our office building, creative studio, and home to thousands of entrepreneurs, artists and makers, is shutting down, effective immediately. Apparently, the managing organization went bankrupt. We are devastated.
We are learning more every hour and will update on this site.
The member organizations who reside in the building include Susty Party, Makeably, Valencia Designs, Xex Magazine, Launa Eddy, and so many more amazing artisans, entrepreneurs and makers! We have grown our businesses, and our craft, together here over the years and some of us are in the middle of intense growth and making our mark on the world! We, the members, want to keep this building and community resource alive! Is there a way to save our building infrastructure, our gem of a community, and the creative energy that runs through it?
And so we organize. Clarification: we are not trying to bail [out] Jason Goodman out or save 3rdward as the current entity. We are organizing to keep our studios to create a cooperative movement, member run.
We need help.
IBT also spoke to Daniel Miller of Fundrise, who said he had personally contributed to a round of capital for 3rd Ward last year and knows CEO Jason Goodman personally. Miller explained that the fundraising campaign, which had a goal of $1.5 million, was something of a last-ditch effort. The failed campaign – only $375,000 was pledged by 27 accredited investors, Miller and at least three other Fundrise employees among them – “had very little to do with the closing,” he said. No actual money was collected from potential investors, and the fundraising campaign page has since been updated with an announcement that the offering has been discontinued.
“If an opportunity for investment that sufficiently protects investors emerges, we will reach back out to those who have indicated an interest,” the update reads.
It is not known whether Save 3rd Ward might qualify for fundraising efforts via Fundrise, though based on our limited knowledge of Fundrise's operations, it appears unlikely. Miller said on Wednesday that he was confident 3rd Ward would bounce back somehow. "There are too many people who are really excited about this and really believe in it," Miller said, noting that "thousands of people have tried to recreate" what 3rd Ward has done.
As Save 3rd Ward is only hours old, plans are still very much up in the air.
“I was either going to go have a bunch of wine or go do something,” Valencia said.