Saturday, 1 February 2014

This is me speaking as Kunal, and not as Babycastles - which is now many people, many who have never been to or even know much of 285 Kent.

285 Kent did exactly what it planned to do, and it makes complete sense that it is closing now, or at least, passing hands.

285 Kent was originally a joint project at least by myself & Syed Salahuddin (loosely as Babycastles independent video games collective), and "Todd Patrick" to make a lot of money over three years by running a popular illegal bar in very favorable conditions: drastic upvaluing of the area, very low rent on a large space, and one more piece that I should be careful not to disclose, but whose timeline is evidently expired one year early. The amount of money we projected to take in was around $300,000, but it could've easily been half a million, I wouldn't know. The idea was Todd's, but he called us in to partner in January 2011, with a tentative loose 50/50 expense and income situation until an ownership changeover in August, at which point we'd been talking 30% us, 40% him, and 30% other investors, in a full on short-term (illegal) "business".

The money was the core mission of the 285 Kent project, and it is important money, which is why we took on the project. $100,000 - $150,000 of money would've largely accelerated Babycastles services in New York, and I'm sure $120K - $200K would've been a meaningful amount to Todd Patrick's services to New York City.

Babycastles was forced to exit conversations about a partnership when sudden maneuvering by our partner [ Todd Patrick ] left us with only a 10% stake in the project, both robbing our initial year of good faith investment and moving almost all of the resulting $300,000+ into Todd Patrick's hands. We never participated in this business, which we don't even know if was ever created.

On one hand, it was a bummer that a last second moment of greed by one party [ Todd Patrick ] obstructed the 285 kent project, because I believe that both projects are actually substantial cornerstones to New York City's independent arts conversation, and if the plan continued, both would have received substantial funding in the intermediate year. I think the initial partnership made sense, at least on paper, so I regret that we never saw it.

As it is, though, Babycastles has had the opportunity to organize instead around long-term sustainable fundraising model, and have opened up a memberships program for our upcoming Babycastles Gallery in Downtown Brooklyn in 2014 here! It's ultimately been refreshing to be have focused our efforts on developing a diversity of community, individual, foundation, government, and other fundraising mechanisms that will build Babycastles future in a much more relevant path in the upcoming years, than to have wrestled for a few years with maximizing a short-term illegal bar that create more legal and social antagonization than the amount of money is worth :) Phew!

Anyway, one thing that's cool about "DIY" is that it proposes culture that expects the audience, artists, writers, staff, and ever more to somewhat equally participate in what the space really becomes and what it stands for - you all pitch in and define what your home is in our square - which is why you get all these wonderful cultural narratives right now about 285Kent in a handful of magazines, even about a pretty short term business compared to handful of more long-standing explicitly cultural institutions like even Market Hotel, Silent Barn, Death By Audio, whatever Trans Pico becomes. That narrative is a nice little collage of what all you decided to make out of what is otherwise a pretty simple piece of profitable real estate.

A dangerous thing about "DIY", though, is that it is easily exploited on the same basis. You want to be careful about that. You want to all think about where the money moves around in the picture, and you want to consider if you as the community at large agree with money. It's a shifty business, so you have to make sure to identify when people in "DIY" new york get caught here and there directly lying about money. It's something we all have to do, as part of building a community participatory world, to make sure that we keep the siphoners out, because it's just so easy for any crafty and machiavellian person to siphon all of the value right out of our hard work. One, that's a direct insult to all of you, but two, they can use that value against you.


- Kunal Gupta

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