Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School is shuttering it’s founding NYC chapter after almost 8 years of continuous operation.
When I moved to NYC, Molly Crabapple was one of the first neighbors I met. She arrived on my doorstep to pick up a donation for a local artist whose studio had burned down. I invited her in for dinner. A couple of years later, we started a women’s business group, where she discussed wanting to create a venue where models were celebrated as muses with huge contributions to make, rather than as underpaid props. Dr Sketchy’s made it’s debut soon after, in the bar next door to my apartment. My bathroom and kitchen shared a wall with the area over the stage, and I could hear John Leavitt’s mix cds start up as I cooked lunch and knew exactly when to wander downstairs. The first session, I shared a booth with Little Brooklyn and AV Phibes, and felt like my friend Joi’s bar, The Lucky Cat, was finally living up to the potential of it’s Storyville inspired design. We were all a bunch of kids, putting on airs of glamour, filled with hope, and there was so much talent in that room it would’ve burst apart at the seams if talent were only a quantifiable solid.
I checked in as an audience member sometimes, but was busy with my office job and running a small business. Then a few years ago, having retired as a bookbinder, I started doing photography for Sketchy’s. Early this year, Melissa Dowell announced that she wanted to retire from running events. I took over, right around the time we got chucked out of The Slipper Room.
I’ve written here and on Twitter before about the diminishing number of spaces for artists in NYC. When Taylor Mead died, shortly after Bowery Poetry Club (also our home) shuttered. When Gemini Scorpio was raising funds to fix up a skeletal loft space for lavish, glamourous art parties and other orphaned events. David Byrne wrote about it recently too. And then 3rd Ward shuttered this week, declaring bankruptcy.
Simultaneous to our sudden ejection from Slipper Room, my mom fell into ill health. I was staring down the barrel of that moment where a child and a parent’s roles reverse. I had to find Sketchy’s a new home, and do it from hundreds of miles away, as I packed up my childhood home and helped my mom move into a tiny apartment. Venues weren’t great about calling me back. Some took three weeks to respond, if they did at all. We wanted to stay in Manhattan, because transit there is easier for some of our longtime regulars who would come in all the way from NJ, CT and LI, as well as the NYC locals. (Y’all know nobody in North BK or Queens wants to deal with weekend trains to Gowanus.) I started to look in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Fireproof East was the brightest beacon among only a few spots which were actively enthusastic about art and making space for creatives. The gallery space lacks the stage and lights we loved in more theater oriented spaces, but the hospitality has been undeniable. Unfortunately, a more difficult to get to location and L train shutdowns that have plagued North Brooklyn for 2+ months have taken a toll on turnout. It’s just been hard. It’s really fucking hard to be an artist in NYC right now, and it’s hard to run an event which caters to a struggling population, in a city that seems hellbent on crushing us through rising rents and halted trains. So Dr Sketchy is retiring. Eight years is a good run.
It has been an honor and a privilege to work with such a talented, generous, funny, beautiful group of staff and models. Thank you to all the sponsors who have brightened up our drawing contests over the years, all the venues that gave us a home, all the cops who didn’t arrest anyone when we did illegal flash mobs, all the photographers who’ve created a lasting record of the brilliant insanity that our models and set designers have wrought on stage, and most of all, thank you to our audience for buying tickets and bearing witness.
Photo copyright Eddie McShane, 2013.
(LtoR: Kat Mon Dieu, Yao Xiao, Keith Jenson, Melissa Dowell, Kate Black, John Leavitt, Molly Crabapple, Syd Bernstein. Not pictured: Jawad Mohyuddin and Foley.)
Our last session will be October 20, 2013. Jo Weldon will star as Lady Death.
Tickets are available here. (Or not, depending on when this gets reblogged.)