This post is about an outing to Red Hook, Brooklyn to check out the PIONEER WORKS CENTER FOR ART AND INNOVATION at their November 13th, SECOND SUNDAY event. Second Sundays run from 4-10pm (we will try to get there at 4) – and perhaps afterwards some of us will want to go to one of the great Red Hook eateries nearby (Hometown Barbecue, Crab Shack …etc) for an early-ish Sunday dinner. There is no cost to attend, but there will be a refundable No-Show Insurance payment. Pioneer Works requests a $10 donation per person. You may want to go earlier to explore Red Hook. Transportation options/ suggestions will be figured out a little closer to the date depending on how many of us want to go. MWC Members should go to the Reservations/ Payment page or “Sign-Up!” on the Members’ Site menu ribbon to get “insurance.”
An “incubator” these days is most often thought of in terms of the tech industry, a physical place where start-ups throw in together and, the theory goes, encourage each other by sharing ideas, resources and critical thinking. But starting in 2012, artist Dustin Yellin brought this idea to art and science by founding the PIONEER WORKS CENTER FOR ART and INNOVATION in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
The process of creation – whether in art or science – is a rather messy messy affair and decidedly non-linear. Yellin knows this from his own path as an artist. When in 2010 he bought a massive, 27,000 square foot warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn his intent was to overtly link art to social change by creating a multi-disciplinary incubator. The space was large enough to host a broad spectrum of programs and artists – and also the public – with a constantly rotating schedule of educational programs, performances, residencies and exhibitions. The concept was to avoid the traditional, rigid, boundaries of art, science and modes of thought by fostering community and collaboration between all types of people.
In addition to hosting working artists, Pioneer Works also hosts monthly “SECOND SUNDAYS” when they have an open house – where there is usually a program (music, a lecture …etc), live music and site-specific “interventions.” There is usually an exhibition or presentation in its amazing space and also the availability of visiting with artists’ who are in their studios working and available to talk about their work. It’s a chance to observe and partake of works in progress and to know what’s at the outer edge of creativity NOW. Yellin’s egalitarian belief that creativity is at least partially the result of social interaction – one in which everyone can participate – is what SECOND SUNDAYS are all about.
When Pioneer Works started operating in Red Hook it was before the massive change whereby the area became what it is now – a neighborhood teeming with artists, entrepreneurs and traditional industry (not to mention Ikea and Fairway) situated along a glorious, still semi-industrial, stretch of waterfront with the Statue of Liberty off its shore. Clearly, Pioneer Works chose to “Be the change” which makes progress happen.
Built in 1866 to house the Pioneer Iron Works, the building was originally a factory for large scale industrial machinery. It was one of the largest machine manufacturers in the United States and it operated until the end of World War II. There was also an open area next to the building which was filled with generations of industrial debris and garbage – a junkyard. But between Yellin’s purchase of the site in 2010 and now, the building’s cavernous first floor has become an astonishing, light-filled exhibition space (with the addition of over 100 windows) with a 40-foot high ceiling. The second floor now houses open studios and the third floor has offices. And the junkyard? It’s now the Pioneer Works garden where there is sculpture and events and picnics. In addition to the exhibition space and studios, Pioneer Works also houses performance spaces, a science lab, a recording studio, and other spaces as needs arise. The gigantic floor plan is open and morphs based on the interests and work of whomever is using it at any given time – a group which includes artists, writers, musicians scientists and educators.
Almost exactly four years ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated Red Hook and Pioneer Works flooding the entire neighborhood with about five feet of water. Sandy came within months of Pioneer Works having opened and completed the exhibition building. Amazingly, the space was rebuilt largely by the community of people who have come to call it their creative home and here it is – only four years later – well into its thriving rebirth.