Dance in a Loft on St. Marks
by Gili Malinsky
A couple of weeks ago, dancer and artist congregator Chelsea Ainsworth asked me to write a piece about her intimate, raw artist showcase, Arts on Site. It happens bi-monthly (every other month) at a spacious, exposed brick loft on St. Marks Place. Last time I was there I wrote down the words “warm”, “gritty”, “100 people squeezed in” and “sit on floor”. I thought I’d share pieces of what I wrote for her as well.
“One night Megan said the three of them were going to an [arts event] in Harlem, and that I should come. And somehow, I really can’t remember how, I ended up signing up myself. At the time I was reading pieces from my new-to-New-York blog, Girly Culture Shock. Don’t ask me what that means, I have no idea. Anyway, we went, and it was beautiful - like, the whole wood-floor living room where they held the show and the backyard with lights and the vibe, that’s what I remember most of all, and that’s what I’ll come back to, the vibe was welcoming and warm and chill.
“So then the show went on, everyone taking turns in the middle of this cleared living room - dancers, comedians, actors, opera singers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, more - showing their art, standing face-to-face with audience members as, of course, there was no stage in this living room in Harlem. When I went up I remember being nervous, but I remember also having a really cool reception, and people being genuinely excited about this thing that I was doing. I ran out of business cards that night (I mean I’d only brought two but whatever you get it). And I thought, this was cool. This was what New York was all about. Artists eating shit for what they do - I mean, how many of us were making a living doing what we do? - but being hopelessly addicted to it and wanting, more than anything, to create and then to share.”
I spoke with Ainsworth recently about this show she’s been curating, which happens again this Saturday, March 26th. Back in 2012, she, one of several artists making trips to the Philippines to teach kids the arts, held the first showcase in her living room in Harlem, inviting artist friends from Juilliard, where she went to school, and various other communities to perform and raise money for the trip. It went so well, Ainsworth’s friends asked when the next event would be. And so they grew, more and more people coming so the party spilled into the hallway and into other parts of the building. And recently a woman at one of the shows said that her dad owned a building with beautiful lofts in the East Village, and maybe the parties, maxing out at over 100 people each time around, should move there. And so they did.
Here’s what Ainsworth had to say about them:
“Once we stared running them bi-monthly, it started to become this cool, underground networking event for professional artists to showcase work as well as meet other artists.
“The biggest thing is we’re tying to integrate the line between audience and performer so we can build a beautiful community that really supports them and will go out and see a show. I think that’s the only way the arts in New York will grow. Because, you know, you have people who go to see shows because they know about the artist.”
Most recently, turns out Arts on Site is becoming a nonprofit as well, two of its directors, Ainsworth and Kyle Netzeband, buying property in Kerhonkson, New York, and building a residency center with a dance studio, housing and more so artists can stay for weeks at a time and just work.
And make the underground happen.
Be sure to check out Arts on Site this Saturday, March 26th, 8pm at 12 St. Marks Place . It’s bound to be cool and raw and real.