3rd Ward was shilling its classes right up until the moment news of its closing broke—and members who bought in won't be getting refunds anytime soon.
The East Williamsburg arts school, along with its Philly outpost, shuttered abruptly Tuesday night, with nary a word of warning to its thousands of members or instructors. A blunt email sent around 10 p.m. on Wednesday ordered members to "collect their belongings before our doors officially close on October 11th." It added that "unfortunately, you will not have an opportunity to use your membership after today at 6pm, and we will not be able to refund any payments made for membership services that have not been fully utilized before that time."
This includes the newly minted members, who just days ago forked over hundreds of dollars that's gone for good.
"As a member as of EIGHT DAYS AGO, I just got an e-mail telling me it will be shut down as of this weekend and I will not be able to get my money back," one Reddit user wrote. "Fuck them."
Even 3rd Ward's instructors were kept in the dark, many armed with lesson plans they'll never use—and compensation they're worried they'll never see.
"Pay your teachers," Diana Kuan wrote on the organization's Facebook page. "And thanks for leaving us to find out about your abrupt closing through Twitter."
"Your own teachers had to find out through word of mouth that you were closing?" wrote Tootsie Bellittera. "Classes they planned to teach TONIGHT were cancelled? YOU STILL HAVEN'T PAID THEM!!! PAY UP!!!!!!!"
Others are trying to salvage what they can—namely, their work spaces.
Nigel Shamash, whose agency 5CRE represents the entire 80,000-square-foot Morgan Avenue building (3rd Ward occupied the bottom two floors; the rest are private studios and workshops), said he's desperately trying to get word out that the space is still available for artists.
"It will never be the 3rd Ward again," he said, "But my goal is that anyone in 3rd Ward who liked the space can continue to work there."
Shamash said the former 3rd Ward will be divided into work spaces starting at around $1,000 per month, up to $17,000 for a half floor. He said he's amenable to offering discounts to former members.
"I heard a customer yesterday who paid an entire year up front four months ago," he said. "It's really shitty."
A new website, Save3rdWard.com, has already launched—not so much as an effort to save the organization, but to save the work stations. "A lot of us depend on those spaces for our livelihood," Victoria Valencia, a furniture designer who ran her business from a 3rd Ward studio, told the International Business Times. "I wouldn’t be where I am today without this space.”
Valencia, who created the website, also penned a mission statement:
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.
3rd Ward founder Jason Goodman has not responded to requests for comment.