The popular East Williamsburg art space 3rd Ward, best known for its expansive array of pricey classes and its weekly "drink and draw" sessions, closed abruptly last night without warning.
Calls to 3rd Ward currently go unanswered. According to a tip we received this afternoon, rumors abound about the possibility of foreclosure or bankruptcy, with talk even of killing electricity on the space by midnight. Meanwhile, thousands of the organization's members have no knowledge of the shutdown.
This comes as no surprise. A former 3rd Ward staffer contacted us back in July, telling of a 50 percent staff reduction and major cuts to the art space's Philly outpost. The source said that the business had been massively mishandled by 3rd Ward founder Jason Goodman. When reached for comment, Goodman told us only that 3rd Ward was simply making a slight course adjustment and was, in fact, hiring.
"As we're growing the needs of our business shifted a little and we made some adjustments to our workforce accordingly," he wrote at the time. "We just launched Philly and Culinary is on the way, and these locations need staffing!"
How times have changed. According to another tipster, the "wood shop, metal shop, classrooms and photo studio will all be shut down" and that power will possibly be cut by tonight.
On September 26, Goodman sent an email blast announcing a fundraising effort in which the public could become "shareholders" in the company, since the year had "brought some challenges:
Supporting geographic expansion has been expensive. In addition, a change we made to one of our memberships, in an effort to improve it, caused a downtick in an important revenue stream for us. The full impact of these events took time to reveal itself. Meanwhile we continued to invest in improvements to our space, team and curriculum.
Last night's closure was first reported by Free Williamsburg and the Observer. Just two days ago, 3rd Ward sent an email announcing the approaching end of the campaign, which urged fans to "think about pledging an investment to help keep the maker movement alive in Brooklyn!" According to the email, sent on October 7, the fundraising effort had raised $350,000. Apparently, that wasn't nearly enough.
Update: We spoke again with the former employee, who told us that from what they saw, no amount of fundraising would have saved 3rd Ward. The source said the company had taken a "very unfavorable loan" from an agency called Next Street, which mandated payback in a time that "seemed crazy," the source said.
Our tipster added that it was unlikely that the fundraiser would save the organization, saying that "it seemed like a case of the left hand not talking to the right."
Ultimately, the source tells us, 3rd Ward had a retention problem. The high price tag of classes and unclear learning trajectories meant that many students would enroll in one class and not return.
"3rd Ward is hipster nonsense," the source said. "It's just very whimsical—here’s some pieces of wood, pay some money. There's no clearly articulated pathway to success."