In 2009, 51 Bergen Street became the Invisible Dog Art Center. This is the story of how our building was transformed through love and hard work; a long-term romance like any other. What emerged from this love was a very unique way of operating an art space. We began as a self-sustaining business in which the building’s innate resources were used to generate income that would allow us to best maintain the building and provide space and time for artists to fill it with their creative dreams. The foundation of our story is marked by three elements: an enormous inflatable ant that showed us that our space has incredible capacity for containing an artist’s imagination; a few hard-working artists renting studios who would forever be our lifeblood; and a chandelier, created from the discarded materials from the building’s former life as a belt factory that would invoke the image of grand theaters in Europe and forever remind us of our proud history as space for production. And from there we grew: 27 artists-in-residence; a robust annual season of performing, visual and multi-disciplinary projects; residencies for artists from around the city and the globe; strong relationships with partner organizations; and no end to the number of artists, at various career levels, creating new work in our beloved space. In that way, as much as we have grown, our love for this building, YOUR love for this building, has remained a constant and a rudder. The most daunting limitations of this building are the key to its greatest generosity, and we will never stop loving it because of that inspiring tension.
Over the years, our recognition has expanded to include prominent critics to artists who seek us out, knowing that we genuinely provide space for experimentation with a consistent demand for rigor and care. But recently, we received a new level of recognition. In June we were informed that the process we started almost two years ago to become a 501c3 is now complete! The Invisible Dog Art Center is now a fully incorporated, non-profit organization. Our project, the community that has rallied around it, and our method is now irrefutable. We arrived at this permanence organically; we didn’t start the Invisible Dog with the goal of being a non-profit. We arrived at this goal through our dedication to supporting artists with the physical resources they need to do their best — and the understanding that we could grow that support to include financial resources so that they could deepen their practice and do more within our walls. It’s thanks to you – our community, our partners, our artists, and our supporters – that we have achieved this important status. And it’s with your belief in us that we will use is to continue to increase access to arts and culture within our building.
We live in a disturbing moment. Every day we are reminded of the violent consequence of generations of injustice. Images of fascism flicker on our screens and revolution seems to be inevitable – but what, or more so, who, will be the cost? It is clear that our systems aren’t serving us, are leading us to greater destruction. We need our creativity to help us envision a new way of working, a more equitable way of sharing resources. For this reason, now more than ever, we believe in the power of creative expression and education. Without education, we cannot help but perceive all difference as a threat. We believe that art provides people with the means celebrating difference and creating an inclusive world, an ever expanding home for us all. The Invisible Dog will continue to be a place for artistic exploration and community building. As a 501c3, we hope to grow our funding to better support these pursuits and the people generating them. We will strive to continue our program development with care – for artists, for audience – and we will stay true to our values.
One way that you can continue to support us is to make a now 100% tax deductible donation during our annual appeal in October. We hope that now that all donations will be tax deductible that you will consider making a larger contribution if you can.
And, we’ll continue to be here for you. We invite you to seek us out, to engage in our space, to bring us your most creative, most expansive dreams.
We’ll do the same.
Lucien Zayan, Founder – Director
Risa Shoup, Board of Directors Member
Photo by Juan Sarmiento G.