Find a Location
We’ve found that with limited volunteers/staff, it’s best to have a space
that can be reached by the public directly- a public space, storefront
or basement is ideal. If you have to direct people from the street to
meander through a space, you will need more volunteers every night
and you may find out that more students are lost in the building than
you want to deal with. The other nice thing about being close to the
street is that you can attract local students and teachers who haven’t
heard about Trade School online. We like to create our own space,
because existing independent from institutions allows the group to
build its culture and bring Trade School to larger institutions for special
Trade School started because we were given use of a storefront (Rich
Watts had done design work for a group that couldn’t pay him, so he
asked to be paid via use of their storefront). We didn’t know what to do
with the space, but after a wild brainstorm session about many possible
barter storefronts, we decided that “barter for instruction” and a barter
school had a lot of potential. We have done special events with the
Whitney Museum and the Museum of Art and Design, but only after we
had a gathering of people who knew that we were truly about mutual
aid and not just big, flashy education-entertainment (as the museum
events can feel if you don’t have a context outside of the museum for
your community of people to get to know each other).
After the first year, so many people were excited about Trade School
that we decided to try to open again. No one would barter with us in
exchange for a storefront the second year, so we ran a Kickstarter
and raised money for rent and materials. That felt a
little weird (many students ended up donating money and giving barter
items to teachers), and we had a bad relationship with the landlord
we were renting from. We hope we don’t ever have to ask for so much
money again, but if you absolutely cannot find space and need to rent
some, go for it! We have found that even in NYC, there are enough
spaces with empty areas for us to exist on surplus and gifting of space
(rather than renting). When landlords donate space to us they also
demonstrate that they are aligned with our values- people who are
interested in sharing excess capacity, not turning as much as possible
into something for sale.
Here are some things to consider:
Where will you be located and what are the demographics
of the neighborhood?
Who are the students, teachers, and participants
that you hope to engage?
What are some of the challenges faced by people in the area?
Will you have a space to do the dishes like a slop sink?
Can you get a key to the space?
What are the hours you can access the space?
Does the space want to censor your classes?
Do they want their brand involved directly?