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 events only.
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 campaign (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/OurGoods/tradeschool-0?ref=live) 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?