Brooklyn arts organizations open their spaces to protesters

The Brick Theater in Williamsburg is one of many Brooklyn arts spaces offering snacks, water, and other resources to Black Lives Matter protesters.
Theresa Buchheister

Brooklyn theater and cultural institutions have started opening their buildings and offering snacks, water, and other resources to protesters marching around the borough decrying the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The head of Fort Greene’s performing arts center Irondale said organizations like his need to take action and support the ongoing protest against police brutality, rather than just post statements of support online.

“It’s easy to put ‘Black Lives Matter’ on your website and a black box on your Facebook, but what’s the skin in the game?” said Terry Greiss, Irondale’s executive director. “What’s going on around the corner from me still has to affect the theater. Now we have to really step up, we can’t just talk about activism and social responsibility, we have to do it.”

Two senior staffers at the S. Oxford Street venue started handing out free snacks, water, hand sanitizer and menstrual products last week, while also providing first aid and power outlets for marchers to charge their phones — initiatives taking place at other venues in the borough and beyond.

Staffers at Irondale in Fort Greene providing free resources for protesters.Irondale

An online database called Open Your Lobby has logged and promoted many of these efforts, with maps and spreadsheets detailing what organizations are offering and at what times on what days. The group provides regular updates tailored to where protests are happening across the country. 

Open Your Lobby did not return a request for comment by press time.

Fort Greene’s Bric joined the movement and also started offering resources on top of opening their lobby on Fulton Street and Rockwell Place to show their support, said the organization’s president.

“We opened up as part of the Open Your Lobby initiative to welcome protesters to have a safe space to recharge and just reinforce that we are a welcoming and inclusive community,” said Kristina Newman-Scott. “We see ourselves as a resource and a platform.”

The institutions get a lot of their supplies from donations, including from other arts groups or through online drives, and volunteers have been quick to respond to help out, according to the artistic director of the Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Theresa Buchheister. 

“The initial thought of what can I do, I thought I can’t do anything because I’m by myself, which now seems like a ridiculous thought,” she said. “I hope that the people that run these spaces see that having these spaces is a huge responsibility and if you’re not willing to shoulder that responsibility, you should not be running that space.”