Circus school owner: Vice construction sending debris tumbling onto tumblers

Circus school owner: Vice construction sending debris tumbling onto tumblers
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A circus school is the latest artistic institution getting the boot ahead of Vice Media’s January takeover of two connected buildings in Williamsburg, but first it has to endure two months inside a construction zone.

Contractors for the hipster media juggernaut have already started work, including adding offices directly above the circus school, the Muse. The renovations are causing pieces of the ceiling to fall, narrowly missing students practicing tumbling and aerial acrobatics, according to the school’s owner. The hazardous conditions have forced the big-top educators to go on rent strike, and are making an early closure seem like the only rational route, the owner said.

“I do not know how we are going to continue operating here,” Muse founder Angela Buccinni Butch said. “We feel we are in danger.”

The school is the latest casualty of Vice Media’s move-in at Kent Avenue and S. First Street, following announcements of the imminent shuttering of indie music venues Death by Audio and Glasslands. The mass exodus is the result of a deal struck with building owner CTA Digital to end the leases of current tenants to make room for Vice, through negotiations and by refusing to renew the leases, Gawker and the Commercial Observer reported.

For now, the Muse is keeping its $20,000 monthly rent in escrow and asking for money to move out, Buccinni Butch said.

“I do not want to take them to court. I just want them to pay us out for the last two months so that we can leave,” said Buccinni Butch. “I could sue them, but that is not my interest. I just want my artists to be safe.”

The Muse opened at 32 S. First Street in 2010 after Buccinni Butch’s Bushwick backyard grew too large to contain a newly formed community of acrobats, aerists, and tumblers, she said. The building owner has already dramatically changed the rules since the school arrived, she said.

“In the beginning, every single person in this complex was living and working in here, because that is how the landlord presented it,” she said. “They eventually started telling people they could not live there and started booting people out.”

The space is part school and part performance venue, and Buccinni Butch brings in a different artist-in-residence each month. Buccinni Butch is devastated that she has to leave the space her group has been working on for the past four years.

“For a while, I could not walk around the space without tears in my eyes,” said Buccinni Butch. “This place was trashed when we took it over, and we made it something beautiful.”

The Muse is planning to move to a new space in Bushwick and has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the many renovations the building needs.

Representatives of Vice Media and CTA Digital did not return calls for comment.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurf‌[email protected]‌ngloc‌al.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitt‌er.com/‌Danie‌lleFu‌rfaro.