From Barbershop to Alien Rave, Anything Goes at Crown Heights Arts Space

By Sonja Sharp on March 25, 2013 8:10am 

 Franklin Avenue's ever-eclectic LaunchPad pushes locals to out-nerd each other at its one-of-a-kind events.
Franklin Avenue's ever-eclectic LaunchPad pushes locals to out-nerd each other at its one-of-a-kind events.
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CM Duffy

CROWN HEIGHTS — On any given night, it could be an art gallery, a barbershop, a literary salon or a space-age rave — but whatever's happening behind the curtain at Franklin Avenue's open-access arts space LaunchPad, it's guaranteed to be unique.

"We’re sort of straddling this line of DIY and a really nice gallery," said curator Zane Van Dusen, who took over management of the 3-year-old space with illustrator Chris Duffy in November. "It looks nice when you put up your art, but we’ll also have a crazy dance party."

"When it first opened, every night there was something kind of crazy and kind of cool going on, and we wanted to bring it back to that."

The only rule, the curators say, is no rules at all. If you dare, you can do it here — a challenge when it comes to writing grant applications as a newly formed 501(c)3. Artistically, they're teetering on the edge of anarchy.  

We don’t put up barriers to box in what we’re going to present, and there’s no barriers between who’s an artist and who isn’t," Duffy said. "That’s why it’s called LaunchPad. To give people a venue to hang stuff that’s been under their bed."

By day, the Crown Heights storefront hosts open access for artists, entrepreneurs, and tinkerers of all types.

"[On a recent weekday] someone came in with their easel and was just painting in here. Someone else was soldering cables," Van Dusen said. "It’s different from co-working — it’s project time."

By night, it transforms into a laboratory of DIY dreams and nerdy fantasies.

"We got an email: Can we run a queer barbershop and dance party?" Van Dusen said of a recent event by Phresh Cutz, a stylish hair-cutting social club. "They had lights in the front, so if you looked in the window you saw four people getting their hair cut and a whole bunch of people in the back dancing."

Other recent acts include the Renegade Reading series for emerging writers, an alien-themed dance party by the Disposable Rocket Band, a lavish sit-down dinner and a showcase of vintage Christmas cartoons, all hosted and maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers.

"It’s giving another nightlife alternative where you’re not in the dark buying a beer, howling over some loud music," Duffy said. There’s more of a connection that I think you’re going to make with people in this space."

For Van Dusen, LaunchPad is a reflection of the eclectic and aspiring community that surrounds it.

"I think it’s a side effect of the neighborhood — it’s not a North Brooklyn venue," Van Dusen said. "It’s not about going to see the really hip band in a space that’s really grungy. They’re into community stuff down here. Maybe it’s not super cool to be here, but you’re going to have a really good time."

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