3rd Ward Builds a Space for Urban Creative Professionals to Work, Learn, and Play

Scott Ballum
Bryan Sykora
Clara Kennedy

Nestled in between vacant warehouses and bustling industrial yards, 3rd Ward offers both a playground and a serious workshop for creative professionals in Brooklyn, NY. The space houses photo studios, professional wood & metal shops, a fully loaded digital media lab, office space, and an interdisciplinary art education program. Co-founder Jason Goodman talked to us about getting people to 'get it', and the sometimes harsh realities of relying on beer money.

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Jason Goodman: You can’t fake a community, you can’t just decide you’re going to be one, you can’t go make one. It has to happen organically, and it just takes time.

3rd Ward is an arts and design incubator, so we provide space, resources, networking opportunities, classes, education, events, parties...

We get people who are just looking for something to do and they want to come in on the weekends and make some furniture or they want to come in and take a class in digital media so they can do their own website. We have a lot of people who are here basically nine to five everyday who come in and use this just like their job. They really rely on 3rd Ward to run their business on a day to day basis. A lot of photographers here, furniture designers, cabinet makers, sculptors, graphic designers, writers... so, it takes all kinds here, you know?

In was like, I know there are people out there who need the same thing that I need. There’s tons of creative people from all over the country, moving to Brooklyn everyday. I know that if we build this resource place, that it could work. Even trying to explain what we were doing here, people didn’t get it. The incubator concept in general is pretty well established, but specifically towards this, like, sort of creative freelancer demographic it’s kind of new, and we had a hard time explaining it. So, in the meantime, while we were waiting for it to catch on, we just kind of threw really, really big parties. We would pay our rent, you know, with beer-soaked cash. And we just kept doing it, until it started working. We had no idea how complicated it is.

It’s also... the unfortunate side about it is if you actually want a business to work you really have to think about money. Otherwise, there just, there won’t be any. The real hard lesson is that you can’t just do whatever you want, you have to do what people want. So we had all these ideas that we thought would be really exciting, and we thought were really cool. And we kind of quickly realized that, ‘yeah guys, you think that’s cool, but everybody else thinks this would be really cool, that’s what they want, so you can either go under, or you can say, let’s give the people in this neighborhood what they really need, what they really want.’ And when you do that, it just starts working. So that was the first major lesson. It seems really obvious, but it took us a while to get it, you know?

When you first start any new project, you always have this fantasy in your head that it’s going to be an instant success. But really, to do something that’s this complicated, and new, we need to be focused on it for the long term. So, I’m in it to win it, man.