National Sawdust

Most venues are defined by a singular genre. It’s the easiest way to carve out space, especially in a crowded music venue market like New York City. One place though has chosen a different path. Allow us to introduce you to one of New York’s newest establishments, National Sawdust.

National Sawdust, which operates as a nonprofit, strives to bring together a vast array of music, events, and performances from across the spectrum of genres. Instead of a single genre of music defining their space their space is defined by their unique mission, to be a venue that curates the next set of emerging artists.

The directors of National Sawdust spoke with Four Over Four about what their primary goal is, how they plan to execute, and a little bit of all the rest.

National Sawdust is a one-of-a-kind venue, how would you define it to somebody who is not familiar with it yet? 

National Sawdust is an organization with a two-fold mission: to accelerate artists and their work, and to be a place of guided discovery for adventurous audiences.

Run us through a typical day to day. What does it look like?

National Sawdust is a constant flurry of activity. On any given day, we could be holding rehearsals, recording sessions, multiple performances, or private events. We really utilize as much of the space and time as possible which keeps all of us on our toes!

What qualities do you look for in booking and showcasing a young artist?

As a nonprofit venue, our mission is to promote discovery, by both being a new destination in New York for our audiences as well as a place to showcase emerging artists. We have residency support for over 20 artists/groups per year that are solicited by our advisory board, curators, or artists who we have programmed in the previous year.

We ask all our curators to promote discovery by showcasing one artist within their series that they consider a “discovery”. To this end, our qualities for discovery aren’t necessarily determined by age but rather, innovation.

What are some acts you’ve booked this winter that you are most excited about?

We’re continuing our curation series with Sxip Shirey, Jeff McErlaine, Bob Sirota, Elena Park, Chris Grymes, Magos Herrera, Theo Bleckmann, Timo Andres, and Jeffrey Zeigler. Plus we’re introducing two new curator’s series this winter: Caroline Polachek‘s Choral Series and John Zorn‘s Stone Commission Series.

We also have two festivals this winter: our second annual Spring Revolution event featuring such artist as Pussy Riot, Amanda Gookin, and Bora Yoon and our Philip @ 80 Festival featuring Philip Glass, Foday Musa Suso, Maki Namekawa, and Glass’ Madrigal Opera later this spring.

National Sawdust

Do you notice a huge range in your audience? What is most of your crowd like?

Absolutely. Our audience is as diverse as it comes. Some shows, we see more older Manhattanites who rarely venture out to Brooklyn, others we see younger, eclectic patrons and even some crowds that are largely international. The common thread with our audience is their interest in unique and adventurous presentations of music.

Talk to us about the inspiration behind National Sawdust’s The Log Journal and what do you hope to accomplish with the journalism there?

Long before the drastic downturn in music and arts coverage we’ve seen recently at some of the city’s (and world’s) leading newspapers, we were hatching plans for an initiative that would demonstrate that journalism and criticism are integral parts of the cultural environment and the National Sawdust mission.

We wanted to emphasize conversations with and among artists, allowing them to talk not only about their work, but also their lives and their concerns. We wanted to foster a critical voice that was constructive and collegial, rather than dismissive and adversarial. And we wanted to give young, aspiring critics a place to absorb and practice this kind of approach, where criticism is viewed as valid and necessary, but offered as perspective rather than wielded like a blunt weapon.

Those goals formed the core of the ‘Log Journal’ concept. Now that we’re seeing renowned newspapers, magazines, and other media reducing or even eliminating reviews, listings, and other forms of coverage, we’ve also come to believe that arts organizations from now on are going to have to play a more active role in advocacy. It’s no longer enough for organizations to market their own events. They must also foster awareness and appreciation of the arts among a curious and hungry reading public no longer served by the mainstream press.

Stop by the venue, we promise it’ll be worth your time.

National Sawdust
80 North 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Be sure to check out their events calendar on their website.