Attaching the term “underground” to a New York venue or activity is a futile declaration, as anything and everything is blogged and re-blogged about in record time. But unless you subscribe to the Nonsense NYC or Gemini and Scorpio email newsletters or are privy to the unpublished word of mouth, one quirky space has managed to fly — and soar, dip and juggle — under the radar: the House of Yes, a now Brooklyn-based “idea factory” and “multi-tasker’s dream house” according to one of its founders, Kae Burke. Intrigued? You should be.
The House of Yes was founded in May of 2007 in Ridgewood as a work, playspace and home to some of its 20-something founders and participants. But it grew out of Kae Burke and Anya Sapozhnikova’s earlier Boring Incorporated and Make Fun ventures. The former was a creative way to bring socially conscious performance art to the streets of New York, like the time Kae, Anya and two others dressed up as MTA Specialists, offering subway riders free snacks and water in the name of customer service (and in reaction to a subway fare hike). Make Fun was originally a home-based weekly sewing and crafting event in the basement of Kae Burke’s Bed-Stuy apartment building, “a creative playground for anyone who wants to sew, glue, learn and experiment with fabric,” she explains.
In addition to these DIY sessions, the original House of Yes also became — oddly enough — the site of circus performances and aerial events. After a random encounter with a stilt-walker on the subway, Anya and Kae (right, and below) asked him for some lessons and eventually, Lady Circus was born.
But in April of 2008, just shy of its first birthday, the House of Yes was devastated by a kitchen fire. After salvaging what they could, Kae and the rest of the residents began the re-building process. They searched for a new space and held fundraisers at venues like the Pussycat Lounge, Galapagos, Spiegeltent and Southpaw, in addition to accepting donations, supplies and volunteer hours.
Ultimately they found a new home for the House of Yes on a nondescript street in Bushwick, with a sizable area for Skybox, their new aerial space, and the eclectic Lady Circus troupe. With help from the community and practically non-stop working, the House of Yes is ready to throw open its doors to the public again, but without the residential aspect. Future events include yoga classes, birthday parties, fashion shows, circus performances and the return of Make Fun, beginning tonight, from 7 to midnight.
Cost is $10, which includes supplies, sewing machines and material, but you are encouraged to bring your own half-finished projects, additional supplies and something to munch on or sip. The DIY evening will be a regular event on the schedule, as will an Aerial Open workout on Mondays ($15 for 2 hours) and a Circus Skill Share ($10 donations) on Wednesdays from 9pm-12am. And while the industrial setting isn’t exactly neighborhoody, once the House of Yes is fully built, Kae plans on having kid-friendly circus classes and sewing sessions.
The brand-spankin’ new House of Yes is located at 342 Maujer Street, between Morgan Avenue and Waterbury Street, just east of the Grand Street stop on the L train. There’s no sign, so take note of the address!