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September 10, 2008

Collective consciousness: Where it’s done

Collectives survive, and even thrive, in other parts of the country, promoting a “culture of opposition,” while simultaneously growing membership, stature and diversification. Much of the blueprint for the original Bardstown Road Youth Cultural Center came from New York’s ABC No Rio (www.abcnorio.org). Founded in 1980 by artists and activists as a collectively run community center, ABC No Rio fought off foreclosure for so long that in 1997, the city of New York agreed to sell its leadership the building for $1 if they raised enough money to fix it. In June 2006, ABC No Rio acquired the title to the property.

“ABC No Rio was our model,” says Jamie Miller, BRYCC’s former executive director. “There are squatting laws in NYC; they occupied the building for so long, the city finally made them a deal. We knew that we were not going to be able to have that situation.”

It’s known on the national punk circuit for its politically charged all-ages shows, but ABC No Rio fashions itself a multi-use facility, housing a silkscreen print shop, zine library, computer center, expanded art space and meeting space for other organizations. Renovations for ABC No Rio’s new space will be posted on its website in the coming months.

Sources of revenue come from many places, but the collective is building on its own brand. The site keeps a list of “20 Ways You Can Support ABC No Rio,” among them: buying merchandise, its documentary video, “156 Rivington” and a 36-band compilation CD Solidarity.

Another option is to give ABC No Rio an interest-free $10,000 loan for seven or 13 months. The group then buys a Certificate of Deposit, and when it expires, ABC NO Rio keeps the accrued interest and returns your money.

Much in the same image is 924 Gilman St. (www.924gilman.org) in Berkeley, Calif., a volunteer-run music and alternative performance venue that hosts all-ages shows as many as four days a week. It hosted some of the early shows by Operation Ivy, Green Day and Rancid. The alcohol- and drug-free venue sells a $2 membership card that is good for one year. Gilman has a link on its site where people can make one-time or recurring tax-deductible donations, from $25 to $1,000. —MH