Rein­vent­ing the art community’s wheels with Ware­house on Watts

2 minute read
Warehouse on Watts is pivoting what it means to be an arts venue in the midst of the pandemic. (Photo by Tuesday Leroy.)
Warehouse on Watts is pivoting what it means to be an arts venue in the midst of the pandemic. (Photo by Tuesday Leroy.)

Tucked away at the corner of Watts Street and Girard Avenue is a DIY event space that’s been a genuine island of misfit toys for local entertainers: Warehouse on Watts (WOW). A conceptualization of Gavin DiRusso, the space embodies his experience organizing parties and his devotion to creative expression. In an interview with BSR, general manager Meg Bassett painted a picture that speaks to its essence: “It’s like the wild west out here,” she said. This much is especially true given our new situation.

A Whole New World

Blindsided along with the rest of the world by the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertain how deeply it would affect our lives, WOW decided to pivot operations. They promptly teamed up with local distillery Faber and acted as a delivery/distribution medium. Pulling it off required the help of bartenders taking on driving duties and of managers serving as dispatchers. The arrangement was a huge success until Faber halted production.

Forced back to the drawing board, Bassett and her crew came up with a plan to transform an upstairs room into a green-screen studio available for the public to rent out. Already, they have showcased fitness classes, yoga sessions, and DJ sets, all broadcast through WOWTV, which streams live on Twitch and their numerous social media accounts.

Despite the inconvenience of switching platforms so abruptly, Bassett was in good spirits when we talked, laughing at the expense of her newly green-freckled shoes. Instead, she offered the question we’re all thinking: “How and why did this happen?”

What solutions will we have as an arts community going forward? WOW has been green-screening the process. (Photo by Meg Bassett.)
What solutions will we have as an arts community going forward? WOW has been green-screening the process. (Photo by Meg Bassett.)

While WOW was able to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program, it was only a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem. Bassett believes there needs to be more conversation between independent venue owners and small businesses in order to protect themselves and establish a collective voice.

Moving Forward

Facing a hazy future, especially due to the city’s budget proposal to eliminate funding for the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE), Bassett worries about how this will affect close friends and the community. But she believes we can get through it together, and WOW continues to pursue versatility and inclusion in the arts and artists in Philadelphia.

"We have to keep staying creative and continue to fulfill our purpose,” she said.

What, When, Where:

Warehouse on Watts livestreams fitness and yoga sessions, DJ sets, and more on Twitch. Follow WOW on Instagram and Facebook, and visit their website for more information on safely accessing their venue.

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