Hello Community! Brain Arts Organization’s mission has been put to the ultimate test this past month navigating changes brought on by COVID-19. We feel good about the progress thus far, which we are now referring to as Phase 1, in which we successfully achieved 107% of our fundraising goal to keep our staff and gig artists paid through June! Now, as we enter Phase 2, it's all about sustainability. We will of course continue to monitor the "Re-Opening" of MA and decide what makes sense for the BAO Community but in the meantime we are rolling out new, virtual initiatives to support our people. Please visit our Withfriends page to see our latest effort DAP VIRTUAL TOURS in which you can directly support our staff and artists by taking tours of DAP and purchasing a variety of arts services from our members. We have also brought the DAP Open Mic back with 'Virtual Verses' - going live on Instagram June 2. Keep up with the IG for the latest and we will check back in for Phase 3 in another month. Until then, thank you for checking in and sustaining the Brain! <3
- Sam Potrykus & Emma Leavitt.
The mission of Brain Arts Org is to realize creative independence in systematically undervalued communities. Through adaptive methods and hyperlocal engagement, we foster a culture where individuals create their own power and opportunities.
DAP houses 14 art studios (with 24-hour access and artist support), an Art Gallery and Exhibition Space (with monthly and pop-up exhibitions), a Work/Shop (with free coworking space and a local vendor store front open 3 days each week), and the Education initiative (providing workshops on-site and at community partner facilities and schools).
The monthly Boston Compass paper acts as an Arts & Culture guide, with 8,000 issues distributed monthly all over Greater Boston, while the digital Chosen Shows calendar on brain-arts.org offers up listings for daily art, music, and film events.
A bi-monthly arts and community market, Brain Arts Market is hosted at the Cambridge Community Center.
Events produced by Brain Arts include Dreamscape JP (a bi-monthly concert and visual installation at Hope Central Church), the DAP Open Mic (featuring local music and poetry on the last tuesday of every month at DAP ), BAO pop-up concerts (monthly all-ages shows at DAP or other community spaces with touring and local music of all genres and from various musical subcultures and underground scenes), and BAO pop-up art shows (drink & draws, crafts nights and other BAO-led visual art events).
Sam Potrykus is the Founder and Co-Director of Brain Arts Organization, Founder of the Boston Compass newspaper and Director of Dorchester Art Project. He grew up on the South Shore of Boston (Braintree and Wareham) and has been living in Jamaica Plain for the last 10+ years where he discovered his passion for community building. He is also a musician, singing in his own band Ten Gallon Hat and playing bass for local rapper Red Shaydez, poet and community leader Amanda Shea and Classical Indian vocalist Narmeen Saiyad from Assam.
Saritha Ramakrishna works in environmental advocacy in Boston, while occasionally freelance writing about music, art and urban planning issues. She is originally from Phoenix, Arizona, and got involved with Brain Arts Organization early on in 2016. She's a believer in community art spaces.
Emma Leavitt is Co-Director of Brain Arts Organization, Gallery Director at Dorchester Art Project, and curator at 1369 Coffeehouse, platforms she uses to empower others and facilitate community-building arts experiences. She is also an independent artist herself under the name Solei Arts.
Jelani Haynes is Dorchester, MA-born emcee, producer, and engineer. He currently serves as a Community Engagement Manager for Boston Public Schools, and previously served as the Director of Community Outreach at Sportsmen's Tennis and Enrichment Center for ten years. Jelani also serves as a volunteer with the Boston Arts Music and Soul (BAMS) Festival organization. He lives to further the greatness of his community and to support the work of his fellow community members.
Marc Drinkwater is a Federally licensed tax accountant. Born in Boston, raised in NH, currently in Haverhill, Marc has over 15 years' experience working with individuals, businesses, estates, trusts and non-profits. He is also a musician who has been organizing experimental music performances in and around Boston since 2012. He believes free artistic expression is a path to self-knowledge and a way to grow empathy for others.
Brain Arts Organization began as Boston Hassle, a project formed in 2009 when co-founders Sam Potrykus and Dan Shea joined forces and began leveraging their combined 10+ years of booking around Greater Boston. The foundation of the organization at that time was the founders’ shared passion for all-ages programming and artists whose work defied categorization. Shea already had a blog for his show-booking operation and label Bodies Of Water Arts And Crafts and combined with Potrykus’ Boston Compass newspaper (then a free, monthly zine distributed all over Boston) they formed BostonHassle.com and then Boston Hassle Shows in 2011. After developing a significant following and volunteer base, Boston Hassle obtained 501(c)(3) status and rebranded as Brain Arts Organization, Inc. (BAO) in 2013. A year later the group started the Brain Arts Market (then known as the Black Market Flea), a bi-monthly market featuring original artwork and handmade leather, glass, and ceramic goods, along with second-hand and reclaimed items. Its scale and focus on independent non-commercial artisans has made BAM one of the most highly-attended markets in the area, often drawing over 1,000 visitors per event.
Between 2014 and 2017 the group continued to commit countless volunteer hours to highlighting music and art shows as well as organizing festivals and branching out into arts advocacy. The addition of Molly Dower (accountant) and Emma Leavitt (Creative Director) propelled the group to a new level of professionalism and sustainability. While in the pursuit of their own physical space,Potrykus recalled a space he had been to before, then called the Howard Art Project (HAP) down in Dorchester, where some friends had started a studio and gallery space. After reaching out to book Mourning A BlkStar (Cleveland) for a Hassle show, he discovered that his friends who ran the HAP (and also recently renamed it Dorchester Art Project) were looking for someone to take over the lease. With the help of Anya Smolnikova, Potrykus, Dower and their fellow volunteers officially took over operations at DAP in winter of 2017.
In the past 3 years Dorchester Art Project (DAP) has blossomed into a community arts center complete with 14 artist studios, a gallery and exhibition space, storefront, co-working space and an intimate performance hall. DAP programming includes art exhibitions, music performances, monthly open mics, artist-in-residency programs, and after school art education programs. All DAP events are drug-free, all-ages, and open to the public. Despite (or perhaps because of) their unique and unorthodox management structure, DAP was named the 2019 Intimate Live Music Venue of the Year by the Boston Music Awards. Running DAP has taught Brain Arts Org so much about not only their mission and their opportunity to serve marginalized artists but also about the value in committing to those artists and individuals in Dorchester specifically. With the addition of Emma Leavitt as co-director on the board, BAO has become a more adaptive and mission-centered org with a commitment to learning about their hyperlocal community, and how to be an inclusive and equitable arts nonprofit.
The journey continues into the new decade with several significant changes to the nonprofit. For one, in the fall of 2019 BAO dropped the Boston Hassle blog as a project and have re-focused their show booking and blogging efforts on the mission that guides them. BAO volunteers continue to produce a music and culture blog (brain-arts.org) and book all-ages concerts all over Greater Boston (including the first Damo Suzuki appearance in Boston in over 10 years). In February 2020 Brain Arts Organization welcomed Marc Drinkwater and Dorchester native Jelani Haynes to the board as well as new accountant Dorchester native Ava Fields to the BAO staff. However BAO’s strategic plan was upended due to the global coronavirus pandemic and the team was forced to change gears into survival mode.