Indie music fills the room, whose walls are spotted with quirky pop-art pictures of cats’ heads tacked on to rock stars’ bodies, and have old cartoons projected on them. An unusual space, 72 is a far from conventional place to be on a Friday night.
Located just a few blocks away from Stuyvesant at the Church Street School for Music and Art, 74 Warren Street, 72 is a recreation center of sorts for teenagers who want to explore their varied artistic capabilities. The activities it offers run the gamut from workshops (for which prior knowledge in the specific field is not necessary) to magazine openings to live indie music concerts.
The club is partly run by Stuyvesant alumna Z Behl (‘03) and has its origins in her experience as a Stuyvesant student. Behl, who would spend hours hanging out with friends after school, noted the distinct lack of hangout spaces in the neighborhood. She wants 72 to serve as such a place. Behl also believes that programs such as 72 are important to teens because “there’s no support for this type of thing in school. [School] is still academic; the idea is you’re trying to go to college,” she said.
Flipping through the catalogue of available workshops, you’ll notice that the fields covered in the workshops are highly specific and esoteric, including music video production, gif (animated digital images), and zoetrope-making (stringing together old-fashioned images to give the illusion of movement). The workshops are run by Behl and Mohammed, so the skills covered were chosen based on those they have and are able to pass on to teen artists. Mohammed, a photographer, teaches a digital photography workshop. Behl, a visual artist who works with a variety of materials, teaches the Fibers workshop, in which teens work with familiar materials such as wood in unusual ways.
The activities at 72 aren’t limited to workshops and classes. A vital part of 72 is the events it hosts, and despite having been launched just over a month ago, the club has already held three major events, including a release party for an issue of Tom Tom Magazine, a publication about female percussionists.
The release party featured performances by several teen indie bands. Dawn Foster, a student at Montclair State University and the guitarist of Puta de Cava, one of the bands playing at the show, appreciated the space. “It’s like a community place,” she said.
Indeed, the most important element to 72 is its sense of artistic community. It creates an environment where teen artists share their talent and work with other teen artists. “It’s a collaborative, supportive environment that is really tailored to the kids that we are already in dialogue with,” said Gaia Filicori (‘03), a staff member who is also a Stuy alumna.
Another part of this environment is the interaction between teen artists and young professionals who can act as mentors. This is epitomized by their film screening series, in which they invite contemporary and nationally acclaimed directors (friends of the 72 staff ) for viewings and Q&A sessions.
Behl prefers to look at what goes on in workshops as coaching, not teaching. She believes 72 is “a cultural haven” where you can meet other creative teens outside of the school you go to. Teens are encouraged not just to come to 72 events, but also to rent out the space to hold their own events, such as concerts or parties, or work on art projects. “If video production students at Stuy want to use a green screen, they can come on over,” she said.
Behl believes that 72 has a lot to offer Stuyvesant students. Aside from providing a creative outlet for the stress of being a student, she believes it can teach them more about their art. “When I went to Stuy, I was the art director in many theater productions and we were given huge budgets,” she said. “But I never got to meet any mentors or anybody who didn’t go to Stuy.”
She also hopes that 72 can give Stuyvesant students control over their space. “SING! is the only time that the students are really in control of the space they’re working in, ” she said. “Stuy students are so dedicated, if only they had more opportunities to be in control. At 72, we’re saying ‘This is your space, we’re giving it to you.’”