Red Hook can seem so far away, even if it’s only 4.5 miles from downtown Manhattan. After spending the day walking the gritty streets with artist and Pioneer Works founder Dustin Yellin, it now feels much closer.
By Larissa Zimberoff
When artist Dustin Yellin bought a neglected warehouse filled to the roof with scrap paper, he told me, “There was nothing here. No floors, no walls, nothing.” It was so down and out he thought it would take at least ten years to renovate. You can tell Pioneer Works—the newly turned 501c-3 non-profit—is his baby when he speaks about how long it took to bring it up to habitability: 30 months.
Pioneer Works began life as an iron works plant, but now that Yellin is leading the way, it has become an art and innovation lab filled with artists, scientists, engineers, theatre troupes, an Airstream trailer, a print magazine and more. The goal of Pioneer Works is to become an incubator for these entities to come together—or fly solo.
Currently artists can apply for unpaid residencies lasting upwards of several months. What the artists get in exchange for their residency is precious space to create new mind-bending work. The space comes with a view of the Hudson River, lower Manhattan and, if you catch the timing right, the IKEA ferry––which is free on Saturday and Sunday. The artists also have access to more tangible things like a 3D printer, science lab, metal shop, wood shop, and more. Eventually Yellin hopes to pay the artists a stipend, in addition to giving them a room with a view.
The other goal of Pioneer Works is to bring more people to Red Hook. That’s why they’re offering classes unlike any you might find around town. David Sheinkopf, the Director of Education at Pioneer Works, scours the New York universe looking for the unusual. His last class was called Open-Source Security, or in layman’s terms, how to pick a lock. He found that teacher at a Maker Faire.
Sheinkopf, a teacher himself, leads an introduction to interactive electronics. The class focuses on learning to use the Arduino, a small, cheap microcontroller that you can program with your home computer through a USB connection. The class I’m hoping to take? Fermentation: Old World Techniques. I figure if I’m going to hang out in a warehouse built in the Civil War era, I should at least learn how to make something funky and old.
Wednesday - Sunday, 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
159 Pioneer Street (between Imlay & Conover streets)
Brooklyn, New York 11231