Ex-Sawdust Factory Is Transformed Into A NYC Musical Venue

A former factory in Brooklyn has come a long way from its industrial past. The building has been converted into a vibrant space where artists and musicians can hone their craft.

National Sawdust, a name that pays homage to its building's former function, is a nonprofit musical venue that spends nearly a quarter of its annual $4 million budget to commission new works, to record and release albums and to support young artists.

Located in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood, the revitalized space operates as a performance space and artist incubator through its Artists-in-Residence and Projects-in-Residence programs

Helga Davis, a resident vocalist, said that it aims to become an institution that can mold mainstream artists in the same way that the Metropolitan Opera or the New York Philharmonic does.

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"We need a space for the next generation of composers and performers who don't actually fit into any of the existing spaces, who don't actually have homes in which to experiment, to build their muscles, to build their vocabularies, to build their audiences," Davis said. 

She is not alone in expressing that National Sawdust offers a unique space where "difficult-to-categorize artist[s]" can feel right at home. 

Another one of the current 12 artists-in-residence at National Sawdust is the musician Abraham Brody. His style embodies that of a singer-songwriter with a flair for Baltic and Slavic folk music. He views National Sawdust as a place for far more than contemporary classical or experimental music.

"It's not just for world music," Brody said. "It's everything together. I just find this openness here is really unusual." 

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