It is with heavy hearts that we announce PSSST is closing.
PSSST began as a dream to create an interdisciplinary art space by and for a diverse array of underrepresented artists working in a variety of mediums. Our hope was that PSSST would become an open and dialogue-rich incubator in which artists would be relieved from the common pressures associated with the economies of art production and thereby create new models of sustainability and exchange. That dream became real for the artists with whom we worked: it materialized for our residents, for the participants who playfully experimented in our workshops, through the generosity of spirit in our Crit Club, and through the merging of disciplines in our exhibitions and events. It was beautiful and inspiring, all of it.
The learning curve, however, for us as individuals and as an organization was steep with many missteps and challenges. The ongoing controversy surrounding art and gentrification in Boyle Heights caused PSSST to become so contested that we are unable to ethically and financially proceed with our mission. Our young nonprofit struggled to survive through constant attacks. Our staff and artists were routinely trolled online and harassed in-person. This persistent targeting, which was often highly personal in nature, was made all the more intolerable because the artists we engaged are queer, women, and/or people of color. We could no longer continue to put already vulnerable communities at further risk.
While our closure might be applauded by some, it is not a victory for civil discourse and coalition building at a time when both are in short supply. The ongoing representation of a divisive battle–nonprofit art spaces versus the residents of Boyle Heights–resulted in the mischaracterization of PSSST as being fundamentally in opposition with the varied intersectional communities we aimed to support. This made fundraising an impossibility. Without financial support, PSSST, a fledgling nonprofit, cannot survive.
As PSSST does not own 1329 East 3rd Street—and our lease was directly dependent on us maintaining our 501(c)(3) status and mission—the owner will now assume control of the building. We have no say in how they choose to proceed or what they will do with the property.
The three of us will move on and forge our own separate paths. No matter where we land or what we do, we remain committed to the fundamental idea that birthed PSSST into existence: in a world where the value of art is inextricably linked to money but where scarcity prevails, in a country that provides little to no support for the arts, where art schools offer false promises in return for a lifetime of debt, and where institutions privilege the already privileged, we believe art is beyond the monetary. It is community. It is conversation. It is critical thinking. It is the space and time to experiment. It is empathy and generosity.