Think Tank Gallery



Word around town is that Think Tank Gallery has been shut down by the City of Los Angeles. The term “shut down” has always been a curious one to us, and as we’ve grown into a permitting consultant kind of role we have seen the many forms this term can take. But the fact that our phones are blowing up with concerned family and collaborators asking what happened to us is a sign that we should probably make some sort of statement about it. The fact is that the foundation on which we built the Think Tank is, in essence, shut down.

If you know us on a personal level, you might know that we moved from The Brewery art lofts in 2010 to our current Fashion District warehouse, and built what became 17 individual live/work units for local creators to move into. Seven years and maybe 100 tenants later, we’ve ironically outgrown this massive space. For the last 16 months we have been in a back-and-forth with the City of Los Angeles to prove the feasibility of our secret living quarters, but within hours of the Ghost Ship Fire, the hammer came down. The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety came under extreme pressure to begin visiting spaces like ours constantly and pressing them for compliance. As with other venues before us, tenant evictions and event application denials shortly followed.

We had taken pride in building out our space and business model with not only the creative ingenuity common in the DIY marketplace, but an attention to detail that parallels our individual backgrounds in construction, permitting, and corporate common sense. Still, the times have changed, Downtown LA has evolved, and we could not legally save the residential area that acted as the forest providing the oxygen to our company’s ecosystem. Because of this, Think Tank Gallery is moving out of its storied location at 939 Maple Ave.

We didn’t even really know what we would show when we moved into this warehouse, or what would happen when we expanded to take on the entire second floor, or who we would become when we started hiring employees, or renting out other venues for them, or when we began co-directing Lil Huizy’s Night on Broadway festival, but we did know that the family of artists we had built was always behind us and that we needed to provide for them. So we gave our personal artists-in-residence low rent that came hand in hand with many services: food, water, weekly dinners, wifi, laundry, a maid, 10% of our profit to spend on art retreats and upgrades… We also gave unused nights at our venue to various emerging talent. Student groups at USC and UCLA used our venue, as did small collectives and non profits.

With the monthly revenue of our resident program coming to an end, the rent must be paid by other means, so a traditional rental house is taking over. They’re set up for success, as you’ll see at the website, but at this point are incapable of some of the more creative productions for which Think Tank Gallery was known. Artists we’ve worked with have described our model as an “openness to take sketchy risks and encourage others to do the same,” and in the end that core value (combined with a track record for tight collaboration with law enforcement), might be what defines us as we ponder who we are without a venue.

So it is with this announcement that we declare our brand to be splitting in two. One will retain the Think Tank Gallery moniker and mission, and the other will take over the venue and will no longer support the arts in a collaborative sense.

If you are interested in renting the venue from us while we still maintain our lease, the silver lining is that with the residents torn out, an additional third of the building (honestly, its most coveted and priorly off limits area) and more services have been added. You can see that new branch here:

Think Tank Gallery as you know it is becoming a roadshow. While we are staffing 939 Studio for now, we will soon hire out a team to run it, and our more important contributions will take place off-site. We had no succinct vision of the future when five of us began building our bedrooms and painting graffiti seven years ago, but we have become an experimental brand that immerses itself in locations, ideas, and social exploration. Not a real gallery.

Click this image to see our latest call for artists. 

Click this image to see our latest call for artists. 

In response to this situation, we are excited to announce our next exhibit, exploring the above and our newfound transient nature. We will be popping up at The MacArthur Park Swap Meet on April 1st, 2017 (those “we signed a lease!” announcements were only kind of an April Fools joke), in the third iteration of the show that literally put us on the map. YOU ARE HERE. 3 – Legal Good(s) will explore the idea of what it means to be “illegal.” In a neighborhood notorious for illegal activity and illegal immigrants, showing only convicts as its artists in a "gallery" that was evicted for not following the law, we plan to come to terms with the difference between what is legal and what is good. And where we fit into all of it.

In today’s cultural climate, this comparison is an important one, and we hope you will join us to contemplate it. Please keep an eye on our newsletter and social media for further announcements. 

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Think Tank Gallery


PS – The terms of our “departure” are contingent on paying the rent for the rest of our lease. While the tenants may no longer cover this overhead, the venue may still be able to contribute to the art scene if alternate funding is acquired. We have been reaching out to various local influencers for support with variations of this letter. If you know someone you believe could help us, please let us know.