Bráulio Amado and Nick Schiarizzi’s SSHH: New New York
Bráulio Amado can’t stop – and won’t stop – making work. Since 2017, the former freelance art director has run his own studio, BAD. As an illustrator and graphic designer in command of his own practice, he churns out an eye-watering amount of work including hundreds of posters for New York venue, Good Room. And, when he compiles his annual output into a big book every year, it always sells out. Bráulio’s approach to working quickly and decisively translates into visuals which feature bold colours, thick lines and brash type. In October 2018, he joined forces with DJ and videographer Nick Schiarizzi. With Nick’s work having appeared at MoMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art among others, he and Bráulio are a formidable force at the helm of their new project, SSHH. The pair’s newly opened venue gives New Yorkers the chance to get swept up in their energy.
Gay Graphic Design Workshop. Intro to Chinese for Designers Lol. How the Fuck Do CDJs Work? Welcome to the wonderfully weird world of Sixth Street Haunted House (SSHH) in New York’s East Village. Opened by Bráulio Amado and Nick Schiarizzi on October 31st 2018, SSHH is a multi-purpose mutant space where guests can learn, make, buy or share pretty much anything. SSHH is a store, an event space and a gig venue which hosts events, talks and much more. The only things you wouldn’t see at SSHH? “A Trump Rally, a Lady Gaga concert, or a corporate pop-up,” Nick tells Peep.
So why was SSHH set up? Well, New York is becoming boring. Shiny buildings are aplenty, Airbnb is sucking the life out of Manhattan and corporations are crushing the soul of the city. But luckily, Nick and Bráulio are determined to give residents something interesting to do in the city which, supposedly, never sleeps. Nick tells Peep, “People are appreciative of something in the neighborhood that isn’t a Chase bank. We wanted to have a space where people could come and be involved in artmaking and various forms of education that felt welcoming and fun.” Yet it felt, to Nick and Bráulio, like there was a lack of this kind of venue in Manhattan. “Instead of complaining about the lack of spaces like this, we did it on our own.” Nick and Bráulio’s drive to create a focal point in a city that’s becoming increasingly soulless has thrust some life and energy into the city and its people. “We love art and the community of people that want to do something or learn something,” explains Nick.
But SSHH isn’t just a selfless pursuit on behalf of New York’s creative community. It’s just as important to Nick and Bráulio that they benefit from it on a personal level, too. SSHH provides both its visitors and its founders the chance to explore interests they never knew they might have, with people they never knew they might meet. “It’s really an exercise in forcing not just others, but ourselves as well, to get out of the apartment, to get off the phone, and to physically interact with people and objects in an organic, healthy way.”
The space is a kind of never-ending laboratory-meets-party which not only gives New Yorkers the chance to experiment with new hobbies, but also with new people. The busyness of SSHH is testament to Nick and Bráulio’s drive to do something for their city, but also themselves. “It’s important to have time and space to do something productive and intellectual outside of your job routine,” Nick says.
The schedule at SSHH is diverse, eclectic and a little weird. Nick tells Peep how they decide what goes on in the space. “It’s really a mix of ‘what do we think people want to learn about or hear about?’ and ‘who do we already know who is an expert in X topic?’” This mindset has seen the space host everything from poetry to art therapy to workshops with Bráulio himself (weirdly titled ‘DSJHFDISHFILDSJFJSD’). In executing these events, Nick and Bráulio largely draw upon the expertise of their friends and surrounding artistic community. And this idea of strength in the artistic community even finds its way into the programming itself.
“We are all getting lazier, more anti-social, and more isolated as we depend more and more on technology. SSHH is an attempt to reverse some of that,” explains Nick. “Many of our events center around the idea of making art with your hands, instead of with a computer.” That said, the pair’s favourite events at SSHH have been music shows. “It was weird music made by people that don’t play live often or at all, so having a space for them to try it out with a tiny crowd of people surrounding them was really fun.”
But the range, frequency and pace of events that SSHH hosts doesn’t come without its share of problems. When SSHH was in its infancy, Nick and Bráulio gave themselves the phenomenal challenge of running all events totally on their own. “At first, it was a ton of work as we sort of managed everything in-person every day and it was exhausting.” Since then, Nick and Bráulio have started to take a steadier approach. “We have finally started to ease off managing every single event ourselves, and we depend heavily on our instructors and guests to really run the events on their own.” The pair have now found the sweet spot between spending leisure time on a new personal project and, well, leisure itself. Nick tells Peep, “Now five months in, we have found a way to run the space and also have lives outside of SSHH. We also decided to just have the store open on weekends instead of every day, and that was a great decision.”
Yet, for Nick and Bráulio, it’s important that SSHH is financially sound – especially in one of the priciest cities in the world. Nick explains “It isn’t something we are paying out of our own pockets just for fun.” So how do they make it work? They worked hard to find a space that fit their budget, and were a little fortunate. Nick tells Peep, “We were lucky to find something affordable rent-wise. We aren’t freaking out about paying $10,000 per month like a larger space would have to.” SSHH has avoided sky-high New York rental bills with a clever little solution. Nick explains, “SSHH works because we are small. Our classes sell out after seven seats have been purchased, so it’s pretty easy to meet expectations.”
The mini scale of the space means the pair aren’t constantly worrying about paying the bills. “We are mindful of producing events and classes that people actually want to attend,” explains Nick. With events that are desirable and on a tiny scale, SSHH can make ends meet, even in the middle of Manhattan. Quite a feat. Yet perhaps more impressive still, Nick and Bráulio make sure they’re paid for their time at the space, “even if it’s $50, just as a symbolic gesture.” Plus, the pair honour their early financial supporters as soon they can. “We make sure that people get paid back for the investments they made at the get-go.” SSHH is as financially smart as it is unique. “Because we are small, the financial stuff isn’t incredibly complicated. So far, so good.”
Nick and Bráulio have learned plenty since that October, both good and bad. “While running a storefront isn’t as scary as it seems in NYC,” Nick explains, “we don’t have brunch anymore, which is hard because we are gay and brunch gives gay people the will to live.” The pair’s appetite to inject some weirdness into New York, in “these times of glass condos and blow-dry bars,” has resulted in a fascinating space that not only defies our expectations of the grand, decadent city, but actively opposes it. How could SSHH possibly be better? “We feel like SSHH could be weirder, more experimental, more intense…” Nick ponders.
516 East 6th Street