A new speakeasy bonanza on the border of Ridgewood and Bushwick, features everything from your wildest trip: unspeakably good pastries, intelligent chit-chats over film, a bathroom lacquered in Golden Girls memorabilia, another plastered with cinematic porn cut-outs (visitors are welcome to add photographs of their own flesh to the wall).
This new project is the brainchild of a photographer, Diana, whose energy, vision, and nurturing camaraderie earned her the nickname Mama D among her followers. Her desire to support artists, build community, and ignore genre divides led to the launch of Mama D’s Sneaky Speakeasy.
Located on the first floor of Diana’s house, visitors pass a bright, nondescript hallway into a dimly-lit enclave where any imaginable art is welcome. Purple abounds. There’s a noticeably ornate clawfoot tub with the Golden Girls memorabilia.
“You have to look for the feet,” Diana advises on finding one’s own regal bathtub.
Diana grew up in a rural suburb of Philadelphia, and has been living in and out of the city since 2001 when she moved to New York as an art and philosophy student, starting classes just two days before 9/11. She spent some time in Paris and fell in love with the salon-esque culture. When she moved back to New York and settled in the Bushwick area, her goal was to rekindle that sense of collaboration from salons. Around 2014, she started throwing parties in her loft near the Halsey stop. As she made food and mixed drinks over the years, the persona of Mama D organically formed.
“We jammed all night and had fun and were all weird artists together.” Diana reminisces, “I wanted to do something to combine that sort of party with art performance and presentations.”
Thus began the Second Sunday Salons, a monthly party that starts with a cocktail hour – the next one is Nov 9. Salons include an assorted visual art display (often a solo show), a series of short-performances from music to performance art, a Jell-O shot toast, and “an ode to being an artist and keeping things celebratory and positive because it’s certainly isn’t the easiest path.” The night wraps with a DJ party until 2 am.
Diana has worked to extend each component of these monthly parties. Mama D’s has a new audio system, which will support the institution’s fledgling production studio, Bushwood Productions. Diana plans to make quality recordings of live performances and album recordings. In her view, it’s essential to document the Salon and accompanying events so artists can point to their work.
“We want to provide artists with really quality shit: a lot of us know how to create a film or great lighting or audio engineering. So the question is how do we all come together as a collective and make sure everyone’s art is being captured and available to them after the initial party.”
House institutions like Mama D’s that double as artistic collectives are not unheard of, especially in Brooklyn, but very few have the level of intimacy, discussion, and genuine warmth as Mama D’s. Many of them over the years have also been priced out of the neighborhood — something that happened to several of Diana’s friends. When Diana started Mama D’s, she was determined to own the space so she could set the vibe unafraid of being forced out. Along with that sense of permanency, the intimacy stems from the fact Diana hosts these events in her house.
“You’re coming to my home. You know, you’re hanging out with my dog and my cat. My books are on the walls. You can play my piano. It’s not some impersonal or corporate space. It’s an intimate experience and that affects the tone we hit.”
Diana aims to bring people together who will inspire each other. She loved the notion of Parisian salons for bringing all sorts of figures together, from painting or literature, politics or music.
“I don’t know if that was what was happening back in the day, but this idea of breaking down historically distinct art forms — all of that is starting to erode. We really want to embrace that erosion and create a space for people to share in a way that’s really welcoming.”
True to the speakeasy spirit, Diana only divulges the address to those who purchase a ticket. But all are welcome to her home. She’s especially fond of “Bushwood,” whose small businesses seem like the New York her grandmother experienced in the 30s.
“It feels like if my grandma were still alive, I could invite her over and it’d be like yep, this is New York.”
Mama D’s Speakeasy features a variety of events, including “Sunday Bake,” taking place every weekend, featuring dinner and a movie marathon. Learn more about location, tickets, and upcoming events at https://sneakyspeakeasy.com/calendar
Cover image courtesy of Clare Worsley
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