Brain Arts Organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to uplift grassroots organizations and undervalued communities* by developing and implementing equitable models of engagement within the arts & culture sector.
*We define undervalued communities as: BIPOC, POC, LGBTQIA+, Disabled, Emerging, Experimental and Working-Class Artists
Projects and Programs Summary
Brain Arts Org
BAO is an equity-focused arts advocacy organization. We organize events, connect artists with opportunities and forge partnerships that strengthen the arts sector and champion the value of the creative workforce. We specialize in hyperlocal methods of community engagement, with our physical spaces, publications and platforms for creative entrepreneurs.
Brain Arts Organization began as Boston Compass, a free monthly zine distributed all over Boston advertising DIY happenings, founded by Samuel Potrykus in 2010. Later that year, co-founders Sam Potrykus and Dan Shea joined forces and began leveraging their combined 10+ years of booking around Greater Boston to form BostonHassle.com and then Boston Hassle Shows in 2011. The foundation of the organization at that time was the founders’ shared passion for all-ages programming and artists whose work defied categorization. After developing a significant following and volunteer base, Boston Hassle obtained 501(c)(3) status and formed Brain Arts Organization, Inc. (BAO) in 2013. A year later the group started the Brain Arts Market (then known as the Black Market Flea), a bi-monthly market with a focus on independent non-commercial artisans. BAM quickly became one of the most highly-attended markets in the area, often drawing over 1,000 visitors per event.
Between 2014 and 2017 the group continued to commit countless volunteer hours to highlighting music and art shows as well as organizing festivals and branching out into arts advocacy. The addition of Molly Dower (Accountant) and Emma Leavitt (Creative Director) propelled the group to a new level of professionalism and sustainability. While in the pursuit of their own physical space, Potrykus recalled a space he had been to before, then called the Howard Art Project (HAP) in Fields Corner, Dorchester, where some friends had started a studio and gallery space. After reaching out to HAP to book Mourning A BlkStar (Cleveland) for a Hassle show, he discovered that his friends who ran the HAP (and also recently renamed it Dorchester Art Project) were looking for someone to take over the lease. With the help of Anya Smolnikova, Potrykus, Dower and their fellow volunteers officially took over operations at DAP in winter of 2017.
In the past 3 years Dorchester Art Project (DAP) has blossomed into a community arts center complete with 15 artist studios, a gallery and exhibition space, storefront, co-working space and an intimate performance hall. DAP programming includes art exhibitions, music performances, monthly open mics, and a monthly and hourly creative space rental program. As of October 2020, programming was expanded to the ground floor at 1490 Dorchester Avenue where the group established a storefront selling the work of local artists. All DAP events are drug-free, all-ages, and open to the public. In 2019, DAP was proud to have been named Intimate Live Music Venue of the Year by the Boston Music Awards.
Running DAP has transformed the mission of BAO, as the group quickly realized the only way to run the space equitably was to prioritize the hyperlocal community and commit to transforming from a volunteer-run collective into a sustainable organization with paid staff. Since signing the lease at DAP, it has always been the goal of leadership at BAO to transition leadership and ownership of DAP off to Dorchester community members. BAO retained its dedication to artist-run operations, but in 2019 changed the mission to more appropriately reflect their commitment to equity and “systematically undervalued” artists.
The journey continues into the new decade with several significant changes to the nonprofit. In the fall of 2019, BAO dropped the Boston Hassle as a project and re-focused their show booking and blogging efforts on the mission that guides them. BAO staff and volunteers continue to produce an independent culture blog and print publication under the Boston Compass Newspaper name, (bcnblog.com) and book all-ages concerts all over Greater Boston (including the first Damo Suzuki appearance in Boston in over 10 years). 2020 was the first year that BAO was able to start paying out salaries, and we intend to continue growing those salaries to eventually be large enough to fully accommodate the needs of DAP, BCN and all other programming.
Although BAO’s strategic plan was upended due to the global coronavirus pandemic and subsequent Black Lives Matter uprising after the death of George Floyd, the adaptable nature of the nonprofit allowed it to continue growing its impact in the Greater Boston creative community, changing focus from shows and markets to mutual aid and protests, as well as maintaining the physical space of Dorchester Art Project and doubling down on digital publication efforts. In 2021, BAO looks forward to updating its board structure, inspired by calls from MCC’s director Michael Bobbitz to “remake” the conventional model and strive towards a more equitable future.