Dirty Disco: 3rd Ethos Gallery, the Third Place
I heard word of a group show at a new gallery in Bushwick, 3rd Ethos. A few nights earlier I had the chance to encounter the owner at a graffiti show in Queens. Connie seemed cool and down to earth, and I liked her sense of style. I stopped by the street art show, titled Run Through the Jungle. It featured a lot of talented artists on the up and up like Lucky Rabbit and Mad Vaillan. I couldn’t hang long, but I liked the energy.
A week or so later, I was back at 3rd Ethos, this time for a photography show: For All I Know, (FATIK). The black and white pictures depicted shots of Brooklyn, particularly Bushwick. I overheard several remarks from locals, recognizing the people and places captured. The DJ was laying down funk beats, and the vibe was tight. I didn’t have much chance to chat with Connie, as she filled her hostly duties, mingling with the crowd, but we made plans for an interview.
“The name of the gallery comes from a conversation between [a friend] and I. We were brainstorming ideas, and I had a few names picked out, a few concepts, but I wasn’t sure. So we drank wine, just brainstorming. I always liked the number 3 for its significance: the trinity, the magical manifesting number. So we were trying to work that in. She mentioned this idea of the third place. It is an idea that the first place is your home, the second your work, and the third an environment where you go to socialize with your community. And that sounded perfect.”
Building on the concept of the third place, the other half of the 3rd, Ethos, alludes to Aristotelian ideas. In Greek ethos refers to character, and the spirit of a community. Better known by its association with rhetorical devices, ethos is part of Aristotle’s three artistic proofs. As Wikipedia notes: "the Greeks also used this word to refer to the power of music to influence emotions, behaviors, and even morals.” The spirit of the word fits the ethos of 3rd Ethos.
In creating 3rd Ethos, Connie wanted to emphasize the space as a place of inventive gathering. “When you’re in an artistic environment, it ignites and fuses a creative community.”
I witnessed this firsthand, both at the shows and during our interview, as several artists stopped by to hang.
The gallery had a soft opening in December 2017 with thoughts for an ‘official’ opening later. The Run through the Jungle opened in January, a de facto grand start to the new year. In truth, the momentum of 3rd Ethos has grown so quickly that Connie hasn't had time to worry about what the official start date was. The space has already featured holiday boutique markets, photography exhibitions, and street art shows.
The diversity of work featured builds off Connie’s ideas for the space. She didn’t want to limit 3rd Ethos to an art gallery, but rather create a hybrid space. Her original concept, was for 3rd Ethos to operate as a concept store. One that would “house all things: art, fashion, music, and events.”
An true entrepreneur, Connie’s journey to create 3rd Ethos comes off a creative and multicultural background. Born in Korea, she moved to the US at age 8. As a child, she was always drawing pictures of girls in clothes. During her childhood, she moved around a lot, from Toledo, Ohio to Hawaii. At 18, she moved to New York for a degree in fashion design at the FIT — the Fashion Institute of Technology.
During college, she studied abroad, spent 2 years in Italy where she cultivated her taste. Europe shaped her outlook on fashion and creativity.
“My professors taught us to design with concept and collection in mind. That’s what they really focused on. I loved it.”
During the Europe years, she took an interest in forward thinking. Connie worked at a trend forecasting company in Paris. Upon returning to New York, she didn’t want to go work for one of the big name brands.
“Everybody does that, and I didn’t find it interesting… I wanted to do something more edgy. And to me, at that time, edgy was streetwear.”
Along the lines of streetwear, she also took an interest in street art.
“I’ve always loved street art, because it comes with a punk rock attitude, and that is what I connect with.”
In particular, she likes that street art has a message, a social commentary. Her connection to the world of street art grew when she moved to Bushwick.
“There is a good community sense between the locals, the people who have always been here, and the new people and the artists. They’re all very supportive of one another.”
Located at 154 Knickerbocker Ave, 3rd Ethos is in the heart of Bushwick. Connie has lived in the building for some time, a resident of 15 years. She has seen Bushwick flip from a quiet neighborhood to the cultural hotspot of Brooklyn. As the scene blossomed from Bushwick Open Studios to Urban Jungle and House of Yes, she took an interest in the storefront at the base of her building.
“I always saw this space downstairs and said, one day that is gonna be mine.”
The shop had been a flower market, and Connie liked the spirit of it, “greenery, the idea of life.” When it closed, she “immediately planted the seeds with [her] landlord.”
Connie grinned: "I was serious about taking the spot.”
Remnants of its former life remain. The middle room of 3rd Ethos has been converted to a lounge from what had once been the green house. The ceiling is decorated in a plastic canopy reminiscent of the floral past. And in the back, ceiling hooks that once held potted plants now hold tiny disco balls. The silver and gold ornaments sparkled in the afternoon sun.
“Everyone loves the disco balls!” She cheered.
The dance decoration has become something of 3rd Ethos’ mascot. In the main space, when you flip a switch, a large disco ball lights the room with neon flair. It gives the room a very atmospheric touch. Connie explained that she adopted the boogie-down ball because of her relationship with the music culture. The disco ball symbolizes the spirit.
“The disco ball is very significant in the way we see it on the dance floor…. it’s our sun, it sees everything, it reflects everything."
As it happens, the disco ball is also an apt symbol for the neighborhood. As Meryl Meisler captured the Tale of Two Cities, in the late 70s Bushwick was the epicenter of the disco culture, where party goers danced as the city burned.
While telling the story of how 3rd Ethos came together, Connie was quick to credit others. “All my friends, our community, and tribe helped me build this place.” Members of her artistic tribe all chipped in, painting the walls, setting up the furniture, and arranging the space.
After the Run Through the Jungle show, Dirt Cobain got involved. He was inspired by the disco theme, took the gallery sketch pad, and went to work. Connie loved the design, and so he recruited request collaborator, Outersource, to help him paint the gallery gate. The mural, a disco-ball hovering over an arctic landscape felt prescient when a recent snow storm hit the city.
The Future is Female
Connie explained her plans for upcoming projects. In particular, she is working on a collaborative effort between Nuitlust and Andrea Cook. Nuitlust creates essentials oils, focusing on aromatherapy, while Andrea aka Pussy Power is a street artist known for her colorful designs of designer perfumes. Connie saw their work coming together as a natural fit.
Connie is also hard at work setting plans for March. For Women’s History month, she is setting up an all female show to celebrate the femme side of things. I asked Connie for her thoughts on what it means to be a woman in the industry.
“Being a woman, you have to be sharper, and more on top of things,” to get the same amount of respect. But despite some of the obstacles, “it’s empowering to be a female entrepreneur. Especially in New York City. It is more empowering than intimidating.”
On the whole, operating 3rd Ethos has been an incredibly positive experience for Connie, though, she humbly downplayed her role in running the show: “it’s not about me, it’s what it represents, and what it can do.”
Connie smiled. “This place is really built by labor of love, and I think everyone who comes in here feels that.”
Photos via Street Art Paparazzi and T.K. Mills