Wrong Brain, an arts organization that serves as a venue and outlet for the unconventional, under-represented and emerging artist, opens its new headquarters on Third Street in Dover on Saturday, March 16, after a few untethered months.
The organization was founded by Sam Paolini as an afterschool art club in 2003, and evolved into a zine producer, an event producer and a community organization entity.
In February 2016, Wrong Brain signed its first lease and took up residence at the Washington St. Mill in Dover. It earned its non-profit status in 2015 with Paolini as its director. In September 2017, its founder left Wrong Brain to travel the United States and find new opportunity.
Then Wrong Brain closed its initial location and took a breather.
After time to contemplate, and some assistance from the city, it signed a lease for the Third Street location, with Paolini (who had been set to leave the community) once again stepping into the director's position. Paolini also committed to rent a space from Wrong Brain for a private shop, Sam Pao.
Today Paolini, Assistant Director Aristides Manakos, Gallery Director Shawn Perry, Special Events Coordinator Lauri Todd, Marketing Director Sylvea Suydam and Intern Cameron Russell, along with a board of directors, oversee the new space with the intent to continue and grow its work.
Paolini and Manakos took some time to talk Wrong Brain's history, moves and changes.
EDGE: Let's talk the evolution, starting pre-physical space.
PAOLINI: Before we had our own space, we were a floating entity, occupying different local businesses to throw alternative craft fairs, rock shows, poetry readings and workshops. We still work with many of these businesses like Millspace, Crackskull's, Takedown/Sue's, Jonny Boston's and Adelle's.
HERALD: How did having your own space, first at the Mill and now Third Street, change things?
PAOLINI: With a permanent home, we were able to invest in tools and materials, host exhibitions, lectures, workshops, parties, concerts, weird events that no one else was doing in New Hampshire. We got a Xerox copier for zines, large bed scanner, projector, carving tools, and more. At one point, we were hosting three events per week. It was exhausting, but wonderful.
HERALD: Sam, why did you leave Wrong Brain initially?
PAOLINI: I left in Sept. 2017 to go on my mural tour across the US, and the organization was run by a small committee of dedicated members. I came back for a bit to regroup before I moved away, to somewhere I hadn't decided yet. I volunteered a bit but Wrong Brain was mostly run by Ari Manakos, Shawn Perry, Laurie Todd and Wren Kenney. We left our space in the Mill in September 2018 and moved into a tiny storage spot, and I left the organization forever.
HERALD: Who kept things afloat?
MANAKOS: When we moved out of the mill, Wren and I had formed a committee to try and brainstorm ideas for re-establishing the space, and restructuring it in a way that was more sustainable and resilient to issues that we had encountered in the past.
I think we had organizationally run into issues that we were prepared to learn from, and take the time to make sure that we implemented those changes in a responsible way.
After Wren and I had our meeting, we received an email from Reid Weston, who works for the city of Dover. Reid was checking to see what our plans for the future were ... . (We met) and Reid showed us that the city cared about what we were doing, and wanted to help us find a new space.
... When I initially visited one of the places that Reid had strongly suggested ..., the new HQ, I could see the potential in the space. It seemed to have a lot of character, a lot of space, and it felt like a place that we could grow into. Once Sam saw the place and talked about the storefront, ... everything clicked into place and here we are now!
PAOLINI: ... I went to look at this new spot with them. ... It was perfect for Wrong Brain in terms of location and layout, and it sparked a little inspiration for myself as a shop front. I hadn't yet left the state, and when I saw the spot that Ari had found, it reignited some fire to stay in Dover.
HERALD: How does the new space suit the organization?
MANAKOS: I think having a physical location where we are afforded the ability to be flexible, and to further enable the people of this community to gather, and help create a space where they feel welcome as well as empowered.
... Not much has changed. Wrong Brain still exists to encourage people to create, to be supported, and to give people a space that they might not otherwise have if we weren't around. It's as much something that we want, as it is something that we understand that other people want, and also something they will hopefully lend their support to.
HERALD: Can you describe the space?
PAOLINI: (It) has seven private artist studios, a gallery and community space, Sam Pao storefront and textile studio, and plenty of storage! It's bright and open. ...
HERALD: Sam, describe your private enterprise within the venue.
The Sam Pao shop will have my handmade, upcycled garments with artwork on them. We do screen printing, block printing, hand painting, dyeing, bleaching, patching, embroidery and cut and sew from old clothing and fabric. I'm also showcasing a select few weirdos whose art I really believe in, and fit my vibe – on a rotating consignment basis. I'll be featuring Laurie Todd, Daniel Beauvais, Mothership Connection and Lil Beans Embroidery first.
HERALD: Any plans beyond the usual offerings?
PAOLINI: We hope to make the NH Zinefest an annual happening, collaborate with a local publisher to offer bookbinding and printing services, more educational events, and collaborative community art projects.
HERALD: Finally, in what unique ways does Wrong Brain serve its community?
MANAKOS: We create a space that feels both approachable and inviting. Our financial model tries to limit the burden that we place on both our residents, as well as our patrons, which means that more people can afford to participate.
We also empower our community by opening our planning meetings to the public, to allow those who want to support existing endeavors, or to bring new ideas to the table.
PAOLINI: We provide an encouraging outlet for those artists who feel unwelcome or outsiders of the traditional and commercial art scenes by showcasing artwork that other galleries turn their noses up at: the lowbrow, the ugly, the risqué, the rough and untrained, and especially that which celebrates our flaws and struggles. We guide emerging artists with creative, technical and marketing assistance. We provide more open calls for any art at no cost or commission than any other organization.
Go & Do
What: Wrong Brain HQ Grand Opening
When: Opening Celebration, Saturday, March 16, 5 p.m. exhibit, 8 p.m. Sam Pao fashion show, 9 p.m. dance party.
Where: 66 Third St., B1, Dover
Admission: Suggested donation of $10 to $20
More info: Goody bags, free pins and zines, and art activities throughout the night. Visit wrongbrain.net