Artists’ hangout ransacked in

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Thieves ransacked a Ridgewood artist hangout and concert warehouse over the weekend, destroying seven years of hard work and making off with $15,000 worth of valuables, but managers from Silent Barn have taken the incident in stride.

“This turned from the worst thing that has ever happened to me into something where I think the venue will be even better,” said Nat Roe, who helps run the space.

Silent Barn, at 915 Wyckoff Ave., has been around for about seven years. And while not operating legally, it has been a magnet for artists and musicians from Queens and Brooklyn.

Roe and other organizers hosted concerts featuring off-beat bands that drew up to 200 people to the two-story building, and the walls were plastered with original paintings and artwork.

But it was all gone or destroyed after burglars pillaged the building.

“It was a very large monetary amount,” Roe said.

The venue had just beefed up its sound system, which the thieves took along with bikes, electronics, computers and thousands of dollars in cash.

But the thing that was the most unnerving was the wanton destruction of the area, Roe said.

“They took paintings off the wall and smashed them, the radio was blaring and there was alcohol left around,” he said. “They were partying in there and smashing our stuff and really enjoying screwing us over.”

They took things that would just make life difficult, Roe said, like stealing a set of car keys out of a drawer.

“A lot of it was valuable, but a lot of it wasn’t,” he said. “That was what upset us on a personal level.”

After the realization set in that the music and art project was dead, Roe and others at Silent Barn toyed with the idea of moving to a new venue, but changed their minds after putting out the word about the crime.

“Within the first hour, there was a really overwhelming public response from friends and bands and people we didn’t even know,” he said. “Over seven years, you accumulate a lot of connections.”

Roe and the others decided to try and raise enough money to replace some of the items through a website called kickstartr.com, where anyone can set up a donation site to fund art or creative projects.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Silent Barn had $30,000, which is roughly twice the monetary amount stolen from them. But it wants to go further.

Its new goal is $80,000, Roe said, which will go toward bringing the building up to fire code and remaking it as a legitimate venue in the eyes of the community — and the law.

“Our goal is to use this robbery, the public outcry that we’ve seen and the warmth and incredible things people have been saying, and turn that into an opportunity,” he said. “We really want to be a permanent part of the community that is fully legit as a venue.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 12:01 pm, October 12, 2011
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