Trade School: Help It Reopen

Last month, we introduced you to Trade School, a pop-up storefront on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where entry into...

Last month, we introduced you to Trade School, a pop-up storefront on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where entry into classes was based not on money or talent, but on meeting the needs of a particular teacher. Over 35 days, 800 students bartered for class time.

We asked Caroline Woolard, one of its founders, to shed some light on how Trade School hopes to again open its doors.

GOOD: Classes ended on February 28th. How are you trying to reopen?

CAROLINE WOOLARD: We're using Kickstarter to help out. We will open Trade School again in September if we get donations from 5,000 people (of any amount) or if we raise $9,000 (or more) by June 27. So far, 39 backers have pledged over $1,000. We have 87 days to go.

GOOD: Tell us a little bit about the 35 days and why you want to do it again.

CW: We want to open again! We ran Trade School out of Grand Opening's storefront on Norfolk Street. Classes ran from one to three hours and ranged from Scrabble strategy to composting, from grant writing to ghost hunting. In exchange for instruction, teachers received everything from running shoes to mixed CDs, from letters to a stranger to blocks of cheddar cheese. We ran out of time slots for teachers to teach and classes filled up so quickly that we had to turn people away. This made us think: We should keep doing this.

GOOD: How did you get things off the ground to begin with?

CW: Everyone contributed time and materials to support a community that values cooperation over competition. Rich Watts bartered design work for Grand Opening's storefront space and help conceptualizing Trade School. Louise Ma and Rich Watts designed the website and I coordinated with teachers to make the class schedule. We made a weatherproof flag, bucket furniture, hook-filled shelving, and a huge chalkboard. Incredibly rigorous, creative thinkers gave time to Trade School from day one.

GOOD: What can we do to help make it happen?

CW: Starting in September, 2010, we want to open Trade School again. Many people asked us to continue Trade School, but we need help! If we raise $9,000 or more, we can pay for the materials that cannot be salvaged. We can also give some money to a Trade School coordinator who fields class proposals, schedules classes with teachers, and is responsible for opening and closing the space.

GOOD: What is Trade School about?

CW: Trade School re-thinks value. When I give my teacher something specific (apples, fabric, design help, etc.) in order to participate in on his or her class, we are no longer strangers. Trade School rejects cold cash transactions because barter fosters relationships. Teachers and students alike learn and connect in a space where everyone has something valuable to exchange.

Graphic and photo via OurGoods' Flickr stream.

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