Reporting and photos by Stacie Joy
The EVAC is in the works for 215 First Ave. just south of 13th Street.
According to Steve Hirsch, who's opening the EVAC (East Village Art Collection), the space will be an art gallery with music, spoken word, painting, sculpture, photography and "maybe even a small Calder show."
"We want to work with the community and showcase East Village artists," said Hirsch, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as having a 25-plus year career in apparel design and merchandising and being "an industry innovator." "There are no galleries on First Avenue in this area." moved to this storefront from 11th Street last month, will not be continuing on from this location — after just one day in business.
According to Hirsch, who was involved with securing the new FlyeLyfe storefront with the goal of expanding the brand: "We had a change in the business plan. We're no longer working with P.J. O'Rourke — we're going in a different direction."
And this quick turn of events took O'Rourke by surprise. In an interview and subsequent email exchange, O'Rourke described his version of the story. He didn't mention Hirsch by name, referring to him instead as his "so-called business partner," who first bought a print from O'Rourke when he was still hustling his T-shirts, hats and other original designs from the L train.
Hirsch, he said, helped him secure the first FlyeLyfe storefront on 11th Street before Avenue A and First Avenue.
"When it came time to scale up, he offered 215 First Ave. if we signed a partnership. I obliged hesitantly, but obliged nonetheless based on his word of helping it scale 'worldwide.' The new LLC was signed on Jan. 26, and the grand opening was March 19," O'Rourke said. "After hiring a few employees, he decided to make a very authoritarian person in charge of handling and managing employees. The employees were intimidated amongst other things with 'even if you’re not here, you're being filmed.' All this time of preparation, my job was to be the artist and not worry about any of the management and set up at the shop."
O'Rourke said that he "had to put faith and trust into the process." While the grand opening day on March 19 was a success, a "verbal altercation" the night before between a friend of O'Rourke's and Hirsch at the storefront apparently soured relations. Hirsch and the "authoritarian person" allegedly said that the friend wasn't welcome in the space.
Later on the opening day, according to O'Rourke, his "business partner" then shut down the space.
"I immediately left ... in complete shock. I even came back a couple of hours later and was berated by the authoritarian figure and completely undermined. He said 'you just fucked up, I have been talking to local artists, and we have no problem turning this into an artist space without you,'" per O'Rourke. "I went back to get my stuff ... Not only had they locked me out, but my belongings were also inside and my partner told me it was his. They papered up the entire store, and now a couple of weeks later, they are trying a fly-by-the-seat art gallery, while leaving my livelihood at stake. And that's factually what has happened to me at this point. I really just need to get my stuff back so I can make my living again."
In a follow-up call, Hirsch, whose LinkedIn profile lists him as director of operations for FlyeLyfe, denied this version of the events.
"I have no comment on what Mr. O'Rourke had to say. Mr. O'Rourke's statements are not facts," Hirsch said. "He presented his version of the story, I presented something different."
He then ended the call by saying "this conversation is over."