The Brecht Forum is an independent center for progressive education and culture. More than 6,000 people participated last year in the full schedule of classes, seminars, lectures, performances and art exhibits. The Brecht Forum is one of the most dynamic and diverse community centers in the city.
Started in the 1960s as the New York Marxist School, the Brecht Forum first occupied a basement near Chinatown and then moved to a loft in Midtown near the Fashion Institute of Technology. In 2003, it renovated an abandoned storefront formerly occupied by a gym at Westbeth on West Street, and transformed the space into an attractive community center with classrooms, a library, and an auditorium/ performance space that seats over one hundred audience members. The upper four floors have artists' studios.
This is a grassroots, city-wide political organization that now has a remarkable, custom-designed home. The Brecht Forum is a truly unique organization that is supported with a very small budget and a great deal of volunteer effort, serving a broad multi-ethnic base that is city-wide.
However, parts of Westbeth, including this building, would not be included in any historical designation and are in danger of being sold off as prime real estate along the river, near other recent new high-end residential developments. (March, 2011)