Is it an arcade? Is it an art gallery? Babycastles is actually both: This nonprofit focuses on exhibiting homemade arcade cabinets and custom-made art games. It’s a museum where you’re actually encouraged to not just touch, but actually play the exhibits.
The Babycastles art collective began in 2010, roaming between locations throughout New York but usually showcasing events and exhibits at Silent Barn in Brooklyn. After settling into a permanent Chelsea home in 2014, the collective could host musical performances as well as more frequent revolving art shows.
The concerts included all genres—lots of electronic and chiptune acts, but sometimes more obscure, self-proclaimed “nerdy” acts like The Doubleclicks too. It’s not just music either. The venue puts on poetry readings and live theater as well, like the immersive fantasy musical The Universe is a Small Hat. To top it off, Babycastles functions as a coworking space during daytime hours.
The art collective extends itself throughout the city in the form of pop-up installations called “Lil’ Babycastles.” They keep with the mission of promoting game culture, in all its mutations, through art and design.
This theme remains Babycastles’ bread and butter, with a popular game of the month lecture series and rotating exhibitions. The collective also does collaborations, like a Gaza-inspired exhibit done with Art Palestine International or a collection of games created by students at Parsons School of Design. Game themes have included sex, race, feminism, Islam, and more lighthearted subjects like roleplaying as a mechanic.
Know Before You Go
Babycastles is located on 14th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue. The closest trains are the 1/2/3 and L on 7th or the F, M, and PATH train to New Jersey on 6th. It's also quite walkable from Union Square, where you can catch many more trains like the N/Q/R/W and the 4/5/6. The gallery is open for free coworking hours every Monday at 6 p.m., and daytime hours change with each exhibition. Check the Babycastles Twitter account for the current gallery hours. Events will usually take place in the evenings on Friday and Saturday and may ask for a modest donation ($7 to $12) at the door.