Art & Design

The Revolution Will Not Be in Manhattan: Inside The Oracle Club

Art & Design

The Revolution Will Not Be in Manhattan: Inside The Oracle Club

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I always dreamed of starting a salon where my wittiest friends would lounge around, drink gin gimlets, and exchange zingy banter about the arts. I never got around to it though because I’m super busy (facebook) and I have a lot going on (OK Cupid). The good news is that I can finally live out my high-culture fantasies at The Oracle Club, a new arts salon in Long Island City where brilliant young ingenues meet, mingle, and get their white wine on.

Founded by bohemian power-couple Julian Tepper and Jenna Gribbon, a novelist and artist respectively, the club is a gathering space for emerging artists to work and hang out. I arranged to meet Jenna and Julian at their apartment to talk about why they started the space and what they hope to accomplish.

The first rule of The Oracle Club is no uglies and no fatties. Just kidding, it’s not a rule, but you can’t help notice that the founders, teachers, and members all happen to be on the “smokin’ hot” side of the spectrum. It sounds superficial, but you can’t talk about this couple without at least mentioning how stunning they are. Living in New York, I’m knee-deep in tens, elbowing them on the subway, and pushing past them in Soho and Williamsburg. You would think I’d be numb to extreme beauty by now. But when I met Julian and Jenna, the first thing came to mind was, “Shazam, you guys are fine!”  Fortunately, I never say what I think, so what I actually said was, “Hi, nice to meet you, I’m Rose.”

And I am not the only person who has noticed how “TV-friendly” their looks are. They were both cast in an episode of Gossip Girl for no other reason than having awesome faces. Neither of them are actors. Julian was also cast in the film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

They are also the embodiment of the liberal, bohemian stereotype. They remind me of a conservative Republican’s worst nightmare. Unmarried, with a one-year-old son, they exist in a hip, jazzy world of culture and art. Jenna’s ex-husband, Matthew Gribbon, with whom she still shares a last name, is still a major part of their life. He is the librarian and carpenter of The Oracle Club and hangs around all the time. Jenna admits, “Everyone thinks he’s my brother.  We used to be married and now he’s just my best friend.” It all feels very “simpatico” in a 1970s commune-utopia kind of way. Their kid even has one of those trendy names that sound made-up. They call him “Silas,” which means “man of the woods” in Latin.

When I walked into their beautiful apartment, Silas was holding a doll. “Is that a character from Sesame Street?”  I asked.  “No, it’s Ghandi” Jenna said. Of course it is.

When I asked about the impetus to create The Oracle Club, Jenna replied, “The concept of this place was largely based on the idea that we have all these extraordinary friends who are so talented and brilliant, and we wanted to give them a venue to do their thing and find a bigger community.”

One of these extraordinary friends is the painter and woodland nymph Caris Reid, who teaches the Tuesday night collage class. Frequented by the Who’s Who of the fashion and art world, including fashion designer Samantha Pleet, Refinery 29’s founder Piera Gelardi and artist Kirk Bray, it has gotten a lot of buzz.

I went to investigate the class one Tuesday night to see what the stink was about. The minute I walked into the space, I felt like I was in a modern day version of Jay Gatsby’s pad. From the dim lighting, exotic birds, vintage piano, and antique velvet furniture, the vibe is 1920s glamour (or Boardwalk Empire chic, for all the young folks). Jenna explained, “I wanted it to have this kind of surreal, dream-like quality of a Jean Cocteau film, a lot of it was inspired by that era. I didn’t want it to feel super slick and professional. I wanted it to feel like you are in the home of an artist.”

Sitting around a table among strangers, Jenna walked around serving wine and cocktails while Julian was on-deck at the record player choosing jazz tunes as we all did arts and crafts. It kind of felt like hanging at your friend’s place, if your friends were characters in a Wes Anderson movie. I walked up to Julian as he was choosing his music.  “So, has The Oracle Club become your social life?” I asked.

“In some ways. I’ve met so many new people since we opened, it’s like I haven’t met this many people who I like and want to spend time with since elementary school. It’s exciting.”

After a couple of hours of collaging and riding a nice white wine buzz, I was ready to leave  But I had one more question. “What is the significance of the name The Oracle Club?”

Jenna replied, “I like the idea that this place is somehow a predictor of the future, that the people that come and work here are the future in the arts. So if you want to know the future you have to come here and speak to these people to find out what’s going on.”

For more information on the classes and membership go to www.theoracleclub.com

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