photo by Layla Wrencher ~ Mask/Costume by Xango Shola & KimBa-Ji Schneider 

photo by Layla Wrencher ~ Mask/Costume by Xango Shola & KimBa-Ji Schneider 

Too often we experience that moment in a conversation when someone begins to get nostalgic of an older New York saying something to the tune of,  “New York just isn’t what it used to be ..sigh…”.  Sometimes reminiscing of the days of lower rent, the dive bar that no longer exists, or the club that now sits under a luxury high rise and most often speaking of an art scene that has since faded away; Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Patti Smith and Robert Maplethorp, the list goes on.

While I recognize the value of the impact of those artists, that phrase, “ NY just isn’t what it used to be” has me questioning why we should expect NY to exist as it did 3 or 5 or even 10 years ago? Furthermore, are we, its inhabitants, really the same people as we were back then? Does the lifestyle of the past fit the attitude and beliefs we carry today?

Over at The Sacred Arts Research Foundation (SARF), an organization clearly ahead of the times, artists, healers and musicians aren’t wasting a single moment caught up in the nostalgia of the past but are much more concerned with activating their vision of the future based on the life they are living today. 

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Born out of the necessity to house the work of artists within the founding community SARF opened its doors to the public in the fall of 2014 offering over 30 events and workshops in the realm of visual arts, crafting, film, music, performance and the healing arts. These workshops were presented by community members as well as guest instructors from around the world, raising the bar of mastery in the curriculum. In a space where the vibration alone could topple Andy Warhol’s Factory, the participants walk away feeling connected to a greater community while creating actual tools that engender living a more sacred and conscious life.

This acknowledgement of the sacred seems to be the biggest lifestyle shift from NY past to NY present/future. We can call it sacred, spirit, Earth or even health. It’s a choice more and more New Yorkers are making, to align themselves with that which carries more meaning in their lives be it a healthier diet or daily rituals to connect with the divine. 

If we look more closely at what NY’s past had to offer we find most people caught up in a spiral of misguided energies.  Even the spirituality of the 1960’s wasn’t rooted in a practical sense but more of a mushroom cloud burst of potential and possibility that soon faded as clouds tend to do. 

The lure of “Sex, drugs, rock and roll” has lost it’s magnetism. A new generation has arrived and is asking more of us. The millennials of New York (and the world) are driving us forward into a collective expansion of consciousness, moving us beyond the material into the immaterial. This new generation is ready to reward or punish a company, brand or person depending on its ethical accountability. SARF has recognized the need to fall into alignment with the earth and to educate its people in the process. 

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What makes SARF truly special is the behind-the-scenes dedication within the community that houses the organization itself. The Ark (the physical home of SARF) is the second of two community based centers located on Green Street in Greenpoint, BK. Where SARF’s focus is on music and art, their sister studio, Golden Drum, focuses on the healing arts and esoteric studies. The members of Golden Drum and SARF work together symbiotically and they do so for nothing more than the education and purification that comes from the process itself. It is a part of their ongoing life education. It should also be noted that all members of both organizations live an alcohol-, drug- and meat-free lifestyle, something unheard of for most New Yorkers and something that clearly separates the cream from the crop.  


Every great company has a Chief Executive Officer and every great tribe has, well, a Chief. SARF and Golden Drum are no different. Each member of the community is a disciple of Maestro Manuel Rufino, a native elder of the Taino Tradition of the Caribbean.

Maestro Manuel is the community’s spiritual guide and teacher, offering direction and continual studies in the sacred initiatic traditions of the world. He encourages each student to live a deeply disciplined lifestyle which is clearly reflected in the caliber of their offerings, be it artwork or otherwise. Rufino is also an accomplished visionary artist and clearly the inspiration for opening a center whose mission is to protect and propel the sacred arts of humanity. 

Indeed, something sacred is brewing in Brooklyn, something unlike any other. The glamour and grit of NY’s past was, in a sense, legendary, but the time has come to become legends ourselves. The new legend speaks of a time where we almost lost it all. Thanks to organizations like The Sacred Arts Research Foundation and The Golden Drum, mankind was put back on track and a new paradigm of living was initiated. []

Author Amanda Capobianco is the co-founder of Brooklyn Light: