There’s been a bit of a stir surrounding this year’s Bushwick Open Studios. Firstly, they’ve been moved to this coming weekend instead of their usual summertime. There’s been a changing of hands in regards to who’s in charge, and supposedly a renewed focus on connecting with longtime locals rather than just hip, social-media-savvy (mostly white) artists and parties sponsored by Tumblr. The time has come to see how things have changed, and how they might’ve stayed the same. The jam-packed weekend can get overwhelming. Aside from all the artist studios that’ll be open (reason for the season), here are some highlights that might be worth your while.
Bushwick Open Studios
Wednesday night, Bushwick Open Studios organizers convened at the local community and activist space Mayday, for a “town hall meeting,” and their first coordinated public appearance since Arts in Bushwick (AiB) announced they were moving the annual arts festival from the June date it held for eight years to a later one in October. News of the change-up was shocking for many community members and while some gallerists and artists expressed enormous disappointment, AiB was adamant that the move was intended to bring BOS back to its roots. As the fest’s organizers told us earlier this month, the festival had been “co-opted by many different commercial interests.”
When B+B asked at the meeting if there had been a breaking point, Laura Braslow, a longtime Bushwick resident who’s been involved in organizing BOS for the decade of its existence, told us: “It’s been several years of this trajectory, largely since the end of the recession. There’s stuff that’s happened structurally, but really a lot of those changes that you see in the city as a whole are playing out locally, and we’re trying to figure out how this organization can accomplish its mission in that context.” In short, BOS was suffering not only from a kind of corporate robbery, but also from their own inadequate attempts to reach out to the community as a whole. And in the highly charged atmosphere of a neighborhood in the midst of one of the harsher examples of gentrification in Brooklyn, neither of those things were going to fly for much longer.
“I’m not trying to make anyone jealous by telling you this, but I bought my house for $800,” James Cornish, a Detroit-based artist told the small gathering at Spread Art’s Bushwick Open Studios outpost on Saturday. “Well, we didn’t have cops — which isn’t necessarily as bad as you might think, wooh!”
Cornish, who essentially lives off-the-grid thanks to solar panels, shared an experience that’s become a familiar, but no less envy-inducing refrain when it comes to people describing the benefits (particularly for artists) of living in a place like Detroit. Almost everyone at the discussion audibly gasped. But Cornish and other artists visiting BOS from places like Detroit, Jersey City, and Philadelphia shared some surprisingly similar concerns about ownership, gentrification, and real estate with Bushwick residents.
Bushwick Open Studios is upon us once again and leave it to an event of this magnitude — really though, a decade in, BOS is like post-post-post blown up at this point — to spawn a bunch of auxiliary commercialized, money-making ventures as well as some wacky, well, outside-the-mainstream artistic endeavors. This year, to help you avoid any confusion that might arise, we’re going to draw some abundantly clear lines in the sand between the Newd Art Show (what director and co-founder Kate Bryan calls “a small, digestible art fair” that “aims to invigorate the fair model”) and something called Nude Weekend. To peak your interest, let’s just say only one of these events features a “human display case.”
Throughout history, few human endeavors have managed to capture poetry in motion quite like the flailing neon limbs of the “dancing inflatable man.” Of course, there are the critics, ready to object, arguing against the integrity of these fine inflated forms, tarnished from years spent encouraging the sale of used cars. But, it’s precisely for that reason, contained within their mesmerizing dance – and their power to drive the multitudes into inadvisable purchases of “lemons” – that the true cosmic wonder of these magical tubes exist.