This past weekend, attendees of Bushwick Open Studios had their pick of more than 400 participating art spaces around the Bushwick-Ridgewood area. The weather for the new October iteration of BOS– after years of holding the arts festival during the first weekend in June– was rather dreary, and we heard many attendees say that without the sunshine, the annual art celebration just wasn’t the same. Jan Van Damne, one of the many visitors wandering the private studios at 17-17 Troutman on Sunday, observed that things were “less chaotic” this year, but admitted to us that “springtime was an appropriate date” for the crawl. What was it, the weather? “No, no– it was just bigger before. New York City was waking up, so it was a great time for a creative festival.”
Williamsburg fave The Sketchbook Project is riding high–they recently hit 35,000 sketchbooks (that’s a lot of doodles) and they’ve also finally re-opened their storefront, the Brooklyn Art Library, in a new, bigger location at 28 Frost Street.
As we reported back in February, the move from North 3rd Street was partly pushed by a rent hike, but it also represents a shift in culture for the Brooklyn Art Library. Of course, they’re still sticking to the core model of inviting anyone and everyone (for a $25 fee) to fill out a Moleskine sketchbook, adding their doodles and dreams to the collection forevermore.
“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.
Six years ago, Josefina Blanc, a former photography editor at Art & Commerce, found herself priced out of Bushwick when the rent on the 10,000 sq. ft. loft shot up from $2,500 to $8,000. Her husband, a performance artist now represented by a gallery in Chelsea, had spent years renovating the space with the understanding that, in exchange, the rent would remain stable, but efforts to appeal to their landlord were in vain. The couple decided to call it quits and moved to South Carolina that year.
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