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.”
bushwick open studios
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.
Since it was announced that Bushwick Open Studios will be taking place in October and not on their usual summer date, a couple fledgling fests have tried to fill the void. There’s been the Bushwick Arts Festival, which was a bit of a letdown, and the Bushwick Galleries Association’s Hot Summer Nights of extended hours, which are great but for galleries only. So when we heard tell of a new Bushwick art festival called the Bushwick Open Art Fair, we were skeptical. What would make their “Bears on Bicycles”-themed fair different from the other upstarts? But then the organizers told us they’re “currently looking into the permits required to have live animals at the show.”
A riddle: how do you get all the artists in Bushwick in the same place at the same time? Tell them that everyone is going to be there.
In anticipation of the Bushwick Open Studios, the neighborhood arts festival happening this year in October, photographer Meryl Meisler is trying to get a group photo of every artist who calls the artistically vibrant Brooklyn neighborhood home. To do so, Meisler and writer James Panero, who is curating the project, have put out a call for any artist who is planning on being involved in BOS this October to meet tomorrow at 11 a.m. outside Stout Projects on Meadow Street.
Stephanie Theodore of Theodore:Art was massively disappointed when Arts in Bushwick announced that Bushwick Open Studios was moving from summer to fall in an attempt to close the door on an eight-year tradition. But AiB had their reasons– BOS had ballooned into something of circus, an event that they believe had been co-opted and used by corporate interests and party promoters looking to cash-in on the thousands of people who swarmed the neighborhood each June. But galleries and individual artists also benefitted from the huge influx of people and the visibility that BOS brought to the area, so Theodore was hardly alone. “A lot of other galleries wanted something to replace BOS,” she told B+B over the phone today.
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.
Just a few weeks after volunteer org Arts in Bushwick surprised the neighborhood by announcing that Bushwick Open Studios would be held in October rather than in the summer, an anonymous entity has popped up with plans to fill the void in June, during the same weekend usually reserved for BOS. But little is known about the players behind the new arts fest, and neighborhood artists, gallerists and residents say they don’t know yet whether they’ll get on board.
House of Yes is nearing rebirth, and co-founder Anya Sapozhnikova (who along with her partner Kae Burke was dubbed a member of the Brooklyn Establishment) promised that a “next level” venture is on the horizon. “Everything here has to be really fucking awesome,” she explained. When we dropped by the new House of Yes today, just steps away from the Jefferson stop in Bushwick, it was hard to believe the place was part of the craziness of Bushwick Open Studios last weekend. “It was so packed, like wall-to-wall, people couldn’t even get in,” Anya recalled. For now, the place has once again kicked up the sawdust and instead of performers, aerialists, and burlesque babes, we were met with sweaty construction workers. But Anya– who’s been through a fire, police raids, and evictions– seemed intent on forging through the final weeks of wood saws, drills, and hammers.
Anyone who attended Bushwick Open Studios this past weekend knows there was a plethora of penetrating art. Especially at the closing weekend of “Housebound,” an exhibit at Chasm Gallery where penises abounded.
“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.
Another Bushwick Open Studios has come and gone. In order to make sense of it all (though, let’s face it, there was no making sense of the above) we took some photos and talked to some artists whose work we dug. Click through our slideshow, below, to see this year’s highlights and lowlifes.
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.”