Back in June, when Joseph Meloy and Alexandria Hodgkins saw an ad for a storefront at 53 Avenue B, they fell in love with the building, and understandably so: it’s light purple and its facade has palm tree, heart and animal shapes cast by the landlord, Antonio Echeverri. Within days, the married couple and their business partner, Nyssa Frank, had rented the 250-square-foot storefront to use as a Manhattan outpost of their Bushwick gallery, The Living Space.
Meloy, a native Lower East Sider, felt good about bringing a new art space “back home.”
“So much of the emerging art scene is in Brooklyn now… Once upon a time, an ‘outpost’ might have been out there, but we’re planting the flag for our outpost back in Lower Manhattan,” he told us. “Keep downtown interesting, goddamn it!”
Frank has owned The Living Gallery since 2012, when she started her business at The Loom. She soon relocated to the space on Broadway, closer to the J train and to the community that was born and raised in Bushwick, in an area where “new cafés and new spas” were popping up at a much slower pace. Alongside art exhibits, she hosted classes and events such as open mics, yoga sessions, birthday parties, jewelry classes, noise shows, art fairs, fashion shows, ad infinitum.
Frank is hellbent on emphasizing the work of emerging artists, without pressuring them to make art that’s highly marketable. “I grew up with a mother who is an artist, and I saw her go through so many emotional rollercoaster rides, regarding the competition and the money element,” she explained. For this reason, selling artwork is not the sole focus of The Living Gallery; they rent the space as well.
“I never really understood, on a logical level, how art can compete,” Frank said. “Each piece is so different, it’s not like you’re running a race.”
The Living Gallery Outpost will support the artistic community with Art Walks and in a variety of other ways. An upcoming monthly workshop, “Artists Helping Artists,” is structured to help the artists’ professional development, by offering affordable portfolio photography, artist statement workshops and artist talks. “We also plan to host monthly community potluck events, in which everyone in the neighborhood is welcome to come take part and join us for a big home-cooked meal,” Meloy said.
Mondays will be curated by Frank, Tuesdays by Hodgkins, and Wednesdays by Meloy. Hodgkins’s first show, “Nostalgia Art: Video Games of the 1980s-1990s,” opens August 22, and will revolve around contemporary artists reinterpreting the feel and aesthetics of video game classics. Featured work will include haunting images of Mario, Christ, and the cross, and Bushwick reimagined as “Super Bushwick World.”
“When I see this work it brings me back to sitting on the carpet with my brother looking up at the screen and struggling to get past King Koopa,” Hodgkins said. “It just makes me happy.”
The gallery’s grand opening, on August 13, will be Bring Your Own Art, a popular event in the original space. It will start with blank and empty walls, and, from 2pm to 10pm, each artist will hang their work (size limit: 8.5” x 11”) wherever they like, using hanging supplies provided onsite. There is a $10 to $20 suggested donation but nobody will be turned away; everyone can sell their art and The Living Gallery won’t take a cut.