Bushwick Open Studios

I went to a couple Bushwick Open Studio sites this weekend. First of all, I have to commend Arts in Bushwick for an astounding job organizing it — they pulled together more than 200 open studios and events. They describe it as self-organized, but the best community organizing is always that. It’s about catalyzing, framing, and then standing back.

The event that I appreciated most was a panel discussion about land use tensions, featuring Oona Chatterjee from Make the Road New York, Luis Acosta from El Puente, Councilperson Diana Reyna, Laura (Cline?) Braslow from Arts in Bushwick, and a great guy from from Neighbors for Good Growth. The central issue that emerged for me from the panel discussion was the issue of illegal conversion of industrial space by landlords building out fake studios that are really apartments. The open studios could almost be a series of point in cases — I was in several buildings that were clearly designed to be industrial, and I’m pretty sure zoned industrial — I’d have to do some research to say that definitively for any particular one. But in almost all the cases, the interiors felt like a hive of studio apartments. Tiny spaces, hardly any with visible art making. Diana Reyna said she actually had a document that showed the areas in East Williamsburg where the city will not be enforcing zoning laws against illegal conversion. The effect is the loss of well-paying blue collar jobs, which is big problem for working class and immigrant communities.

The big disappointment for me was an open studio billed as “Bushwick Indoor Farms” which turned out to be a demonstration of hydroponics. Big, big yawn. Again, the apartment was real nice — in a building that clearly should be used industrially.

The most moving work for me was the work of Karin Stothart, displayed at a space called Celestial Suitcase on Jefferson Street. On display by Stothart were two delicate drawings of mouth to mouth resuscitation on old, delicately embroidered fine linen handkerchiefs and a series of three small, fabricated pillows with a drawing of the head of a woman with progessively larger bloodstains over the area of her mouth (death by consumption?).

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