By Casey Velasquez
If you found yourself wandering down Bogart St. Saturday afternoon, unaware of the weekend festivities, you may have been shocked by what you encountered there: mobs of young people in the street; a man in a speedo waving around a baby doll; a woman in a blowup pool full of glitter amidst an eager crowd of photographers.( Then again, even the locals no longer stirred by facial tattoos and grotesque creatures slobbering on wall murals raised an eyebrow at the bizarre scene manifested in the heart of Brooklyn’s weirdest neighborhood.) What the outsider may not have initially realized is they had stumbled upon the epicenter of the 8th Annual Bushwick Open Studios.
This expansive art and cultural event has tripled in size since its debut in 2006, with 250 official studios open to the public—some conveniently grouped together in buildings devoted solely to artist work space, others in individual, often times difficult to locate apartments, and some in areas of obvious activity (i.e. Bogart St.), with others in unassuming corners of the neighborhood. Some artists stood next to street installations while others abandoned them, and some performed, took photos, sold things, distributed and demanded. (Inconsistency and disorder was rampant—though somehow, not an issue.)
No doubt Bushwick has many talented artists; those of us who spent time looking saw quite a few. But putting on an “important” art event does not seem to be what BOS was about. Much of the work featured appeared to be the product of a hobby, or causal, creative experimentation (odd, considering the cost of studio space—or the cost of living in Bushwick at all anymore). The event seemed not to have any agenda or mission as all, yet was a complete success.
It was, in fact, the lack of pretense that allowed everyone to enjoy themselves and the creative energy so much. There was SO much to do and no obligation at all to do it. One could spend the day looking at the sketches and smaller works of some of the world’s most talented street artists, or just drink beer in the street while listening to punk metal. To avoid the mob you roamed the blocks just above Myrtle, buzzing apartments that may have only seen two or three people all weekend. Some of what you saw was not so impressive, while some was incredible. And then of course the party: lazy during the day and vicious on the dark industrial streets of Bushwick at night.
Arts in Bushwick, the organization responsible for coordinating Bushwick Open Studios, also put together several smaller events, beginning with the BOS Launch Party held at the brand new club/bar Radio Bushwick. The party, though interesting, wasn’t something that kept one all night, the real scene being as much in the street, between spots, as in the bars themselves.
The event was concluded Sunday with the appropriately titled Cinema Sunday, an afternoon of short films presented at Bizarre. Though a beautiful, rustic space, the bar was tight and somewhat uncomfortable for film showing. However, the shorts were accessible, and one could stay for half hour, see some intriguing work and then leave.
The only thing that could have ruined Bushwick Open Studios was the attitude no one involved in the event seemed to have: expectations. No one wanted anything from anyone. Some studios were packed with people all weekend, while others may have hosted only a few friends or roommates; neither seemed phased by either outcome. Regardless of your role, or level of involvement, everyone sensed they were part of a creative community, everyone felt the presence of the neighborhood.