Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

North Brooklyn's public art scene will further thrive through nbART

The words “art” and “artists” will always get associated with these three words: “Greenpoint”, “Williamsburg” and “Bushwick. North Brooklyn has garnered the reputation as a thriving community of artists. But what do those three places say about “public art”? The community itself is a conducive space where creativity flows. Yet, is the need for community engagement being addressed? These are the questions leading to the creation of the “North Brooklyn Public Arts Coalition”, also known as “nbART”, to increase awareness of public art in the North Brooklyn area. There is just too much talent brewing and expressed there for the community to absorb. Art in Odd Places definitely supports nbART’s vision and we expect great things along the way for the organization.

nbART recently had a successful relaunch party last October 5. We contacted Arielle Friedman, Curator and Deputy Director of Marketing, and Katie Denny, Executive Director, to give us more information about their organization.

nbART Team: Cara Jordan,Linda Gao,Arielle Friedman,Mollie Cashwell, Katie Denny,
Aiop: Tell us more about your group and how did it get started.
nbART: The North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition is an arts organization dedicated to collaborating with artists and community stakeholders in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick to produce, present and support public art. We also do advocacy work on behalf of artists in these neighborhoods, and partner with community organizations to engage the public and encourage them to interact with the space that surrounds them. nbART is a staff of volunteers who are passionate about working in the arts, and who are dedicated to fulfilling our mission and increasing awareness of our organization, and engagement within the community.
nbART started the way a lot of organizations do: out of a conversation. Back in February 2009, then-Council Member David Yassky attended a Community Board meeting to talk about the lack of public art, and opportunities to create public art, in a neighborhood of artists; the North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition was created shortly thereafter.
We’ve produced three community-based visual arts projects to date:

· In July 2009 (and still on view on India Street between West Street and the East River) our kick off project was the “India Street Mural Project,” which featured six site-specific murals created by six artists/collectives that reinvigorated a Greenpoint waterfront, unused industrial site. That fall, we partnered with a Brooklyn-based film organization, Moviehouse, to produce a bi-weekly film series that was screened in between the murals.

· In December 2009 we worked with Open Space Alliance to produce the first public artwork ever presented in McCarren Park: Jason Krugman’s “Living Objects” – three large-scale, LED-lit sculptures taking on a human form.

Jason Krugman’s “Living Objects”
· In June 2010, nbART unveiled “Future Phenomena” by Amanda Browder, an 800 sq. ft. fabric sculpture that blanketed a building façade in Greenpoint; the piece was created by the artist with the help of dozens of community members who donated fabric and participated in public sewing sessions we organized last spring.

“Future Phenomena” by Amanda Browder.

Aiop: What prompted the name change from nbpac to nbART?
nbART: We used the acronym “nbpac” for about a year before considering other ways to identify ourselves. We wanted a creative, recognizable name and image that simply explained what we do without, well, needing to explain what we do. While “nbpac” may be confused with a Political Action Committee or Performing Arts Center (and even sounds like NJPAC), “nbART” emphasizes the most important aspect of what we do: art in North Brooklyn. The fact that the two names sound alike made the transition pretty smooth.
Aiop: North Brooklyn has had the reputation as a haven for artists. How is the public art scene in the area?
nbART: Whether it’s the proximity to the waterfront, the expense of presenting in a gallery, the lack of museums in the area, or simply the abundance of artists living here, artists are inspired to use our public spaces as their canvases. And it’s no surprise to hear that there are a lot of artists living and working in North Brooklyn. A decade or so ago, Williamsburg was the place to be to produce art; today, given the vast number of artist studios that have appeared in Bushwick, Bushwick is gaining recognition as the haven for artists. And last month’s Greenpoint Open Studios – with over 150 participants – proved Greenpoint is not far behind. And the public art scene reflects this saturation of artists – it is vibrant and everyone knows and talks about it. The forms of public art vary from illegal graffiti to legal street art to publicly-funded projects in our parks and open spaces. That last point is important: our local elected and City officials are very supportive of the arts, and that makes a difference in terms of an artist’s ability to present his/her work in the public realm. The biggest challenge for artists is navigating that process, and our hope is that nbART can help them overcome that.
Aiop: For nbART’s most recent project, why do an open call for a sound installation?
nbART: In Spring 2009 we launched an Open Call for our kick-off project, the India Street Mural Project, so this wasn’t our first time. Although we don’t always begin projects with open calls, we like to use them as a tool that encourages partnerships and helps create early buzz about a project – even before it’s selected! Since nbART was founded, we’ve worked with murals, lights, and fabric. For our next installation, we knew that we wanted to work with sound, and that we wanted to put that idea of sound into the minds of local artists and see what exciting projects they could envision for our open spaces. We invited Brooklyn-based artists to select a site in Greenpoint, Williamsburg or Bushwick and propose a sound installation there that 1. considers the historical, social, and political atmosphere of North Brooklyn’s community; and 2. engages the public as a critical project component. We are very pleased with the results of that process. An expert panel with representatives from organizations like Creative Time, UnionDocs and 601artspace selected a proposal by Brooklyn-based artist Nick Yulman. Nick’s project begins with the collection of relevant oral histories from around the neighborhood, and then uses sounds and themes from those stories to create music and robotics out of locally scavenged materials. The end result will be a series of installations on 4-5 construction fences in North Brooklyn that will create serendipitous encounters for passersby, and invite them to engage with the community’s past while standing at the sites of its developing future.

Brooklyn-based artist Nick Yulman
Aiop: It is nice to hear your group is creating a water station for out NYC marathoners this November. How did this come about? Will this become a tradition?
nbART: We’re not creating a water station for the NYC Marathon, but we are supporting a local group called the North Brooklyn Runners (NBR) by seeking volunteers to help them man their station. nbART is a community-based organization and loves to partner with other community organizations, whether arts-focused or not. In North Brooklyn especially, the creative sector crosses fields, from art to food and, in this case, to running. What our two organizations have in common is the desire to connect people to their North Brooklyn community: both nbART and NBR are Steering Committee members of the Open Space Alliance and advise the organization on how the community interacts with its public parks and spaces.
Aiop: As a group about public art, tell us more about your recent collaboration with LMCC about laws governing temporary public art.
nbART: We love the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, support the work they do, and are honored that they chose to highlight our organization at their recent workshop, “Making Temporary Public Art & Performance: What Artists Need to Know.” We wanted to spread the word about the program to artists in our network, and felt it presented an excellent opportunity for artists to hear some of the challenges in creating public art and learn about ways around some of those obstacles. LMCC has a wealth of experience and resources and we are hoping some of that knowledge reached Brooklyn artists.
Aiop: What does the future hold for nbART?
nbART: Throughout this fall nbART is focusing on two main things: producing its upcoming sound installation with artist Nick Yulman, and developing our Board of Directors. In the immediate future, we will reach out to community members and begin to record their stories. We are looking for owners of the neighborhood’s long-standing businesses; neighborhood characters; and residents who revel in neighborhood quirks and legends. We are also looking for sponsors and partners in bringing this project to the public this spring. Anyone who has a story to tell, or who knows of someone with an interesting story should email me at kdenny@nbART.org.
As a small organization that is fiscally sponsored by tax-exempt organizations, we are also looking to move into the next stage of organizational growth. So we are currently seeking to develop our Board and become incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
Aiop: Any last words for Art in Odd Places?
nbART: You all produce a great festival! And as a fellow organization that focuses on the use of public space we are huge fans of AiOP’s mission and the work you do. I also read your recent interview with David Koren and wanted to give a shout out to FIGMENT – those guys are amazing!!!

Thank you nbART and keep us posted with your future events!

To get more information about nbART, visit www.nbart.org or follow them via twitter (twitter.com/nbkpublicart).

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