Spaces and Places: Art along the Brooklyn Waterfront
A Conference to Be Offered March 27, 2015 at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall
by BWRC and the Brooklyn Historical Society
Artists and their work have played and continue to play a pivotal role in the resurgence of the Brooklyn waterfront. James Rodgers of the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition wrote in the book that accompanied the coalition’s first “Open Doors” event in 1996 that, “Proximity to the mega art market systems of Manhattan and the generally more generous building sizes along…the waterfront go a long way in explaining why artists decided to settle here.” While that may have been true almost thirty years ago, the scene has shifted into a higher gear. In fact, this past spring, Martha Schwendener wrote in The New York Times that upon entering Brooklyn, “you’ve entered the belly of contemporary art. It’s our 19th-century Paris or 18th-century Rome, with one of the largest concentrations of artists in the world. Here, you’ll find both commercial galleries and nonprofit and artist-run spaces — and thousands upon thousands of places you can visit during open-studio weekends scattered throughout the year.” Brooklyn no longer looks over its shoulder to any place, especially across the East River. But there is more to this transformation.
The Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center, in partnership with the Brooklyn Historical Society, will present a conference that will explore the evolution of the way art has been made, shown, and sold along the Brooklyn waterfront. The conference will first offer an historical overview of art in the borough over the centuries, taking us to the recent past. It will then use panels to open a discussion among artists, gallery owners, art distributors, and those who, in one way or another, make spaces available for the “process of art.”
The focus of the conference’s three panels will be on the places where the process of art occurs—the making, showing, and distributing of art. The first panel will examine and discuss this central question: Where can artists practice their art? This question will lead the panel to explore the historical evolution of art spaces and what the future might hold. The second panel will look at the places—both public and private—where art can be shown. The third panel will examine the places art is distributed, through sales and other means.
While this conference cannot answer all questions, we hope to provide an atmosphere where questions about what Brooklyn waterfront art will look like, where this art will happen, and how can art, artists and art spaces survive – will be central to the day’s conversations. Not only the speakers, but all of us have a stake in the answers to these questions.