Thursday, June 2, 2016


The Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend in New York was much hotter than normal. Those going to the beach probably thought it was perfect holiday weather. Those of us forced to keep our clothes on were maybe a little less enthusiastic. Still, I wasn't going to let the heat stop my plan of visiting one the greatest outdoor art museums most people don't even know exists. Bushwick is a section of Brooklyn known for most of its history as a working class neighborhood where metal welders and small manufacturers set up shops in windowless one-story buildings with rolling metal garage doors the only way in.
Joseph Ficalora grew up in the area, his immigrant father, Ignazio having opened a steel fabrication business in one of the shops for which Bushwick was famous. The streets of Bushwick back in the nineties when Joe was a kid were much different than they are today. There wasn't much to look at, vandalism, crime and refuse were a way of life. In 1991, Joe's dad on his way home from his shop was murdered for the few dollars he was carrying in his wallet and a gold chain he had around his neck.
Joe took over the business but for twenty years wrestled with the negative impression of the neighborhood he called home. In 2011 after the death of his mother he decided to do something about it.
Local graffiti and tags littered Jefferson and Troutman Streets and St. Nicholas Avenue. Once 5Points was scheduled to be painted over, demolished and turned into condos it was Joe's idea to go around to other business owners in his depressed part of Brooklyn.
He asked them if they'd be okay letting some of these artists come in and use the exterior walls of their shops as a canvas to create their art .
I don't know if this was a chicken-egg situation. I'm not sure if the transformation of Bushwick to a popular new neighborhood was due to Ficalora's idea or the influx of millennials looking for cheaper housing.
whichever the result is the Bushwick Collective, an outdoor art museum that is constantly changing.
Every corner of this section of Bushwick that is now also peppered with amazing restaurants and shops alongside the same manufacturers that have been there for decades
now has art created by graffiti artists from around the world.
Art by some of the most famous names in this genre: Sheryo & Yok, Zimad, Sipros, Crash, Icy & Sot and Sticks can be seen vibrantly shaking the walls with color, inspiration and social challenges.
There's a block party scheduled for June 3-5
where some of these artists will be creating new pieces extending or over-painting older work.
There is such energy here through this art that is at once temporal,
and socially and politically provocative.
If the weather is anything like that first Saturday of Memorial Day weekend bring an umbrella or load up on plenty of sunscreen. The streets of Bushwick unfortunately don't come air-conditioned.
Images from many of the artists along Troutman, Jefferson and St. Nicholas

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