Artist Colony Grows in Greenpoint

By Meredith Hoffman on May 22, 2012 11:14am 

Amber Hany stood in her new studio space on Franklin Street in Greenpoint. She and 14 other artists will be working in the basement.
Amber Hany stood in her new studio space on Franklin Street in Greenpoint. She and 14 other artists will be working in the basement.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

GREENPOINT — After months of scouting overpriced studios in Bushwick while they painted in their living room with two other artists, Amber Hany and Jeff Gipe felt desperate.

That's when the couple stumbled upon a deal in an unexpected neighborhood.

"I feel a lot less restricted with my work here," said Hany, 27, inside her new, 3,000-square-foot Franklin Street basement space this weekend, where she arranged a colorful installation.

Gipe was several feet away, also using his sculpture skills to build them a wall in their DIY venue, which will soon be filled with 13 other artists, who are mostly past classmates from Manhattan's New York Academy of Art MFA program.

The couple had thought of Bushwick as the typical spot to create a makeshift studio, but they have been pleasantly surprised by the new neighborhood.

Currently, the group is refurbishing the space, installing curtains, and planning to host exhibits and critiques in the giant studio near Huron Street.

"We want to make it a community that gets people motivated," said Gipe, 27, who said he was inspired by a sustainable farm and arts commune near Woodstock called Drop Projects.

"Like you could write the most amazing book ever, but if you don't have a community's support it doesn't go anywhere."

Their idealism is helped by a practical reality — in their new space, they said each person's rent is only $1.20 per square foot, compared with at least $2 per square foot in Bushwick, where Gipe said he has seen rents shoot through the roof in the three years he's lived there.

For now, Gipe and Hany are still living in their Bushwick apartment, but Gipe said a studio space outside the neighborhood presented a chance to forge his own path.

"In Bushwick, with it being flooded with artists, you feel like you're drowning a little," said Gipe, who had rented a Bushwick DIY studio above the music and art center Xpo 929 (also called Party Xpo) on Broadway last year.

"Everybody is trying to do the same thing."

The trick, he said, was to do something different while maintaining a connection with fellow artists.

"It's hard to move on after you're out of the institution because you have that net while you're in it," said Gipe, a Colorado native who moved to the city when he started art school. "But working together, I think we'll be able to give each other the support everyone needs. It can be lonely being an artist."

This weekend, Gipe and Hany worked together in their new space, as members of the community trickled down into the basement with loads of materials. Gipe prepared the aluminum beams, dry wall and tracking for the walls, while Hany worked in her space where she does oil and encaustic painting, as well as printmaking.

"It’s going to be like a rebirth of ideas," Hany said. "We mostly all come from the same school, and we have a similar desire to depart from the tradition and regiment there. We're taking the community out of the institutional setting." 

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