Pratt Students Open New Art Gallery in Bedford-Stuyvesant

By Paul DeBenedetto on March 15, 2013 3:07pm 

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A new gallery started by two graduate students at the Pratt Institute is opening in Bedford-Stuyvesant this weekend, and its owners hope they can showcase the neighborhood's diverse talent while bringing the arts to a community that's underserved.

And maybe score a good grade in the process.

The Bishop, whose grand opening is this weekend, was started by Pratt students Jackie Cantwell, 26, and Molly Myer, 27, as both a business venture and their graduate thesis at the school. The two plan on documenting the process of opening a gallery in an area underserved by the arts.

"I see a lot of great new shops and restaurants, and a really cool environment," Myer said of Bed-Stuy. "We're just hoping [to add] a really cool community space."

The roughly 1,500-square-foot space, tucked away behind the clothing shop BLKCARTEL at 916 Bedford Ave., will open at 7 p.m. on Friday with a show called Six Degrees of Separation, which showcases artists who have lived, gone to school in or taught in Richmond, Va., where Cantwell earned her bachelors degree at Virginia Commonweatlh University.

But despite the opening exhibit, Cantwell and Myer said they hope to use the space more as a showcase for contemporary local artists.

"We want to echo what's happening in the community," Cantwell said. "It's important to be something the neighborhood needs, and not open something without realizing what neighborhood we're in."

The two artists met and became friends at Pratt in 2011. Cantwell moved to New York to attend the school, while Myer, who has lived here for five years, moved to the city shortly after graduating Gettysburg College.

Before moving, Cantwell lived in Washington, D.C. where she had started Curating for a Cause, an organization that helped promote local D.C. artists. While there, she made friends with local gallery owners, including the Brooklyn-born owners of the Lamont Bishop Gallery.

The group helped Cantwell and Myer start up their own Bed-Stuy gallery, the young artists said, asking only that they honor the name of their mentor and teacher at the Institute for Student Achievement, Lamont Bishop.

Now, after 18 months of work that included help from friends, colleagues and professors, the Bishop is finally ready to open.

One of the goals, Cantwell said, is to a space where artists and art-lovers can go without pretension.

"We don't want to open some blue chip gallery, because this isn't Chelsea, and we're not trying to be Chelsea," Cantwell said. 'We want to be more of an incubator than a display case."

That mission ideally involves a rotating selection local projects, swapped out every few weeks. It also involves creating an outlet for kids in the community, including a four-week program where students can create a piece of artwork inspired by whatever the gallery is showcasing that month.

But for now, the two are more concerned with their own work, both preparing for Friday's show — which also features music by saxophonist Mario Castro — and completing their thesis, which is due in just a matter of weeks.

Asked what they've learned from the experience so far, the artists said the most important thing they've learned is to involve the local community.

"You have to work with the people around you and get to know your neighbors," Cantwell said. "It's a matter of making sure you're kind of a team player."

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