Hidden Gallery Tells the 'Bed-Stuy Story' Through Photos
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — It's behind the vintage dresses and T-shirts, behind the furs and the neck ties.
Two artists and gallery owners are showcasing the imagery and history of Bed-Stuy through photographs in their new gallery, tucked into the back room of a local vintage boutique shop.
"Bed Stuy Story," a new exhibit curated by husband-and-wife team Kamau and Lesley Ware of the Warehouse Gallery, is a series of photos from various locations across the neighborhood, from high-rise luxury developments to low-income affordable housing.
"We wanted to do something more specially catered to the neighborhood," said Kamau Ware, as music from Notorious B.I.G. and scenes from Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" played in the background.
"It's more or less going to be a reserve of great photographs of Bed-Stuy."
Photographers can include their pictures in an "archive" of neighborhood photos that the gallery will keep updating past the exhibition's final day this Saturday.
The exhibit includes city-based photographers like B.O.A., Lisa Lewis, Brock Mills and Kamau Ware himself. Russell Frederick, who has been shooting in the neighborhood for almost two decades and whose work was recently featured on Slate, will soon be added.
The two fell in love with the shop while looking for gallery space in the neighborhood, where they live. With a focus on reasonably priced art, the couple said the space — a small room with wood-framed doors and painted walls — felt "affordable and cozy," more accessible than a typical gallery space.
That accessibility is reflected in the price. Art connoisseurs can expect to pay no more than $500 for a piece, a price-point Lesley Ware said less than other competing galleries.
"We wanted to create a space where there was a price-point for everyone," she said. "We're trying to get our generation and generations younger than us to make [art] part of the culture."
The shop was especially appealing to Lesley Ware, a designer who recently finished a children's book about style and fashion called "Sew Fab," set to come out later this year.
Shop owner Jessica Master, who has owned Miss Master's Closet for two-and-a-half years, likewise found the collaboration exciting.
"It's something I wanted to do myself," Master said. "We have such a strong fine art community, being near Pratt and being in Brooklyn in general, but there aren't a lot of places around to see these pieces by local artists, created in their own community."
In addition to showcasing local work, the Wares hope to become part of the Bed-Stuy "ecosystem," by reinvesting into the community. Ten percent of what they make from submissions — each artist pays $20 to submit their work for review — will be donated to a local community garden. The rest will go toward rent and maintaining the shop.
While it's a small start, the hope is that the gallery can become more prolific and make a larger local impact, Kamau Ware said.
"If we do well, the neighborhood gets a direct benefit," he said. "Just being financially successful isn't success, you know what I mean? We want to reinvest."