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Myrtle Ave. Storefronts Get Artistic Makeover with 'Window Gallery' Project

By Janet Upadhye | June 14, 2012 11:49am
"Mindscape" by Harvey Wilson hangs in the Window of Thai 101 on Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene.
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DNAinfo/Janet Upadhye

FORT GREENE — A stretch of Myrtle Avenue has been temporarily transformed into an open-air gallery as part of a project to promote art along the formerly gritty strip.

Art pieces are currently on display in 10 retail windows along a three-block stretch of the thoroughfare between Clinton Avenue and Hall Street, including a barbershop, jiu jitsu studio and Chinese restaurant.

"It gives people who wouldn’t necessarily go to a gallery the opportunity to see art," said artist Betsy Ely, whose drawings hang in the window of Connecticut Muffin at 423 Myrtle Ave. "Now people can see my work as they get their morning coffee."

The Myrtle Windows Gallery project was born out of a partnership between South of the Navy Yard Artists and Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership as a way to revitalize the stretch, which is still dotted with bodegas and liquor stores but now includes more upscale retail shops.

Participating artist Harvey Wilson, who has been living in Fort Greene for more than 15 years, explained that Myrtle Ave was a very dangerous place to hang out when he moved into the neighborhood, partly because it was hidden under elevated train tracks.

"When they tore down the railway, Myrtle came out of the shadows," he said. "It was like a group of naked people emerging from the dark at noon, exposing every nook and cranny."

Now, Wilson is proud of the way the neighborhood is becoming a center for arts and culture, with several new art organizations and studios moving into the neighborhood. However, he is disappointed there are currently no art galleries in Fort Greene.

"But there is a shift occurring," Wilson said. "Soon, I think some major players in the art world will be opening galleries here."

The project offers a unique way for local artists to display their work — from the windows of decidedly non-art spaces, like a Thai restaurant.

The display started in 2008, when local artist Anne Lafond approached the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership with the idea to showcase her work from a commercial window.

The partnership liked the idea and called the Pratt Design Incubator to ask if it would create a wall-hanging to separate the art from the store in the window.

The Navy Yard-based company came up with the idea of a hanging curtain with see-through holes that would allow customers to peer into the business while still creating an autonomous space for the artwork.

South of the Navy Yard Artists curated this year's show, choosing up to 10 artists to participate, including Wilson, whose work was chosen to hang in the window of Thai 101 at 455 Myrtle Ave.

"These business are like a little black dress wearing a bright sparkling accessory on the front," said the artist, a former Pratt student and Massachusetts native.

"People turn to look."