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Rival Arts Festival Aims to Replace Bushwick Open Studios in June

By Gwynne Hogan | March 7, 2016 1:44pm
 Bushwick Arts Festival will take place on June 3-5.
Bushwick Arts Festival will take place on June 3-5.
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Bushwick Arts Festival;

BUSHWICK — Organizers of a decade-old, neighborhood-wide art walk that was recently pushed back from June to October to quell its party atmosphere, are frustrated that a new spring open studio festival has popped up to replace it.

The Bushwick Arts Festival will take place on June 3-5, the same weekend that Arts in Bushwick's "Bushwick Open Studios" claimed for most of a decade.

"Due to strong interest of artists in having a June-based opportunity to share their art with the public, BAF aims to provide a new opportunity for a large scale open studios event," according to its website. "The primary purpose of this event is to give artists an opportunity to promote their art as well as network and communicate with the art world and the public."

News of a rival arts festival annoyed Arts in Bushwick organizers who said they reached out roughly 20 artists and organizers in their network who hadn't been contacted about the upcoming festival.

"They slapped together a website last week without contacting any members of the artist community," a statement from Arts in Bushwick. "It sounds like whoever is behind it are not willing to respect or work with our established arts community of over 1,200 local artists."

While the new festival's website says the event is hosted "100% by local artists" the organizers aren't specifically named. The website domain that went live on Feb. 24 was registered to Brandon Mickman, who couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Setting itself apart from the Bushwick Open Studios that restricted participation to local artists in 2014, Bushwick Arts Festival will be open to artists from all over, according to its website.

"Unlike previous open studios events in the neighborhood, BAF will not exclude artists that do not reside or work in Bushwick."

Arts in Bushwick organizers announced in late February that Bushwick Open Studios, the neighborhood-wide art crawl that draws in thousands annually, would be pushed back from June to October so it would coincide with Bushwick Film Festival and to tone it down a notch.

"The atmosphere of BOS in 2015 crossed over from festive to chaotic," said Nicole Brydson, of Arts in Bushwick, which has run the Open Studios since 2006. "It would be the only way to get back to AiB's roots and refocus the event on the artists who live and work in the community everyday."

Symptomatic of how the event had gotten out of hand at times, Deborah Brown, the owner of Storefront Ten Eyck Gallery, said that some of her gallery's outdoor sculptures had been vandalized in broad daylight.

"That was kind of a symbol of a different group of people that were coming out that didn't have any interest in the art...Who would do that?" she said. "I think there was a different element to it that was disrespectful."

Brown, who's been connected to the Bushwick arts community for twelve years, said a second open studio event could help out local artists, though it would be hard to tell until the organizers revealed a little more about themselves.

"Maybe it'll be of great service to the arts community," said Brown. "We just have to see what their intentions are."

Organizers of Bushwick Arts Festival didn't respond to a request for comment.