On the first Saturday of every month from now through October, art enthusiasts can take a free, self-guided tour of the art galleries around Bed-Stuy. According to organizer Joseph C. Grant, Jr., Ambassador of Arts & Culture for local NYC Councilman Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., The Bed-Stuy Art Walk is designed to help generate interest in the neighborhood's art scene, as well as foster a sense of community among local artists and art enthusiasts, including curators and prospective collectors.
The Bed-Stuy Art Walk Gallery Guide, which is printed each month, provides a map of the participating galleries, plus a featured article about an historic or a contemporary figure whose art “touched” Bed-Stuy in some lasting way. This year, The Art Walk’s organizers have also expanded the guide to accommodate an increasing demand for ad space – as The Art Walk catches on, an ever-growing roster of local businesses are starting to recognize the value of getting involved.
The Art Walk's new Gallery Guide was useful, allowing me to plan out my route beforehand. So I set out early Saturday afternoon by walking straight down Bedford Ave, starting from Myrtle, to see what was happening at the three galleries en route to Restoration Plaza on Fulton.
Right before I hit Willoughby Ave, I stopped in at The Bishop Gallery, a venue whose co-founders had, at a previous visit, expressed their commitment to making art accessible across the community, and to organizing shows that reflect a distinctly Brooklyn flavor.
Their current exhibition, which runs through May 30th, is called Colored Me Bad, and is a compilation of works by artist Zeph Farmby. Farmby’s large-scale works use powerful iconography and vibrant colors to provoke conversations around the Black experience, and inspire awareness of issues – the “ugly truths” – that lie just below the radar of mainstream social consciousness. Farmby’s style is informed by both formal artistic training and street art sensibilities; and, while his pieces are deliberate in their use of concrete, identifiable imagery, they are still largely conceptual in their intent.
Further down Bedford Ave, I made a quick left on Lexington to visit Sanctuary Gallery. Featured artist at this venue is Susan Varo, a Queens-based artist who earned her Bed-Stuy renown last year in a solo exhibition honoring legendary performer Michael Jackson. Many of the same works in oil are on display this year, but with the addition of an especially expressive piece, entitled Even Badder.
A number of her works in abstraction, which have already made appearances around Queens, are also on display at Sanctuary this month. Paintings like the ones below explore the behavior of abstract patterns within the outline of a recognizable shape.
The works of textile artist and weaver Ella Murray are also on display at Sanctuary Gallery this month. Murray, who was recently inducted as a member of the African American Design Archive division of the Smithsonian, describes her work as “representative of close family ties and relationships to the past”.
Further down Bedford Ave, between Putnam and Madison avenues, is The Bedford-Stuyvesant Museum of African Art, a first-floor space filled from floor to ceiling with authentic pieces – masks, statues, busts – used in various ceremonies and rituals around different parts of Africa. The museum is actually part of a not-for-profit organization spearheaded by Executive Director and Founder Vira Jones, who procures the pieces herself.
Jones has a few initiatives in the works, including plans for expanding to a second space, as well as securing a partnership with a museum in Brazil interested in exhibiting a selection of the works on display in Bed-Stuy. Jones also intends to increase visibility for the museum online by posting photographs and videos of her extensive collection on her website. Be sure to check in later this summer: www.bedstuymuseum.org.
Although I wasn’t able to visit any of the other venues that day, I had taken a tour in March of the works on display at Skylight and Welancora galleries, both of which are participating in The Bed-Stuy Art Walk this summer. The two venues are holding a concurrent group exhibition, The Art of HERstory: Dreaming While Awake, which runs through mid-June. Click here to read about it in amNY.
The next Bed-Stuy Art Walk will be held Saturday June 4th. Check in with Facebook beforehand to download the Gallery Guide.
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