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New York

Broke in Bushwick
by Natalie Hegert

For the past few years the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick has been lauded as the new destination for artists in New York.  A few stops down on the L-train, in the rent-reduced shadow of neighboring Williamsburg, Bushwick was classified in the New York Times as the "next neighborhood."   That was in 2006--and in 2010 it still feels rather gritty, a commercial landscape consisting of mostly industrial warehouses, 99 cents stores, interspersed with literal hole-in-the-wall retailers selling cheap accessories,  sidewalk empanada stands operating out of shopping carts, and discount clothing stores.  It's a far cry from the boutiques on Bedford Ave.

"I love it--it feels like the Mission District in San Francisco," said artist Kottie Paloma at the opening to his solo show at Booklyn in Greenpoint.  Originally from San Francisco, Kottie recently returned to the States from a year-long stint living and working in Berlin, and has now settled in Bushwick where he's admittedly become addicted to the 99 cents store on Knickerbocker Ave at Jefferson (though it's difficult to tell exactly which 99 cents store he's referring to since the entire street is lined with them).  Walking down Knickerbocker, or any of the main drags in Bushwick, you'd be hard pressed to find evidence of this apparently thriving arts scene people keep talking about.  The artists are here, we know that, but where do we find them?

Besides the industrial parts of Bushwick around Morgan Avenue, the neighborhood consists mostly of graceless row houses of railroad style apartments, not the charming brownstones for which Brooklyn is famous.  But it's tucked into these unassuming streets that you find these surprising spaces--not so many galleries in a strict sense of the word, but versatile art and performance spaces like Starr Space, which offers yoga classes alongside its calendar of film screenings and parties; non-profit theaters like the Bushwick Starr; studio-gallery complexes like 3rd Ward, and gallery spaces carved from private homes like Sugar.

(Winter Group Show opening at 3rd Ward)

I'm still a relative newcomer to the area, so I'm learning as I go along, and hoping to discover more art in my immediate surroundings rather than hopping on the metro to wander around stuffy Chelsea every weekend.  Our list here is by no means all-inclusive and who knows, some of these spaces might even be closed (Starr Space?), and more will inevitably pop up here and there, but here are some notables: English Kills, 3rd Ward, Storefront, Centotto, Factory Fresh...


Besides galleries, these are other spots worth checking out: has a reliable culture calendar and great articles.

Tandem: You would never find this sleek bar/nightspot stashed away between apartment buildings on Troutman unless you knew about it.  DJ nights are a blast here.

Wreck Room: beer and shot special.  'Nuff said.

Angel's Fruit Market: a wonderful place for fresh produce, and one of the only places in the neighborhood to get good cheeses...

and all the wonderfully overflowing, labyrinth-like, temples of cheap--the 99 cents stores....


--Natalie Hegert

(photos by Natalie and Aaron Hegert)

Posted by Natalie Hegert on 2/19/10

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