Brooklyn Museum GOs to the people to create community-curated open studio art exhibit

August 26, 2012 By Trudy Whitman For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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In 2011 City Council Member Brad Lander invited his constituents to take part in a participatory budgeting initiative in which citizens first identify community needs and then vote on which projects to fund, with $1 million set aside for the winning proposals.

The Brooklyn Museum has now taken up the approach with a future exhibition called GO: a community-curated open studio project.

The art that will eventually hang on the Brooklyn Museum’s venerable walls will be curated by us — anyone who registers on the GO website by Sept. 9 to visit studios on the weekend of Sept. 8-9 in order to view the art and nominate their favorite registered artists. Call it art 2.0.  

A museum press release dubs Brooklyn the “creative capital of the art world,” claiming that the borough is “home to more artists than anywhere else in the United States.” The assertion seems credible. The studio visits are designed to open communication between creators and their neighbors. Based on community nominations, Brooklyn Museum curators will mount an exhibition to open on Target First Saturday in December 2012 and run through Feb. 24, 2013. The works displayed will be culled from voters’ top ten artist picks.

Meri Bourgard, an artist who lives in Cobble Hill, and Margaret Cusack, a Boerum Hill artist, met in a neighborhood figure drawing group, where they discovered that both were linked to Pratt Institute. Bourgard attended as a graduate student and now teaches there, and Cusack was an undergraduate at the renowned Brooklyn art school.

Bourgard and Cusack’s allegiance to Pratt is strong, and when they learned that each had registered for the museum’s open studio project, they felt compelled to reach out to the greater Pratt community living and working in Brooklyn.

Forty-five Pratt-related Brooklyn artists responded to social media inquiries and other means of networking initiated by the two women, and the institution itself jumped all over the idea, promoting it in an announcement as an opportunity “to strengthen your professional practice by making new links and finding new audiences.” Everyone from current students, who will show their work in Pratt’s own studio spaces, to professors were energized by the concept.

Naturally, artists are also hoping that studio visits will generate sales.

“We were amazed by the outpouring of creative energy,” Meri Bourgard said during an interview with the two artists at Cusack’s home.

Over 1,800 artists registered to participate in the GO open studio weekend.

On the Go website,, one can find how many artists signed up for the open studio weekend from each of the 46 represented Brooklyn neighborhoods. Curious about my coverage area, I did a quick check on the easy-to-use website. Cobble Hill will be represented by 13 artists and Carroll Gardens by 17, while Boerum Hill comes in with a whopping 43 creative souls taking part in the open studio initiative!

Go: a community-curated open studio project has been organized by the Brooklyn Museum’s curator of exhibitions, Sharon Matt Atkins and its chief of technology, Shelley Bernstein. It is inspired by established programs — an annual publicly juried art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the tradition of open studio weekends held each year in several Brooklyn neighborhoods.

The website is updated continually, providing maps to help visitors chart their course for open studio weekend.

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