From classmates to co-curators: Pratt duo opens Bed-Stuy gallery

April 26, 2013 By Samantha Samel Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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What began as a school project soon turned into The Bishop – a new gallery and project space in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, opened just last month by co-directors Jackie Cantwell and Molly Myer. The two Brooklyn-based artists met just last year as graduate students at Pratt, and put their heads (and good eyes) together quickly to create an arts and cultural center in Bed-Stuy.

The Bishop is committed to showcasing elements of the local community and aims to draw from Bed-Stuy’s history and diversity. In addition to curating art exhibitions, Cantwell and Myer hope to use their space to promote philanthropic activities and educational workshops.

The Bishop opened on March 15 with a group exhibition titled “Six Degrees of Separation.” The show highlighted human connectedness and was inspired by the inception of the gallery itself. soon after Cantwell and Myer met – through an elevator speech assignment – a friend of Jackie’s mentioned to her that his family had a space in Bed-Stuy that might be suitable for a gallery.

Neither Cantwell nor Myer is originally from Brooklyn – Cantwell grew up outside of D.C. and Molly grew up in Maine – but both have come to find Brooklyn a wonderfully supportive environment for artists. Myer, who moved to New York about five years ago, first lived in Manhattan, which she found overwhelming. “When I finally moved to Brooklyn I realized I could really live here for a while,” Myer told Brooklyn Eagle. “Brooklyn has such a great vibe, great food, and the community feel that I was used to in Maine.”

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Cantwell, too, has grown to love Brooklyn since moving here two years ago. “I’ve never felt more at home than I do here in Brooklyn. I live in Bushwick and spend most of my time in Bed-Stuy near the gallery where I see a lot of familiar faces, shop owners are actually in their business’ working, and the energy is alive and awesome. I love it here,” she told the Eagle.

The artists feel fortunate to have found a home for The Bishop in Bed-Stuy and have quickly forged connections with the surrounding community. Nearby business have invited them to leave flyers to promote their gallery, and the women continue to meet emerging artists and students at local coffee shops.  “We’ve kept our doors open for ideas and they have been pouring in! We are also available for rentals, which has resulted in a flood of emails from local artists looking to show, bands looking to rehearse, music festivals looking for a venue, teachers looking to hold classes, and the list goes on. Everyone we’ve spoken to has been extremely supportive to us and what we are doing,” Cantwell and Myer said. 

Despite their devotion to The Bishop, both women are still Pratt students working toward finishing their Master’s, and both have full-time jobs aside from the gallery. While they say it has been challenging to manage the daily operations of the space, Cantwell and Myer are grateful for the opportunities and resources they’ve been awarded as students. “Unbelievably, around the same time the possibility of opening a space became a reality,  we were being asked to choose a topic for our thesis – so naturally the Bishop became our thesis and our thesis became the Bishop,” they told the Eagle. 

While their premier show closed on Thursday, Cantwell and Myer are already hard at work preparing for their next exhibition, “FLEET,” which will open Friday, May 3rd, at 7 p.m. FLEET will highlight 4-5 artists in The Bishop space, each of whom will take over a large portion of the gallery to assemble and present their fleet of objects.  “We really want each group to read as a unit that is possibly working together to defend or support one another, even if in the most awkward or minimal way. We also think this will provoke some great visual possibilities and perhaps provide the viewer with a playful banter of sorts,” said Cantwell and Myer.

The women solicit new works through a variety of ways. They are active on social media outlets, where they gain support and publicity, and they also welcome different kinds of proposals from children’s art shows to a guest curated exhibition by MFA students at Pratt. Their two upcoming shows, “FLEET” and a benefit show for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, “Curating for a Cure,” both have/had open calls for art.

While The Bishop is less than two months old, Cantwell and Myer have already demonstrated their unwavering commitment to maintaining the space as a community gem and haven for artistic innovation.  

The Bishop is located at 916 Bedford Avenue in Bed-Stuy and is open Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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