Bay Ridge

Storefront Art Walk has artists, merchants teaming up

May 17, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Members of the Storefront Art Walk’s board of directors handed out maps to help visitors find the artworks. Eagle photos by Paula Katinas
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The Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) is doing double duty these days. In addition to boasting hundreds of shops and restaurants, the BID is now a sprawling art gallery, thanks to the Fifth Avenue Bay Ridge Storefront Art Walk (SAW), an exhibition in which artists work in collaboration with merchants to create artworks to display in store windows.

The seventh annual SAW opened on May 14 and will run until June 25, giving customers the opportunity to enjoy intriguing, humorous and thought-provoking works of art while doing their shopping.

Fifteen artists were selected by a panel to come up with works of art tailored to specific stores.

Sponsored by Bay Ridge Storefront Art Walk Inc., the art show can be seen in the front windows of stores on Fifth Avenue from Bay Ridge Avenue (69th Street) to 85th Street.

A ceremony took place outside the offices of Community Board 10 at 8119 Fifth Ave. to kick off the SAW on Saturday morning. Members of SAW’s board of directors handed out maps to help shoppers find the store windows containing works of art. And the artists stood outside the stores to discuss their works with curious shoppers.

Shoppers peering in the front window of Long’s Wines and Liquors at 7917 Fifth Ave. could see Kara Daving’s sculpture of an island made up of plastic items one might floating in the ocean. The ocean floor is filled with empty liquor bottles. Daving told the Brooklyn Eagle that her environmental artwork depicts how artificial eco-systems have been created in the sea. The work is meant to “start a conversation” about the environment, she said.

The so-called “kit houses” of the early 20th century were Emily Bicht’s inspiration for the sculptures she created for the window of Fillmore Real Estate at 7913 Fifth Ave. Kit houses, also known as mail-order houses, were sold in Sears and Roebuck catalogues in the early years of the last century. A customer would literally buy a home out of a kit made up of building parts that Sears and Roebuck delivered to them in the mail.

Bicht built small-scale models of kit houses and called her artwork “Dream Homes.” It was her commentary on the “do it yourself” esthetic that existed 100 years ago, as well as her view of the housing market today. “In New York City today, the dream of home ownership is an impossible dream for many people,” she said.

Over at Step Into Stride at 7725 Fifth Ave., sculptor Kate Rusek attempted to take one of her 3-D sculptures made of window blinds and translate it into two-dimensional space — a painting in the front window.

Joseph Shahadi was assigned to create an artwork for the window of Galaxy Comics at 6823 Fifth Ave. He came up with an interesting concept that paid tribute to comic books, while at the same time served as a commentary on American political discourse.

Using the comic book “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” as his inspiration, Shahadi painted dozens of speech bubbles containing dire warnings such as “Run!” “We’re Doomed,” and “It’s the end of the world” in the window, incorporating the actual fonts a reader would find in the comic book. “We are living in troubling times, but I also wanted to make the point that in this presidential election year, you have candidates who are adding to the anxiety people feel by hyping the danger so that it seems insurmountable,” he told the Eagle.

John Avelluto, a co-founder of SAW, said the goal of the exhibition is to bring art and commerce together and to raise awareness of Bay Ridge as a haven for artists. Avelluto worked with SAW co-founder Heather Hamilton, owner of Long’s Wines and Liquors, to come up with the concept for the art show.

While communities like Williamsburg are famous for attracting artists to live and work there, Bay Ridge is becoming a place for artists, too, Avelluto said. “There are a lot of talented artists living in Bay Ridge. It was just crazy to me that there were no art outlets,” he told the Eagle.

Avelluto and other board members called for more financial support for the arts in Bay Ridge. He cited a study from the Center for Brooklyn Studies which found that Bay Ridge receives on average 31 cents per person in public funding for the arts. The average for Brooklyn is $3.81 per person, Avelluto said.

Still, even with little in the way of public funding, Avelluto said SAW has grown tremendously over the past seven years. The Internal Revenue Service granted Bay Ridge Storefront Art Walk Inc. nonprofit 501-C3 status, a move that allows the organization to raise funds and expand its mission.

SAW is also sponsored by the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, the Arab American Association of New York, Bubbles & Suds Laundromat, the Red Hook Winery, Six Point Brewery and Susanna Williams. The event receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts administered through the Brooklyn Arts Council.

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