Brooklyn Boro

Red Hook art show features 100 artists in pre-war warehouse ravaged by Sandy

July 19, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
Installation begins. Photo courtesy of Alicia Degener

The work of 100 New York City artists will be on display for three weekends, starting Saturday, inside a historic 25,000-square-foot Red Hook warehouse.

The seasonal pop-up is the brainchild of two of the city’s largest artist-run organizations — the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition and ChaShaMa — and promises to be an “epic” showcase of “Brooklyn art now” in a building brimming with history.

“These two organizations are very near and dear to my heart,” said Bay Ridge artist Alicia Degener, the show’s curator.

She’s been a member of BWAC — the borough’s oldest artist-run gallery — for a decade. In recent years, ChaShaMa — a nonprofit that provides artists with affordable gallery space by transforming unused real estate into creative spaces — helped her find her work a new home.

“The artists represent many different visual practices — from photography, printmaking and sculpture to an amazing array of site-specific installations,” Degener told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The work, she said, is as varied as the summer itself — “from breezy and fun to curious and challenging” — and it’ll all be featured in a space as storied as the pieces.

481 Van Brunt St., the pre-Civil War warehouse home to BWAC’s two-floor gallery, housed the Beard and Robinson Stores in the ’70s and survived Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Degener told the Eagle that the waterfront warehouse submerged in over 12 feet of water after the 2013 storm. In its early years, the building was used to store grains and other shipping goods. Today, much of its original beams remain and coffee and cocoa beans can still be found in the cracks of the original floorboards.

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Its resiliency and roots are symbolic to the exhibit’s artists, Degener said.

“The resiliency of the building and BWAC go hand-in-hand,” she said. “After Sandy, folks came by in droves to help us clean up and rebuild. They donated all the supplies we needed. They were strangers but selflessly gave time and money to get us back on our feet.”

Degener compared that kindness to that which has been given to her through BWAC and ChaShaMa.

“When I was laid off from my retail job of 15 years in 2010, I decided to finally pursue my art career,” she said. “BWAC was the first place that gave me an affordable place to exhibit my work and offer the support of an artistic community.

Now, she’s happy to help other artists exhibit their work.

The summer show is also indicative of how far BWAC has come, Degener said. More than 40 years ago, when BWAC was founded, “only artists who faced the water could belong. If you faced the street you were excluded from joining,” she explained, “and in the beginning, it was a one-day pop-up exhibit, just for exposure — not to make sales.”

“For years, the venue changed to wherever they could exhibit,” Degener added. But today, it has a permanent home on Van Brunt Street, where, starting Saturday, the Summer Pop-Up Exhibit will draw crowds.

The gallery is open on weekends from 1-6 p.m, and the exhibit ends Sunday, Aug. 4.

There will be an opening reception and an opportunity to meet the artists this Saturday, where Brooklyn artist Johnny Gross will also create a live, on-site painting and sound performance.

Correction (July 20 at 8:30 a.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly dated Superstorm Sandy. The mistake has been corrected. The Eagle regrets this error.

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2 Comments

  1. beverins

    Too bad it was a Heat Emergency Day.

    While nothing in the article is false, the headline sure makes it seem like this show is the first one in this space since Hurricane Sandy. I suppose it gets the clicks.