Summer, the season for free events in Brooklyn, may be officially over - but that's no reason to start hiding indoors.
This weekend's annual art celebration, Gowanus Open Studios, is one great reason to go out and enjoy the open air. Featuring more than 130 artists and 30 artists' spaces within roughly one square mile “packed with art,” Gowanus Open Studios brings to Brooklyn a unique artistic experience.
And it's totally free.
For fifteen years, Gowanus Open Studios has given the public a chance to view all sorts of unique works of art, created with various media and based on a world of different themes. Visitors have the chance to see up-and-coming artists' work and purchase pieces, sometimes very cheaply, and network and mingle with artists from all over the world.
Gowanus Open Studios also serves as an enriching opportunity. By opening artists' doors to the public, visitors have a chance to see them at work. “Watching the process" is a valuable learning experience for artists, newbies and anyone that wants to see art get made.
“One of the great things about the event is the range of art that you see – not just different kinds of art, but also the quality of the art,” said lead organizer and artist Mical Moser.
“But I think it's also really important to see that a lot of these people are working artists, who are just really down with the process of doing art as a practice – and how valuable that is,” she added.
Of course, the Gowanus is so much more than an artists' hub. The Gowanus' unique and rich history shows through in everything that happens there, and as artists take up residence in old buildings, converted warehouse spaces and abandoned factories, forgotten and derelict spaces come back to life, taking on new shapes and colors.
It's something non-artists rarely get to see. But at Gowanus Open Studios, these magical transformations happen in real time.
"One of the things that I always enjoy about seeing people's studios is seeing these spaces," said Moser. "It's fascinating to see – some of them are quite old."
Artist participation varies; some clean up their studios and make them viewable to the public, dressing them up and making a kind of "meet the visitor event." But some artists just continue working, said Mical.
"You can walk into a studio and just watch people doing their thing," she said.
The Open Studios event has gone by a few different names over the years, having been run by a number of different people. In addition to the name, this year highlights some important changes, especially in light of increasing migration out of the North Slope area by artists into more areas surrounding the Gowanus, due to pressure on artists by increasing rents as well as redevelopment. The Gowanus has become central to a major artist movement in Brooklyn, due in part to two of the main artists' buildings being closed to make way for new construction, including new residential and commercial developments.
"It's shifted," said Moser, "but there have been really interesting responses from artists and artist groups because of that."
But one thing that hasn't changed is the public's interest, stretching as far as to gain public attention oversees. This is integral to demonstrating the powerful pull of Brooklyn artist culture all around the world, and the appeal of the Gowanus in particular.
Moser sees this phenomenon occur at Open Studios, where many travel from as far as Europe, the U.K. and Asia to participate, as artists and spectators.
At the Open Studios, creating art becomes a lot more accessible. This is relevant especially for kids, who often miss out due to lack of art programs in schools. You not only get to see the process - of people creating art out of ceramics, painting on canvas and doing stranger things and creating works that are much more conceptual - but from start to finish, the experience is that much more tangible.
"In museums, you see art from people that are no longer alive," explained Moser.
This year's event will no doubt be huge - but there's no need to worry about getting overwhelmed. This year, there will be a central hub at Brooklyn Artists Gym, located on 7th street between Second and Third avenues. Here, there will be maps and visitor information, including where to find refreshments during the journey. The information hub will be open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
BAG will also be hosting an opening reception event featuring various artists, as will Sasaki Studio on Garfield Place. The Gowanus Print Lab will be participating as well, offering free silk-screening demonstrations.
There's a wealth of things to see, do and learn, and it's all open to the public - with no need to open your wallet. All you have to do is show up ready to take it all in, ready to be inspired.
“There's a lot going on,” said Moser.
The 15th annual Gowanus Open Studios is presented by the Annual Gowanus Artists Studio Tour (AGAST), a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization dedicated to artist events, and is on October 15 and 16 from noon to 6 p.m. The open studios stretch north to south from Bergen Street down 10th Street, and east from Sixth Avenue to Hoyt Street.