“You always have to go bigger,” said artist and cultural entrepreneur Peter Hopkins, announcing his exciting plans to turn the empty warehouse at 299 Meserole St into a cultural center of the East Williamsburg and Bushwick area. “Art schools, museums, cultural institutions… We have a chance to do things differently here in Bushwick,” he continued. 299 Meserole has announced its soft launch on May 14, and a plan to play a major role during the upcoming Bushwick Open Studios. The building will feature several exhibitions curated by local, as well as international galleries and VCU School of Art. Present will be also collections of zines, books, as well as feminist symposium on self-pleasure.
Peter Hopkins, who is directly responsible for bringing non-profit organization Momenta Art and other prominent galleries to 56 Bogart building and creating a space that NY Times calls the cultural center of Bushwick, told us that the owners of the building, invited him to help after they saw him curate the cultural contents of 56 Bogart. It seems that he is about to repeat the success story with the 25,000 sq foot huge warehouse located across the street from The Well/The Wick, and within walking distance from 319 Scholes and Newtown Radio.
“It is about projects, not art shows or traditional art fairs,” explained Peter Hopkins who is moving his own gallery, Art Helix, to the building in July. Hopkins does not want to repeat old concept of art and cultural entrepreneurship that we have seen in Chelsea and elsewhere in NYC, (“Let’s not just create a little safe Chelsea on Bogart Street”) but wants to create something completely new, a sustainable model of a cultural dialogue functioning on an international level. (“We have a chance to decide right now what Bushwick will become: an international cultural center or the next Williamsburg with its new developments.”) Peter Hopkins wants to embrace Bushwick for what it is, and invite art schools to the discussion. Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts is the first art school to accept this invitation. “We are hoping that the works of our alumni will be seen by people who are involved in cultural production in Bushwick,” Carlton Newton, professor and curator of an art show featuring VCU sculpture grads, told us. “Bushwick is viewed by our students as very hot,” Carlton continued. “Our students have been moving to Bushwick after graduation for about 10 to 12 years now because it is viewed as a place where community can happen,” Carlton named reasons why it is important for VCU to get exposure in Bushwick. “High density of artists makes Bushwick very attractive.”
Italian art critic Alessandro Berni and his partner Sarah Corona will spend three weeks at 299 Meserole presenting an exhibition called The Beginning of a New Era, which is a result of an international open call for artists. “We love [Peter Hopkins’] vision of the building at the 299 Meserole Street. In particular, we enjoy the idea of using contemporary art to re-open an abandoned industrial building,” Alessandro explained in an email.
Apart from international presence, the building will host also several Bushwick galleries and curators who will have a chance to curate an exhibition or to sponsor an artist on the walls of the building. “This won’t be a traditional art fair,” Peter explained the lack of art fair “booths.” He swears that you won’t see any white cubes in the building; on the contrary, the building will maintain its raw look, exposed bricks and tiles. Among confirmed Bushwick galleries and curators are Outlet Fine Art, Brooklyn Wayfarers, Katey Chapman, Jon Newman and Ben Godward.
To enhance the interdisciplinary discussions, Peter Hopkins has invited writers, libraries and magazines to take part of the space during BOS weekend. Mellow Pages, a small library recently opened at 56 Bogart, will have a presence in the building during BOS, and is also planning to move to 299 Meserole permanently.
“On Thursday night before the BOS weekend, we will host another Confronting Bushwick panel,” Peter Hopkins informed us. Talks on the future of Bushwick won’t be the only panel of the busy weekend. Flower Garden will be a sculptural and video installation and a feminist symposium on the subject of female self-pleasure. Eleven curators and artists will create a walkable garden in the yard to allow the viewer to sit and relax. “Women will have 20 minutes to utilize private rooms as they wish, they can masturbate if they want to,” Maya Meissner, the project manger of Flower Garden, explained. “Flower Garden is meant to create welcoming and playful environment, as opposed to secretive, dark and exclusive.”