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Anonymous Bushwick Arts Festival Plans to Hold an Open Studio Event in June, Garners Strong Reaction

An anonymous organization called the Bushwick Arts Festival set up a website and Facebook page at the end of February—and immediately found itself at the center of a controversy

Images from Bushwick Open Studios 2013.

An anonymous organization called the Bushwick Arts Festival set up a website and Facebook page at the end of February—and immediately found itself at the center of a controversy.

The Bushwick Arts Festival pages appeared after news broke that local organization Arts in Bushwick scheduled its annual Open Studios event for October, as opposed to the first weekend in June. Bushwick Arts Festival states that it plans to hold open studio events on the first weekend in June, which is a weekend that Bushwick Open Studios has been scheduled for in the past (though Arts in Bushwick reminds the public that its Open Studios event was not always held in June).

Arts in Bushwick provided Bushwick Daily with the following statement:

"It's unfortunate, we have never heard of these people, and they built a website on February 26 without contacting any members of the Bushwick artist community or waiting to participate in the March 30 Town Hall Arts in Bushwick is hosting at Mayday Space. It sounds like whoever is behind it are not willing to work with our established arts community, but are creating a simulation of our community as a commercial space for outsiders and to prey on newcomers in the neighborhood who do not know the decade long history of Bushwick Open Studios.

We sincerely hope it's not connected to any of the commercial interests or tech companies who have recently tried to take advantage of the visibility BOS receives in the press - in recent years Livestream, Sugarlift and others have used our branding for paid events and sponsored content without explicit permission - as this factored into our decision to make June 5 our Community Day celebration to connect neighbors, shift our BOS dates to coincide with the Bushwick Film Festival in October, and give Bushwick artists the opportunity to also submit work for the popular FIGMENT festival, excellent participatory summer arts programming out on Governor's Island that was previously a major conflict for locals wanting to do both events."

An anonymous response to Bushwick Daily request for comment sent to the gmail account associated with the Bushwick Arts Festival website states "We also look forward to the October event, as well: two events are better than one! There's so much going on, it's impossible to see it all in one weekend, anyway!"

The anonymous Bushwick Arts Festival email response also noted that the organization is in dialogue with the Bushwick Collective, who plans to hold their annual block party at the beginning of June.

Bushwick Collective sources familiar with the exchange between BAF and the Collective tell Bushwick Daily that they have been in contact with the Bushwick Arts Festival, but that the Collective has decided not to continue discussion about collaboration. The Bushwick Collective also identify the BAF representative who reached out to them as Brandon Mickman.

As reported by DNAinfo, the website bushwickartsfestival.com is registered in Mickman's name. Another site registered in Mickman's name is local arts website Bushwick Bomb (here's the website's post about the Bushwick Arts Festival). Mickman has not responded to repeated requests for comment, and it's unclear who else may be involved.

"It will be interesting to see how this plays out and what the new organizers' vision is for this festival," Deborah Brown of Bushwick gallery Storefront Ten Eyck tells Bushwick Daily. "If it serves the artists in the neighborhood, there will be room for BAF. In the 10+ years that I have been involved in the arts in Bushwick, the scene has changed and grown immensely. It was inevitable that others would want to join and contribute to our community."

Stay tuned for further developments with this story—and we'll see you at the Arts in Bushwick Town Hall at Mayday Space on March 30th.

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