A brick garage, with splintering wooden doors covered in layers of illegible graffiti, is nestled between iron fences and mostly ignored by pedestrians. It’s located on a busy Bushwick corner, across from a fire station which causes residents to hurry down the street, heads lowered and covering their ears.
What if this aging garage could become a free art exhibit? What if it was used to regain a sense of community in a safe way during the pandemic?apergirl-Brooklyn (PGBK) is a multi-site, interactive project that revisualizes these types of unused spaces to highlight cultural values and social issues through an audio-visual experience. Copies of original art are collaged and wheat-pasted in public spaces, with a QR code linking to a site-specific audio program. No original works are for sale and instead, volunteers distribute the art for free.
Founders of PGBK Annie Del Hierro and Sina Basila Hickey believe that if one stands before a wall of art while listening to conversations centering that space, one creates an intrinsic relationship with that neighborhood.
“We decided to install the exhibition outdoors and develop an audio program, Papergirl-Radio, that would explain the project and center resident voices” says Hickey.
Papergirl-Radio is utilized as a documentary in which listeners are introduced to eight Brooklyn neighborhoods through art discussions, community history, and local music. Each episode is themed to encompass prevalent issues such as sustainability, immigration, feminism, and activism. Bushwick, a neighborhood whose gentrification overshadows the culturally rich history of the area, focuses on the ramifications of art movements in low-income Black and Brown communities.
“We feel that everyone should have access to art and that it shouldn’t just be available in galleries or museums.” says Aisha Ronniger, who founded the original project Papergirl-Berlin in 2006.
Expanding on this idea, Hickey says that PGBK is a public art project “not only because they openly exhibit art, but because of their final action when they ride as a group to distribute the original artworks to unknowing passersby”. The dates will not be disclosed to the public as a way to keep art inclusive and accessible to all residents.
The wheat-pasted art works were submitted by local artists and are expositions on communities with diverse voices. The exhibits will be installed in increments through November 30 and will be found across Bushwick, Greenpoint, Red Hook, Bed-Stuy, Flatbush, East New York, Sunset Park, and Coney Island. Each site-specific episode of Papergirl-Radio will be released at the finish of each installation and can be listened to as a stand alone program. However, listeners are encouraged to visit each neighborhood, advocate for local artist initiatives, and support small businesses.
The Bushwick installation can be seen on the garage doors of the art community center, MayDay Space, on Himrod St. and St. Nicholas Ave. The Flatbush exhibit is installed on the wall of Cinco De Mayo Restaurant, on Cortelyou Rd. and Westminster Rd. Coney Island’s exhibit is displayed along Kensington Walk at MCU Park.
Updates on site installation dates and locations will be posted on the PGBK website. The artwork and audio program are also available, along with information on the contributing artists.
See below for more photos.
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