It only requires a short walk down the streets of Bushwick for a pedestrian to encounter the murals in this Brooklyn community. A creative invasion of art has swept over this once economically depressed neighborhood. An army of artists, armed with paintbrushes and spray paint cans, went to work on the sides of dilapidated buildings to create an explosion of color in this once grey and bleak environment. Navigating these streets is like moving through a low to the ground technicolor firework show. Richard and Chris were our tour guides as we roamed the unfamiliar streets marveling at the quality of the paintings displayed on the brick and mortar canvases throughout the neighborhood. When Rooster showed our son his list with Bushwick as one of the adventures he wanted to take, Richard said, “Excellent choice.” A trip to New York City should include the Bushwick experience if you enjoy looking at art. The open-air gallery concept is so original and unique; it makes the trip to the area an adventure to remember.
Local Businesses use street art to advertise what they sell inside or offer as a service.
It’s the sort of place where you want to walk into the paintings and become a part of the works of art.
The Dutch founded the farming community of Boswijck in 1638. It fell under the British Crown in 1683. A name change was required to make it sound more English. By 1860, the area was industrialized. It was where all sorts of products were manufactured as varied as chemicals and glass. The community became primarily German by the 1860s. Fourteen breweries occupied a fourteen-block area known as Brewer’s Row soon after this new wave of immigration. These breweries closed their doors by 1976. The high cost of production compelled them to relocate to other places. The economy in the Brooklyn community collapsed. Drugs and violence-plagued the neighborhood after the rioting caused by the New York City blackout in 1977. Business and middle-class residents moved to other parts of the city. The future for Bushwick looked bleak.
The Brooklyn community has experienced a revival since the year 2000 due to the Bushwick Intuitive. The Bushwick Collective is responsible for a great deal of the positive transformation. Joe Ficalora curates this movement in street art and graffiti done in bold painted designs and displayed on the sides of buildings. He grew up in Bushwick. He came up with the idea of looking out on his drab surroundings when he was a kid and imagined a way to change his environment into an explosion of color. Tourists are now venturing to the community to see the magnificent artwork lining the streets. I hope that they are bringing their money with them. We spent more of our traveling budget while we walked the streets of Bushwick than we did anywhere else in the city. (Rooster splurged on an old camera. I will talk about this fantastic find in a future blog.)
Even the people we encountered walking the street wore extravagant colors with style. Rooster persuaded one young man to stop so he could snap a picture. We spent a couple hours meandering down the sidewalk, experiencing one spectacular mural after another. I don’t believe we saw half of the art included in the display, but I think we witnessed some of the best pieces. I’ve heard they have tours, but we didn’t run across one while we were there. The advantage of taking one of these is the information and insight your guide could give you about the artwork and the local history.
I have a few suggestions for people traveling to Bushwick. You should take the number seven train or call an Uber. Having a car in the area would only congest the streets. If you can come on a weekday during late morning or early afternoon hours, you would cause less congestion for people trying to commute home from work. Spend money at local restaurants and businesses. It will help with the continued economic growth of this community.
Now that Bushwick is becoming a tourist attraction, there are fear corporations will rent the side of buildings to place advertising to sell their brands. It would become a Times Square without the electronic billboards. I feel this would take away from the quality of the art on display. It might even hinder this community’s financial growth. Having gaudy advertising mixed in with the art would profit no one except the corporations and the people who own the buildings. I would hope these businesses would sponsor local artists and, in that way, promote the product they are attempting to sell to the people by working with the local residents. They might be able to sponsor the art while still bringing attention to the products they are trying to sell. An excessive amount of commercialism will spoil this creative environment.
We suffered a slight amount of sensory overload as we ambled the narrow sidewalks of Bushwick. There were so many sights to see, processing all the beautiful art was hard to take in on a single trip. Rooster and I both agreed it was worth making the trip to this Brooklyn neighborhood. It was one of our favorite experiences in New York City. I hear they have a festival in June. Now that would be an excellent adventure. We might have to make a return visit to Bushwick.