The Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick has been transformed recently by an influx of street art thanks to the Bushwick Collective.
My first job out of college was teaching fourth grade in a bilingual classroom in Bushwick Brooklyn. It was public school and I had to walk five or six blocks through a rough neighborhood to get to work each day. There were sketchy neighbors and one time a teacher’s car window was broken when he came out of the building. Needless to say, things have changed a lot over the past 10 years. Now one of the new “hipster” areas, Bushwick is filled with underground art spaces and indie concerts. So it’s very much a neighborhood worth checking out.
The Bushwick Collective is a big part of the neighborhood’s renaissance giving artists a new place to paint. “There’s nowhere to paint in Manhattan, so the Bushwick Collective gives all those people that come a spot to be up in New York, which is kind of everyone’s dream,” said The Yok (an Australian artist with a mural in Bushwick). And just like that, the Bushwick Collective seems to have filled the streets of this once doubtful neighborhood with brightly colored murals.
The project began with Joseph Ficalora, a life-long resident of the neighborhood who had seen some tough times, losing both of his parents to violence and illness. The neighborhood held a lot of bad memories for Ficalora and he decided to turn that around with the street art project. Ficalora emails artists from around the world and offers them space with a few simple rules: nothing offensive and no politics. The artists are not paid, and the building owners donate their wall space. There was a lot of interest right from the start.
The initiative launched around the same time that the famous 5 pointz building in Queens was shut down as a place known for graffiti artists. In fact, the Bushwick Collective was originally known as Bushwick Five Points for the intersection in the center of the area, but they didn’t want to be confused with the building in Queens. As you walk around the neighborhood you’ll see works by well-known street artists including Pixel Pancho, Alice Pasquini, and Hellbent. There are a wide variety of styles in close proximity, so it’s a great place to get a feel for the pulse of street art.
It’s easy to find the Bushwick Collective. Just catch the subway from Manhattan to Jefferson Street on the L line and then walk a few blocks to St. Nicholas Avenue. There’s no way you can miss the brightly painted walls, and more likely than not you’ll also find some other tourists or Manhattanites taking photos. If you’re looking for a bite to eat, the nearby Montana’s Trail House has a great selection of brunch bites, as well as killer cocktails. It’s the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning in the city.
Throughout the year the Bushwick Collective also organizes events including block parties where the neighbors can watch artists in action transforming the neighborhood walls, as well as enjoy live music and food. It’s a neighborhood that has been transformed and continues to thrive thanks to these art initiatives. Of course, the best thing to do is let the art speak for itself.