A Look Inside Greenpoint’s Arts@Renaissance Space

02/27/2012 11:24 AM |


“Hey, is this the… Snowflake Party?” asked a curious passerby to a roomful of people industriously cutting and perfecting their paper creations at last Sunday’s “Build A Blizzard” event. The “blizzard” is actually a thick tangle of paper-snowflakes hung from a hallway ceiling, inspired by artist Caroline Burghardt’s bout with a couch-ridden cold earlier in the year. The event is also part of Round Robin Art Collective’s “Hospitality” exhibition, a series of community-based events that are taking over Greenpoint’s Arts@Renaissance space until March 10.

Arts@Renaissance space is billed as an “innovative community art space” in the “garden level” (read: basement) of a former outpatient hospital building. The space has been hosting exhibitions since July 2010, but has quietly been building a following. The space’s goal, according to Arts@Renaissance program manager Chris Henderson, is to find “common ground between the neighborhood’s emerging creative population and the longtime low and moderate residents of the neighborhood’s dynamic ethnic communities.” This entails a series of event-based exhibitions by local creative groups, which in the past has included collaborations with Scene:Brooklyn and Chez Bushwick.

The enormous 4,500 square-foot space is a labyrinth of hallways and hidden rooms, most of which are showers or old bathrooms. “They pretty much let you do whatever you want” Burghardt says, leading me through a former group shower that is in the midst of a transformation into an installation by artist. With walls and floors streaked with swirls of red, teal, and gold spray paint, there is a sign on the door which warns that any visitor must “consent to such photography, filming and/or recording” for any use “throughout the universe in perpetuity.” Voyeurism fits in pretty nicely with this space, which recently hosted an artist’s talk in one of its already claustrophobic shower stalls. Another long, narrow room is set to house an installation of fabric “prismatic vortexes” by artist Amanda Browder. Each vortex looks kind of like a funnel made of fabric strips, many of which were cut and sewn at “Community Sewing Day,” another Round Robin event.

In the more welcoming workroom at the space’s entrance there are large chalk boards on the walls and workman’s tables covered in scraps from the snowflakes. Burghardt’s ipod blasts block party-worthy jams while attendees gulp down the complimentary coffee and donuts. The whole “Blizzard” feels like a really artsy block party really, with community members all contributing some small part to a much larger installation (which ends up looking a bit like a very creative effort from a prom committee).

Round Robin’s residency goes on until March 11th, and includes many more fun events like art show Audio Light Leap (which will feature a Disney Proncess mashup video re-scored with 80s classics), and a Winter Barbecue. You can get a full listing of the events here. After Round Robin, there will be spring residencies from Jill Sigman’s “Hut” project, featuring performances and events given in a temporary structure built from repurposed materials. In May, Leat Klingman will be hosting workshops and demonstrations on the act of puppeteering.

We hope that Arts@Renaissance sticks around, unlike similar community arts projects like the Trinity Project or the group exhibitions at former convent Saint Cecilia’s. “A hospital is no place to be sick” Samuel Goldwyn once said. Turns out it’s a damn fine place to cut out paper snowflakes.