“Supercool!”: A Q&A with Katarina Hybenova

05/04/2012 5:25 PM |

Art Street or street art, or both? Bogart (re)defined. Photo courtesy Bushwick Daily.
  • Art Street or street art, or both? Bogart Street (re)defined. Photo courtesy Bushwick Daily.

As the founder and editor of Bushwick Daily, you have quickly developed it from a personal blog featuring photos of and notes about your beloved part of Brooklyn, to a more broadly functional website incorporating a number of different writers contributing news items, opinion pieces, reviews, events listings and profiles of local artists, musicians, fashionistas, and new and longtime residents alike. You have also created an online art gallery as a branch of Bushwick Daily, which has taken physical form several times as well and even held down a booth at Fountain Art Fair this year. As if all this weren’t impressive enough—especially given that you launched the whole thing not even two years ago—you have recently added yet another significant appendage to the Bushwick Daily operation, a radio station. Am I missing anything?

At Bushwick Daily we love to use new forms of journalism and new media, and we encourage experiments with text, visuals and sound. We are trying to be as innovative as our neighborhood, and to treat the blog as a good Bushwick house party. We want to show a lot of good art and music, introduce inspiring people and start good conversations. The Internet gives us great tools for this, and I believe that blogging is the perfect format to encapsulate this vibrant scene.

Katarina Hybenova, founder and editor of Bushwick Daily.
  • Katarina Hybenova, founder and editor of Bushwick Daily. Photo courtesy Marin NYC.

What brought you to Bushwick in the first place? What is one of your fondest memories from your early days in the neighborhood?

Well, it is a long story condensed into a relatively short time. I moved to New York three years ago from Prague to do a master’s degree. I lived for a year on the west side of 106th street, where I didn’t belong, and as soon as I found out about Brooklyn, I wanted to move there. Having only a superficial knowledge of the borough, I thought that Williamsburg would be the perfect place for me. However, very soon I realized that the only Williamsburg that I could afford was in fact Bushwick disguised as East Williamsburg on Craigslist. At first I was scared of the neighborhood, but then, luckily, a sketchy real estate agent took my future roommate and me to the coffee shop Little Skips. I remember coming in and feeling so warm! The friendly Little Skips community adopted us right on the spot, the coffee was delicious, and we thought, ‘Hey, maybe we can live here after all.’

Was there a specific event or encounter that encouraged you to start sharing your surroundings with a wider audience?

When I moved to Bushwick, my life was at a strange intersection. I was unhappy about my career choices and had no idea about my next step in life. I studied law and worked as an associate in a big law firm in Prague, and despite having met good people on the way, I was really creative and endless lawyer hours in the office were making me miserable. I told my family I was looking for a job in New York law firm, but I really hated the idea of going back to the office and to the whole corporate culture. So I would go to Little Skips every day to send resumes, and besides that I walked, ran or biked every street in Bushwick, Williamsburg and Ridgewood. I didn’t have any substantial knowledge of the area, so I took photos. Photography has long been my passion, and soon enough I decided to start a blog where I would publish one photo of Bushwick per day. You know, Bushwick Daily… I never really thought that blogging could be a career, but the creative energy I started to see in Bushwick was fascinating. Even though I was new to the neighborhood, I was very curious and started going to every art show, most of the concerts, and I met really great people. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged somewhere, and I wanted to share the story of the people I was meeting. I expanded the blog, started to profile Bushwick residents and write about events.

One of the really warm, early Bushwick memories I have was my first Bushwick Open Studios. I walked into Norte Maar with my camera and Jason Andrew, who is sort of a focal point of the Bushwick art scene, said: “You’re Bushwick Daily? Oh, cool! You should meet everyone!” I had been living in Bushwick for about two months at the time, but I felt so welcome, so at home.

Aside from your own boundless energy, what enabled such quick growth for Bushwick Daily?

I am very grateful for all the amazing and inspiring contributors to Bushwick Daily. They’re talented people who totally love the neighborhood. Our meetings are bursts of creative energy that fuels us for days. I also can’t disregard the fact that Bushwick is getting more and more popular, and increasing numbers of people are interested in what’s going on here, so there is demand for information.

You started doing artist profiles under the heading Tuesday People a while ago. The online gallery came from that, right?

In a way, yes. Most Tuesday People are artists from the neighborhood, and through my work on their profiles, we became close and I got to know their art really well. I really wanted to curate art shows, talk about art all day long, come up with concepts and maybe see parallels that other don’t see. So BushwickGallery.com came naturally. We don’t have a physical space, but I like that because I feel more like a curator than a gallerist. We organize physical openings in collaboration with different Bushwick art spaces, which allows us to choose the perfect location for a particular art show, and it gives us access to new communities.

How did the radio station idea come about?

When visiting new media artist Man Barlett’s studio, he told me about an amazing online platform for broadcasting, mixlr.com. I called jojo SOUL, who is a Bushwick-based DJ and contributor to Bushwick Daily. He got so excited that we scrapped the concept of mixtapes he was creating for Bushwick Daily using Soundcloud, and we replaced it with real deal live broadcasting. For the moment jojo SOUL—and his buddies RG and Nipsy, from Brothers From Another—are broadcasting from jojo’s studio every Saturday from noon to 2pm. We are preparing live broadcasting in collaboration with Small Black Door gallery, and we are thinking about broadcasting Bushwick concerts and live DJ sets. Mixlr.com gives us endless possibilities, and we have tons of ideas and an audience hungry for new stuff.

What’s next for Bushwick Daily? Any other big plans?

We are gearing up for Bushwick Open Studios in June. Bushwick Gallery is preparing an art show with a new media edge to it titled Vegan Pizza Party. The art show will physically take place at The Active Space on Johnson Ave.

What’s your favorite regular Bushwick event?

I love art openings at DIY spaces and apartment galleries. The best is when there are at least five of them in one night, and you meet people on the street coming from where you’re going, and everyone is asking each other, ‘Have you been there yet? How is it? Where are you going next?’

Favorite Bushwick spot for dinner?

Northeast Kingdom.

Favorite watering hole?

Tandem.

Favorite take-out or delivery?

I don’t do it.

Best tacos?

Zefe’s.

Best bodega?

Deli and General Store at The Loom.

The weather’s great, you’re taking a break from work, maybe you’re with a friend or two. Where to?

Bike to Onderdonk House or Maria Hernandez Park, or any Bushwick rooftop will do.

I know you’re completely in love with Bushwick, but something about the neighborhood must suck.

Rats!

Pigeons are only almost rats. Photo courtesy Bushwick Daily.
  • Pigeons are only almost rats. Photo courtesy Bushwick Daily.

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