Bushwick Open Studios is now nearly a decade old, so it’s unlikely that you’ve never heard of it. But just in case, here it is in a nutshell: An all-volunteer-produced festival put together by Arts in Bushwick every year, BOS is a massively interdisciplinary celebration of art and artists that takes place in the ‘Wick (and its general environs) the first weekend of June (this year 6/5-6/7). But since BOS has always proven to be a differently huge beast from one year to the next, it’s likely that you’re curious about what its organizers have in store for you this time around. If so, here’s a bit about that from some reliable sources—the organizers themselves.
BOS maps already began extending beyond Bushwick proper a number of years ago, but the event has continued to grow dramatically—if not in terms of geographical extent, then at least in terms of participatory density and critical mass. What would you say is bigger, in one way or another, about BOS 2015?
Every year we say this is the biggest and best BOS yet, and every year that really seems to be true. We’ve been strict about not increasing the geographical boundaries, so they haven’t grown since 2011. But because so many more people have moved into the neighborhood, and because we have loose registration requirements for what constitutes art, everyone can get involved! Major things that have changed for us are the backend of the website being completely re-done, so we can actually navigate it now, and the Making History exhibition/AiB benefit is about twice as big as it has ever been. Our focus is to stay true to our mission while being as accessible and inclusive as possible. We really want participation and engagement from the entire community, and I think we’re starting to see that.
— Lucia Rollow, Co-Lead Organizer
As BOS has grown, AiB organizers have had to work hard to ensure that the open-studio aspect of the festival maintains some sort of primacy. How have you worked to accomplish that this year?
The studios have always been the heart and soul of the festival, yet with such incredible growth over the last nine years, we have had to work creatively to ensure that the original intention remains our focus. But we also have a responsibility to provide opportunities to artists in the neighborhood who either don’t have a space or create in a medium that is not suitable for a traditional studio setting (e.g. film, performance, music). AiB doesn’t play a curatorial role of any kind, but we do host a series of events during BOS through open calls to satisfy this commitment to local creatives. Meanwhile, in an effort to maintain the primacy of the open-studio aspect in 2015, we have drastically cut back on the amount of official events we host, which will provide us the flexibility to concentrate on encouraging visitors to the studios. Additionally, we have been working on advancing our digital channels to help facilitate year-round exposure of Bushwick-based artists. Through our social media feeds, we have established opportunities for an open dialogue surrounding the studios in the neighborhood. We have also re-launched our website, which will serve as its own platform for artists to connect with their neighbors, while offering a more sophisticated interface for guests of the festival to facilitate their studio search with ease.
— Samantha Katz, Co-Lead Organizer
Primacy of the open-studio aspect notwithstanding, BOS has always had plenty of extra-curricular activity going on—parties, concerts, film screenings, panel talks and so forth. Care to highlight some of those?
Absolutely. It’s a packed weekend. AiB produces official BOS events with an eye towards creative accessibility—we make sure there’s something for everyone. The festival kicks off Friday with our Launch Party and 6th annual “Seeking Space” exhibition at BeElectric, sponsored by Tumblr. This sets the festival’s tone, and it’s a great party. “Seeking Space” is also our only official art exhibition, curated via open-call, and featuring 100+ artists from Bushwick and beyond. Saturday is Community Day in Maria Hernandez Park, a free and family-friendly event sponsored by Blick Art Materials. Local organizations, artists and performers showcase talents and programming through art activities and demonstrations all day—yoga, hip-hop, dance, spoken word, theater and more. By Sunday everyone needs to sit down, so we chill things out with Cinema Sunday, our official film festival and closing party, sponsored by Prince Media.
— Lauren Smith, Co-Lead Organizer
BOS 2015 will of course take place in the present tense as much as it ever has and ineluctably must, but certain projects and events embedded in this year’s edition are already looking forward to its ten-year anniversary in 2016. Can you elaborate on that?
BOS has become bigger than all of us. With that in mind, we arrived at the concept of the “Making History” exhibition and book. As a practical matter, the ambitious scale of the project—putting together a show that includes 400 artists and documenting it with a book, with an all-volunteer staff—requires the longer lead time. However, we consider this looking-to-the-future requirement a positive feature, in that it reflects and reinforces an essential, transformational concept: the focus of the history we’re creating isn’t the past, for the present; it’s the present, for the future. This present-tense, crowd-sourced Art History, created collectively, inclusively and by the artists themselves, is a dramatic expression of AiB’s ideals of inclusion and empowerment. “Making History” is the beginning of a series of AiB events with this theme that will take place in the coming year. — Cibele Vieira, Core Organizer & AiB Benefit Lead
Events listings, maps and lots of other info about Bushwick Open Studios 2015, as well as details about the “Making History” benefit exhibition currently on view at Storefront Ten Eyck, can be found at artsinbushwick.org.
Follow Paul D’Agostino on Twitter @postuccio