ALLEY ART completes nationwide tour at THE LIVING GALLERY


This article originally appeared in full on on Aug 25 2014:

This summer, friends Jen Charboneau and Bernie McNerney have been touring the country coast to coast, setting up pop-up art events in 14 major cities as part of their community arts project titled “Alley Art.” On Sunday Aug 24th, they made their 13th stop in Boston, where they set up shop near SoWa along Albany Street and encouraged passersby to paint on a pair of blank canvases.

“We stop people and tell them to paint with us for five minutes and take a break from their usual routine. Most of the time people really value that—getting a break from their day-to-day life to get a creative outlet,” says McNerney, who handles public relations, photography, and videography for the project. “They leave really happy and smiling. They leave recharged.”

Event in Portland, OR

Following a stop in each city, Charboneau, an artist who met McNerney a few years ago while they were teaching English in South Korea, touches up the community-created paintings to turn them into more cohesive pieces. When the pair reaches their final destination in New York City, the paintings will go on display at The Living Gallery in Bushwick. Eventually, one painting from each city will be donated to the venue that hosted an “Alley Art” pop-up, while the other will go up for auction. Following the tour, Charboneau and McNerney also plan to create an art book filled with images of the paintings and photographs they took along the way of people they approached and asked to pose with an empty painted frame—”the ultimate icebreaker,” as they call it.

Event in Philadlephia-2

The tour started in Charboneau’s hometown of Minneapolis in mid-May, funded by $10,000 raised from a Kickstarter campaign. They travel aboard a green Subaru dubbed “Scooby Doo,” packed with art supplies and their mascot “Frank,” an animal skull that Charboneau had found on previous travels in a desert in the West. Along the way, they’ve met strangers, local artists, and musicians, including Grouplove in Las Vegas and Portugal The Man in Portland, Oregon. Pop-ups usually take place in community spaces, coffee shops, or bookstores in the major cities, and Charboneau and McNerney were excited about setting up alongside the SoWa Open Market.

“It all stems from getting the community involved with the arts instead of standing back,” says Charboneau. “We try to find neighborhoods that are artistic or neighborhoods that may be lacking that community connection.”

Event in Philadelphia 2

Charboneau and McNerney were especially pleased with setting up shop under the I93 Expressway after speaking to Elizabeth Cahill, the director of social media for SoWa Boston, about plans to turn the space into a full-blown art park.

“The potential to be involved with something that I could see growing to be a core community spot where people can go appreciate art is great,” says Charboneau. “Even if it is a little slow today, it’s a good way to be a part of something that’s growing as we’re growing as well—two newborn projects working together.”


Friday September 12th 7-10pm [Opening Reception]

Saturday September 13th 3-9pm

Sunday September 14th 12-3pm

Full event details:



Meet Brigette Blood

Interview by Mike Garcia

Hello Brigette, Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m from Jeffersonville, Vermont, grew up above my hardworking/hippie/catholic parents’ log cabin restaurant. Besides serving food, the restaurant hosted Art and weirdos and musicians, along with tourists and locals. I graduated from Bard College with a degree in Experimental 16mm film. I moved to my Bushwick Home in 2003.

I worked the 7am breakfast shift, 6 days a week in a diner on broadway for 2 and 1/2 years when I first moved here. I loved getting to know my neighbors and my community over hard work and breakfast specials every morning. I still know many neighbors coffee preferences. For a few years after I built electronics (synthesizers and effects pedals) locally in the neighborhood. For the past 5 years I’ve worked as a nanny with a variety of other creative and domestic works in my past. Bushwick remains a big part of my life and my daily routines.

 brooklyn paper- grahamThe Brooklyn Paper, Ms. Graham


How did the North West Bushwick Community Group start? What were the circumstances and how did it gain momentum so quickly?

NWB formed out of the Bushwick Communities’ opposition to the proposed re-zoning and development at the former Rheingold Brewery Site (specifically the Read properties ULURP application).  We have continued as a group engaged in housing justice, land use, and local community needs.

I think we were able to gain momentum quickly for a number of reasons. We were a diverse group of residents and locally active individuals who were able to clearly and cohesively voice our opposition and our goals. Social media helped for sure.

 Individual residents’ efforts were incredible in bringing the group forward and galvanizing the Community. Individuals engaging in outreach and sharing news with their neighbors and bodega clerks was a big part of what kept new energy coming and group momentum going. But I think we owe a lot to the many groups and organizations that core founding contributors were able to engage in our early formation. These groups were able to spread awareness, share resources, and skills that allowed the group to grow capacity and continue our efforts.

Some of the groups that were part of building our NWB momentum in the early Rheingold ULURP outreach and Advisory Panel Formation days were: The Silent Barn, Rheingold Homeowners Association, BEAN, The Living Gallery, The New School, and COHSTRA.

 Also I’ll go there- I think the truth the group was calling out resonated with residents, local groups, nonprofits, city agencies, and elected officials. The truth we spoke and the justice and accountability we called for kept the group focused and determined to keep engaging and doing the hard work.

Brooklyn Brief -TaubMeeting in Express Yourself Barista Bar, The Brooklyn Brief, M. Taub


How do you think the NWB and the community changed the outcome of the Rheingold re-zoning?

That’s hard to say exactly. I can say post-Rheingold, Bushwick is a Community much richer in housing and land use knowledge. And this will ideally serve community interests well in our current Community Based Rezoning by CM Reynoso. I also feel the level of clarity and dissatisfaction we communicated in our Panelist meetings with the developer ultimately contributed to the increase in affordable housing at Rheingold and the final negotiations to transfer 7 lots of land from the developer to the Community (to be developed into Low Income Senior Housing). These are major mitigations from the developer and Bushwick will benefit from these increases. As well as other community funding for schools and anti displacement legal services.

 bmb and bkrotsBrigette and BKROT (photo by R. Peperone)

Has it been challenging making sure that the developers come through on their promises from negotiations with the community? Is this a constant ongoing thing?

 This is difficult and a constant on going thing. With the Read development at Rheingold, CM Reynoso formed a Community Construction Committee to monitor the project and the timeline for mitigations to be implemented.  Without binding legal commitments, an informed and engaged Community is what ultimately holds developers to their promises.

 What, if any, are some organizations that NWB have linked up with? 

 Early in our formation NWB was supported with Educational Workshops and Urban Planning/Housing Expertise from Students & Faculty from The New School, Masters Program in design & urban Ecologies and members of COHSTRA. I participated in a COHSTRA documentary for an upcoming Fall ’14 MOMA Exhibition.

Ongoing, and during our a Rheingold Campaign, NWB worked with local non profits (Make the Road NY, CUFFH, Los Sures, St. Nicks Alliance, EWVDCO), Community Board 4, CM Reyna & CM Reynoso, Urban Justice Center,  and Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. A. We have done a few events with the symbiotic support of Educated Little Monsters, youth group. We are hoping to form a local coalition with NAG.

What are some current and future projects the NWB is working on?

We are gearing up for the Beta Launch on 8/19 of our Mapping Project, a NWB collaboration with Michael Ziggy Mintz. It’s an exciting tool for communities, organizations, and tenants. I’m really interested in the potential of participatory data sets to track changes not successfully measured by city and public data as well as to humanize the data that holds Communities’ stories of change and displacement.

Housing Justice is complex and NWB is excited to help share opportunities to learn and engage! On 9/28 we are co-presenting an exciting educational opportunity from COHSTRA & The New School with local hosts Saint Joseph’s Church and the Silent Barn. I’m excited to learn with my neighbors about NYC housing history, climates, and possible solutions. Presented by some rad academic friends. Come learn too!

We have other long term projects in the works but I tend to ramble and I’m trying to keep everything here concise as I can…

NWB Logologo by Sarah Quinter


What ways can local activists become involved with NWB?  What’s the best way to keep up to date and find out information on NWB?

Check out our website, it has links to our calendar, and google group so you can stay in touch. Come to an Every-other-Monday NWB Community Meeting and join our conversations. NWB Monday Meetings are also a great forum to meet other Community members interested in learning and being active engaged neighbors. Feel free to bring initiatives to the group as well as join ongoing NWB work. All skills welcome.

REVIEW: Space Between Languages: Thoughts on “Space Fiction and the Archives” at Momenta Art and “Same Same” at Jackie Klempay Gallery

Written by Conor O’Brien

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At the center of Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen’s show “Space Fiction and the Archives” at Momenta Art is a UFO Landing Pad constructed in St. Paul, Alberta, in 1967, Canada’s centenary. Nguyen, a research based artist whose work investigates the “unnoticed political relevance of seemingly trivial historical anecdotes,” reconstructs this event within the gallery space using archival artifacts: newspaper articles, commemorative memorabilia, photography, and a film montage.

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The presence of the Landing Pad itself feels subdued, while the political and cultural climate that prompted its installment is foregrounded. Less about the Landing Pad than its implications: the intersection where the hokey good will of the project and political reality cross, blend into each other, reveal their discrepancy. During the video montage entitled “1967: A People Kind of Place,” there is a moment, taken supposedly from a television promotion of the Landing Pad, where an actor playing an immigration official talks to a figure, unseen beyond the camera frame, and explains that the quotas for people of different races do not include “green men.” What is meant as a light, self-deprecating jab about the inadequacy of immigration services in dealing with actual “aliens” holds a political reality about how these services control the inflow of people based on race.

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The artist seems interested in such cases where an awareness of social problems are discovered where they are not expected or intended, a fruitful task amidst the contrived idealism and patriotism of a country’s centennial anniversary. The Landing Pad waits passively, like an altar, the reception of otherworldly forms, while on another wall of the gallery are copies of Canada’s immigration regulations, the guidelines by which it is determined who may enter the country based, among other things, on occupation, age, usefulness.

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The Landing Pad can be understood as a symbol of openness, multiculturalism, universality, etc; or it can be seen as simply exaggerating the border between our world and an unfamiliar one, just as the immigration process defines more acutely feelings of foreignness in those who cross from one bordered space into another. More accurately, it represents not either but both of these things: it is the overlap of the ideal goal, understood as being unreachable, i.e. attracting visitors from other planets, and the immediate economic goal, i.e. attracting tourists from other places on earth. Both goals, lofty and material, are evoked here.

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Text flashes on the screen: “Science Fiction is Descriptive Not Predictive.” The value of sci-fi as a genre is not an imagining of possible realities but a reimagining of the existing reality. Extraterrestrials are almost always depicted as supreme beings, and supreme beings are almost always conceived as a means of observing ourselves from a higher perspective, and within a wider context. A parallactic reality: the angle where two perspectives either meet or split off: how we see ourselves and how we are seen (how we imagine we are seen): a resounding dissonance, constant, unheard.

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* * *

Picture 6

Sarah Sieradzki’s show Same Same at Jackie Klempay Gallery is based upon the linguistic concept “code switching,” the practice of switching between languages within a conversation. Those who enter another community must soon adopt a new way of communicating, a new way of navigating the structure. In some cases, two parties not fluent in each others’ language develop a neutral mixed language in order to communicate. Code-switching assumes both parties are fluent in all languages used in conversation; each language is kept separate and distinct, the speaker’s consciousness evenly divided between these different valves of expression.

Picture 1

In our native languages, we build a world of familiarity: create patterns, narratives, causes, effects, orders, borders. From this space we reach outside and bring external events into our orbit: a geocentric existence. When we cross from this space into an unfamiliar one, where there are other patterns, other orbits, other gravitational centers, the effect seems at first to be distortive: going from a place of seeing, an active position, to a place of being seen, a passive position.

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Sieradzki’s work simulates this split-perspective: she photographs the simple, geometric familiarity of tablecloths and using mirrors she produces wavelike distortions in the patterns. Her works are products of combining two mediums: the camera which sees and captures the outside world, and the mirror which receives and reflects it. Confronted with the mirror, where one is both seer and seen, the once sure lines falter; borders fade and bend, reveal their fragile malleability; patterns taper into a blank sea. Sieradzki’s work captures the oscillations of a mind divided between an inner and outer perspective: the former confident and personal, ordered and comprehensible; the latter unfamiliar and impersonal, where pattern no longer contextualizes and conceals negative space, but in its arbitrariness accentuates the indefinite depths.

Picture 3

Language is a medium, like a camera or a mirror, for processing external phenomena. To familiarize oneself with only one language, or medium, also means to be confined within the parameters of that language, and paradoxically, to not actually be familiar with that language at all, because one lacks a sense of its limits. In acquiring a new language (referring not only to written/oral language, but to any code, behavior, shibboleth) one gains a certain vantage point above one’s native language and the acquired one: developing an awareness of the contours of each language, the range of experience they are able to map; as well as the negative spaces between each language, where is glimpsed the limitless inadequacy of these or any language to encompass entirely one’s experience, the area where all divisions, including language, between spaces and people are arbitrary.

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