‘Bringing together neighborhoods’: Atlantic Avenue gears up for annual ArtWalk

Atlantic Avenue gears up for annual ArtWalk
Atlantic Avenue gears up for annual ArtWalk
File photo courtesy of Arts Gowanus

Businesses on Atlantic Avenue are buzzing as they prepare for this year’s ArtWalk event, which will see works by local Brooklyn artists displayed in their storefronts down the avenue for nine straight days.

From May 4 through May 12, Brooklynites and art enthusiasts will have the opportunity to mosey down a 1.5 mile stretch of Atlantic Avenue from 4th Avenue to the Waterfront for a self-guided walking art tour of the neighborhood organized by the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation. 

Over 100 established and up-and-coming artists will participate in the ArtWalk this year, with their work being showcased in over 50 businesses and local establishments in the neighborhood, giving visitors the opportunity not only to become more acquainted with the local art scene, but also to check out the shops, restaurants, and galleries in the area. 

artwalk on atlantic
Local shops and businesses will display artwork in their front windows and on their walls. File photo courtesy of Arts Gowanus

“Everyday Atlantic Avenue is a creative place because there are so many small businesses — so many women-owned businesses — so what we always hope to do with ArtWalk is start off with those 30 plus businesses that are in the category of galleries or businesses that sell every day and augment that with other spaces, whether it’s windows or empty spaces where we walk in and hopefully have 60 spaces [participating] when we’re done,” said Howard Kolins, the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation’s acting executive director. “So we celebrate our businesses [and] we’re trying to reinforce the brand as a creative place every day, 365 days of the year.”

While the official artist selections are not yet completed, ArtWalk is dedicated to exhibiting various different artistic mediums to ensure that there is something for everyone who visits, while stores and businesses also will be displaying works from previously participating artists.

“One of the challenges of curation is matching up an artist with a business in an appropriate way,” said Karen Zebulon, ArtWalk’s lead curator. “For instance, we have an artist who is LGBTQ+ who showcased with us last year at Out of the Closet and he’ll be showing there again. And then we have a photographer who does a lot of photography of animals, whether they’re wild or domesticated. That artist may be at one of our veterinary locations.”

While the ethos of ArtWalk is to highlight art and Atlantic Avenue businesses in tandem, this year artists will also have more opportunities to exhibit their works in galleries both established and semi-makeshift.

“We were very fortunate that we were able to get a very large empty store last year that enabled us to really show some of the larger pieces that probably wouldn’t have been able to fit into an existing store and just create another gallery basically,” explained Zebulon. “So we’ll be doing that again this year – we’re kind of just finalizing locations, but there will also be galleries created by us. It’s really a combination of resources.”

Zebulon is joined by Grace Freedman of Why Not Art who has helped curate some of the ArtWalk exhibitions and will be hosting a guided tour at the event, as well as a committee of individuals at the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation who are working to select artists to fill remaining spaces on the tour.  

“We have a limited number of spaces right now and because we’re in the process of finalizing these larger spaces to create the galleries, we don’t want to overcommit to artists,” Zebulon said. “And if we find we need more artists — because Grace is a curator and she’s her own artist — then we will probably hand things to her to work on any empty spaces with existing artists.”

While ArtWalk continues to strengthen the already existing art community in the area, the event is also a practice in showcasing how vibrant the art scene is throughout Brooklyn, bringing artists from all over the borough to exhibit their work.

“I think Brooklyn has just become this really creative, artistic environment overall and [ArtWalk] is kind of in the middle of the way and we travel through so many neighborhoods,” Zebulon explained. “So the fact that we are bringing together all these neighborhoods, I think it really kind of brings together the whole arts community in many ways.”