Bergen Street steps ahead as artist turns stoops into gallery space

Bergen Street steps ahead as artist turns stoops into gallery space
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

On Bergen Street, the stoops have eyes!

Brownstone Brooklyn’s iconic feature — its front steps — have morphed into a gallery space as a dozen stoops have been plastered with the faces of local storeowners in recognition of their services to the community.

“I really love my shop owners,” said Dana Eskelson, who organized the exhibit, part of a global public art project called “Inside Out.” “They are always there and have been there forever. They make my neighborhood what it is and make my life better.”

After doing some recruiting of neighbors, photograph taking, and matching of participants to their favorite storeowners, Eskelson quickly turned her idea into a block-wide extravaganza.

“All I did was recognize something that was there, which was this neighborhood and its appreciation for their shop owners,” she said.

The end product has created stoop after stoop of top-to-bottom, black-and-white headshots of various storeowners.

There’s Fourth and Bergen Bodega shop owner, Muhammad Ali, from Yemen!

Nearby is the face of Emcon Pharmacy owner Naresh Bhagroo from Guyana!

Jorge Sanchez of Venezuela who owns copy and print shop, Graphicolor, adorns another stoop!

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” said Josephine Guevarra, whose front steps now feature Paul Kontorinis, owner of Paul’s Fruits and Vegetables. “I imagined it covering the entire steps and it did. I told Paul’s wife to take a picture of my stoop and put it in front of the store because I was so excited.”

Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Storeowners, likewise, were equally impressed with how the project turned out.

“I didn’t know what it meant to put my face on a stoop at first because I had nothing [to which to compare it],” said Bhagroo. “When you stand back from a distance and see the whole thing — I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Bhagroo said that he has become somewhat of a celebrity since the project’s unveiling.

“The people that know me, they’ve told me that I’m going to become famous,” he said.

Angelica Radacinski, whose stoop is covered by the face of Canteen Deli’s owner Usman Majeed, emphasized that her family’s participation stemmed from their way of viewing the community.

“In Brooklyn, the one thing I’ve learned from growing up here is that we are all one family no matter who we are,” Radacinski said. “You should accept each other, and that’s what we wanted to support.”

“Inside Out,” was began by photographer and street artist, “JR,” whose work has been dedicated to recognizing unsung heroes.

In turn, he’s encouraged others around the world to honor those they admire in their own creative ways using photography. The most breathtaking of the projects was created in a Rio slum.

Eskelson said that the project would be up until “Mother Nature takes them down.”

Richard Birne poses with his stoop portrait.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The Bergen Street stoops project (Bergen Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope). Eskelson is also working on raising funds for the education of Ghanaian children. For info, e-mail [email protected].