‘More than a borough’: Bay Ridge native to open museum celebrating Brooklyn pop culture at Industry City

exterior of brooklyn pop culture museum
A new immersive Brooklyn pop culture museum will open this spring at Industry City.
Photo by Jada Camille/Logo courtesy of Brooklyn Pop

A Bay Ridge artist and musician is gearing up to open a new immersive exhibit celebrating the borough’s world-renowned culture this spring at Industry City.

Brooklyn Pop — the brainchild of Michael McLeer, a founding member of rock–hip-hop crossover group Lordz of Brooklyn who also goes by Mr. Kaves — will commemorate the best of Brooklyn’s art, film, sports and music scenes inside Sunset Park’s sprawling business hub.

McLeer, also a longtime tattoo artist and the restaurateur behind the Ridge’s artsy eatery The Brooklyn Firefly, grew up on 92nd Street. But, as he started traveling the globe with Lordz of Brooklyn, he discovered just how much of the world’s culture came from Kings County.

founder of Brooklyn Pop Culture museum
McLeer pictured with the Lenny’s Pizzeria sign. The pizza joint gained popularity after being featured in the film “Saturday Night Fever.”Photo courtesy of Micheal McLeer

Brooklyn has become one of the coolest place to live thanks to its creatives, McLeer told Brooklyn Paper — and, through Brooklyn Pop, he hopes to pay homage to those cultural pioneers.

“It’s going to tell the story of Brooklyn, of a Brooklyn artist and his dreams and how music and art in Brooklyn inspired his career,” he said, noting that the timing of the exhibit’s opening “couldn’t be better.”

“From Barbra Streisand to Biggie Smalls, you’re gonna understand why Brooklyn became so cool,” McLeer said.

Once open, Brooklynites and non-Brooklynites alike can stop into the main exhibit hall, where they can peruse an art gallery complete with artifacts, quick facts and even recreated sets from iconic Brooklyn-based films and television shows. Or, McLeer said, they can head to a concert stand, where the longtime creative says he plans to host frequent musical events.

After four years of collecting pieces from popular restaurants like the recently shuttered Lenny’s Pizza and posters from Brooklyn cult classics like “Saturday Night Fever,” McLeer wants Brooklyn Pop to be an “immersive history lesson.”

Exhibits will range from singular pieces to a collection of interactive exposés based on a person like Spike Lee, a particular historical movement or event, places like the People’s Playground or cultural eras from disco to modern-day hip-hop.

“Brooklyn is more than a borough, it’s a brand,” McLeer said. “It’s what inspired me, influenced me and raised me.”

exhibit at brooklyn pop culture museum
The exhibit will feature different Kings County artifacts including the original sign from Lenny’s Pizzeria. Photo courtesy of Micheal McLeer

This is far from McLeer’s first time paying tribute to his home borough.

Just last year, he painted a mural on 86th Street, spotlighting figures with ties to Bay Ridge, including Albert King, Chuck Connors and John Travolta. After seeing the community’s response to the artwork, he felt it was the perfect time to create the museum. 

“I think it’s my job and duty to preserve this Brooklyn legacy and this folklore,” he said. “It’s about time. I was at a point in my career where I felt like it was a love letter. This would be the magnum opus of everything I’ve done — to put together an exhibit to celebrate this borough.”

Brooklyn Pop is expected to open in Building 2 of Industry City at 220 36th St., between second and third avenues, by the end of this spring.