Bushwick artist to other Bushwick artists who hate his new Bushwick art festival: ‘Whatever’

Summer days: A performance artist at last year’s Bushwick Open Studios, who led a troupe that stripped down to its underwear and frolicked in the streets.
File photo by Metsha A. Renois

What a brush off!

Bushwick artists are refusing to participate in a local blogger’s hasty attempt to start a new neighborhood arts festival in the June weekend previously occupied by the decade-old Bushwick Open Studios gala — but the upstart says he doesn’t care if Bushwick artists don’t want to be part of his Bushwick art crawl, and he will put it on anyway.

“I’m not interested in participating in the debauchery of Santacon or the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, but it’s going to happen anyway,” said web-developer Brandon Mickman, who paints and runs a blog called Bushwick Bomb. “Whatever, it’s a free country.”

Mickman says his Bushwick Arts Festival on June 3–5 will be a much-needed answer to “the hefty notes of disappointment ringing through the city” after the organizers of Bushwick Open Studios announced last month that they are pushing back the popular annual event — where local artists open their work spaces to the public and fill the streets with their weirdo pieces — from summer to fall this year in order to shake off the event’s growing frat-party reputation.

But many local creative types say the move was necessary to fix the once-reputable art crawl, and Mickman’s disregard could jeopardize their attempts to patch up relations with the community.

“I can’t say it bodes well,” said Deborah Brown of gallery Storefront Ten Eyck. “I think it is only going to build on what’s been going on in recent years that the Bushwick Open Studios people are trying to get away from.”

Bushwick Open Studios also chose to reschedule so it could have more time to convene with longtime Bushwickians, who felt the event was encouraging hipsters to gentrify their ’hood. But Mickman is refusing to address those concerns, the critics say, and is essentially giving the middle finger to the original fest’s efforts to reach across the aisle.

“This is beyond disrespectful to the Bushwick community,” said one commenter on the Bushwick Arts Festival’s Facebook page. “[You are] simulating something that a community sat and spoke for months about and concluded that the direction needs to change.”

Mickman admits that he fully anticipated the backlash — he originally attempted to remain anonymous so he would not have to deal with the heat, he said. But he ultimately feels the community’s critiques are baseless, and claims enough artists are on board with his plan to merit the summer fest — though he refused to name any that are participating.

“I think if enough people want an event, they should have it,” said Mickman, claiming he consulted with several “noteworthy and established” artists during the two weeks it took him to plan the festival.

Some artists say they would be open to an extra arts festival in the neighborhood, however — so long as the focus is sharing the masterpieces of the local community.

“Why not have two events?” said Fanny Allie, who hails from France but now creates collages in the 11221. “It doesn’t hurt.”

Artists interested in participating in the Bushwick Arts Festival have until May 1 to register at www.bushwickartsfestival.com.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.

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