A ‘Reunion’ at BWAC as art gallery celebrates 45th anniversary

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The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition is celebrating its 45th anniversary with a special exhibition featuring longtime members and artists brand-new to BWAC.
Photo courtesy of S. Casey/BWAC

The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition is celebrating their 45th anniversary with a series of exhibitions in honor of the resiliency of local artists.

On Sept. 9, three exhibitions titled “Reunion: Celebrating Artist Members Past and Present, “Color,” and “Visions of Glass” will open to the public at BWAC’s gallery in Red Hook, where they will remain on display through Oct. 8. Artists will mingle to show off their work and chat at the opening reception on Sept. 9. 

BWAC was initially founded in the late 70s, when a group of artists negotiated with landlords to make use of vacant spaces on Jay Street in Dumbo for art exhibitions. The venues were small, raw spaces with no amenities or electricity, but the art they displayed helped urge the group forward.

woman and man in wolf mask BWAC
“Reunion” will feature works from longtime BWAC artists like “Red Riding Wolf” by Michele Serchuk. Photo courtesy of Michele Serchuk/BWAC

The group continued to grow and gain momentum and by 1984, they filed to become an official nonprofit organization in New York State. 

In 1992, BWAC’s original founders met with Greg O’Connell, president of the O’Connell Organization — a family-run real estate development business operating on the Red Hook Waterfront. 

By that point, Dumbo — which had previously been relatively inexpensive and full of artists — was starting to become a more popular neighborhood for real estate and once-plentiful vacant lots were getting harder to come by and beginning to increase in price. 

O’Connell invited BWAC to exhibit work in Red Hook where there was more available space — especially along Van Brunt and Beard streets, near the water. BWAC accepted the offer, and within the span of a few years eventually settled into their current location at 481 Van Brunt St.

The space boasts 25,000 square feet of exhibition space across two floors and is the perfect space for artists and art-lovers alike to enjoy the works of peers and BWAC members.

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John Jerard’s “Portrait of Artist as an Old Man” will stand among the pieces in the “Reunion” exhibit. Photo courtesy of John Jerard/BWAC

“I remember being new in New York in the early eighties when I stumbled onto BWAC. At that time the gallery was located in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn,” longtime BWAC member Daniel Genova said in a statement. “Being that I was part of an artist-run gallery in Denver, I was happy to see a similar grassroots effort taking place here. I always thought it was — and is — important for artists to have a say in where and how they want to show their work.”

With “Reunion,” BWAC aims to demonstrate the resilience of its artists throughout the history of the coalition. Featuring work from former and current members, the show will show the journey of the group since the days of its inception to today.

“We thought it appropriate at this time in the organization’s history to invite former members to exhibit in the gallery once again,” said show chairperson Audrey Anastasi. “The show includes artworks by alumni members who have been practicing their creative craft for up to five decades.” 

In that same space, work from artists making their gallery debut will also be on display. Showing off work from both new artists and long-established creators is  “what BWAC is all about,” said BWAC president Alicia Degener in a statement. “Presenting opportunities for artists to exhibit, and gallery visitors to enjoy a wide range of art in a relaxed atmosphere.”

Artist Terina Sciarrotta explores how humans see and perceive color in the “Color” show. Photo courtesy of Terina Sciarrotta/BWAC

The second show, “Color,” will feature works from artists all over the U.S. which show the exploration of how we each perceive and see color in our own worlds. Armando Jaramillo Garcia — poet, author, artist and Whitney Museum gallery guide — selected the works for this exhibition from to represent various shades of human existence and the relationship to color.

“Visions of Glass” will is a solo exhibition of glasswork artist and native New Yorker Renee Radenberg. The main elements of the exhibition will be the fused and cast glass works, but the show will explore the many forms of art Radenberg has dabbled in over the course of her career, which has spanned over 22 years.

BWAC’s 45th anniversary show opens to the public with an artists’ reception at 481 Van Brunt St. in Red Hook on Saturday, Sept. 9, from 1-6 p.m. The show will remain on display and open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, 1-6 p.m., through Oct. 7. Visit bwac.org for additional information.