Studio space race: Artists look back on five years of gentrification

They’re painting by numbers.

Artists who put on the hot-button show “The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks” in 2010 are revisiting the ever-pertinent issue of rising rents with a talk about their own Kings County real estate experiences at the Brooklyn Historical Society. The original exhibition garnered a lot of attention — and prompted fierce online debate — and the organizer said the paintings coming down was just the beginning.

“We had this conversation five years ago, and now I want to explore how their lives have changed in the past five years,” said curator Dexter Wimberly, who organized both events. “I want to hear what their challenges are related to housing and studio space and all the other things that go along with living in a place that is gentrifying so quickly.”

The panel, set for March 17, will include Oasa Sun DuVerney, Nathan Kensinger, and Sarah Nelson Wright, all of whom had work in the original show, as well as Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art director James Bartlett.

The economic situation for working artists has only gotten more dire since the group last saw each other, Wimberly said.

“Back then, people were still debating the implication of things like the Barclays Center or the mall on Flatbush Avenue,” said Wimberly, who was born in Brooklyn in 1973 and has lived here his entire life. “I want to see how the conversation has changed and what people are doing to not get swept under the rug.”

The original exhibit, which ran at the African diaspora museum for four months, featured more than 20 artists working in a variety of media, including photographs, installations, paintings, and theatrical performances. Promotions for the show included fake billboards advertising “unaffordable groceries” and “ghetto fabulous condos.”

Wimberly believes that the best defense from gentrification is a strong community like the kind that will be on display at the panel discussion.

“The best thing to do is to talk directly to people,” said Wimberly. “People forget that we are our own best resources.”

He plans to invite every last artist who was in the 2010 show to sit in the audience.

“At the very least, it will make for a very lively Q&A session,” he said.

“The Gentrification of Brooklyn Five Years Later” at the Brooklyn Historical Society [128 Pierrepont St. at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 222–4111, www.brooklynhistory.org]. March 17 at 6:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurf[email protected]nglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.