Bay Ridge Art Space (509 Senator Street), a new venue for exhibiting art and hosting art classes, will open its first exhibition, “New Ovington Village,” on Friday, November 6, featuring the works of about 30 local artists. We emailed with artists Alonsa Guevara and James Raczkowski about the new space, the new show and the arts scene in Bay Ridge.
What made you think you had to open a space like this in the neighborhood?
We have both come to love Bay Ridge, and while living here we slowly began to realize that there are a lot of artists in the area and even more people that appreciate art. This neighborhood is beautiful, full of life and rich in culture; it’s a perfect place to open a space that will support the artists and community around it. We had been dreaming of this idea for some time, and recently we had to leave our studio in Gowanus because a developer bought the building. Becoming dislocated pushed us to make the decision to open this hybrid space where we will be able to share our own art, the art of others, and teach art classes to anyone who is interested in the community we actually live in.
How were you able to actually make it happen?
So far we have done everything ourselves, from building the website to painting the sign. It has taken a lot of long days and late nights. Also, we were fortunate enough to have sold a few paintings recently and decided to invest that into something we love and believe in. Being artists, we have to be good at many things, and we’re constantly brainstorming and bringing energy and creativity to the table to figure everything out. It’s been a lot of hard work, and we’re really excited by the response we have had so far to our first exhibition, “New Ovington Village,” and Bay Ridge Art Space in general.
Who are you two?
We are both visual artists. Alonsa Guevara is from Chile and came to the US in 2011 for graduate school at the NYAA, eventually settling in Bay Ridge around 2014 because so many of her artists friends lived there, including James, and they all loved the area!
James Raczkowski is from Brigantine, NJ, and he moved to Bay Ridge in 2013 also when he started graduate school at the NYAA. He fell in love with the neighborhood by accidentally driving through it while apartment hunting in another part of Brooklyn.
Why is the first show called “New Ovington Village”?
We decided on the name because we were pleasantly surprised to learn of an artist colony, Ovington Village, that settled here in Bay Ridge some time ago, when it was farmland. The colonists, like many young artists today, ended up here because of the area’s natural beauty, affordable rent, and close proximity yet secluded feeling from the “big” city.
Have you found a lot of artists in Bay Ridge?
Yes, we have. Before we opened this space we already knew a bunch of people that live in the neighborhood, and now that we opened a call for artists for the “New Ovington Village” show, we have gotten to know a lot more. Elena Soterakis, one of the artists that will be part of the show, introduced us to a group of artists from the area, and they have all been very supportive. Actually, one of them, John Avelluto, who helped found the Fifth Avenue SAW, invited us to his studio a couple of days ago, sharing his amazing art with us and letting us have two of his pieces for this show. We can’t wait to see all these artists together at the opening. It’s impossible to imagine anything but good things will come out of this initiative.
Would you say there’s an arts scene in the neighborhood?
More than an art scene, there are a lot of artists coming to live here, so there is definitely an art vibe. It seems that art scenes are stronger in other neighborhoods. However, we both see that things are changing, and there are many people here who are completely dedicated to the arts, willing to work hard and make Bay Ridge an even better place for artists and everybody else who lives here.
What effect do you hope the space will have on the community?
We hope that Bay Ridge Art Space invites people to experience art in different ways. Because of the hybrid nature of our space, we have different goals. With the exhibitions, our aim is to bring artists and art-lovers together. We will always have the best art we can find, plus really affordable prices in the gallery; this way, art lovers can become new art collectors and start building a relationship with the artists. The painting classes are focused on bringing friends and family together inside a creative, fun, and educational activity. These classes are specifically designed for people without experience; there is no age limit, and all the materials are included. Everybody taking a class will get to see the current exhibit and also see some of the pieces that we are working on in the studio.
We would like to extend a special discount for Hey Ridge readers who are interested in taking a class. Just type the coupon code HEYRIDGE in during checkout on our website and receive 20 percent off any of our classes, held every Saturday and Sunday.