To say that Brooklyn is the epicenter of New York’s art scene would be an understatement. With new-age art collectives and galleries run by cultural subverters of every kind, Brooklyn has become a major destination for art makers and lovers alike. Exploring this borough means engaging with creative movements that may be new to you. The best part? These collectives, galleries and museums are very accessible, usually welcoming visitors with free or low-cost entry.
The most accessible art collectives, though, are the ones that don’t require a typical “entry” at all. The Bushwick Collective, founded in 2011, is one such site. Located in, you guessed it, the neighborhood of Bushwick, this collective is woven throughout several blocks and can be seen over a few days or all at once within a few hours.
Generally speaking, an art collective is a group of artists working together to achieve a common objective. Dedicated to street art created by local and international artists, this particular collective is a comprehensive art experience open to anyone walking down the street.
Even if you’re not on the lookout for it, chances are you may still stumble upon some innovative pieces sprawled across building faces in the area. Read on to learn more about the Bushwick Art Collective and how to experience it the next time you’re in the area.
The beginnings of the Bushwick Art Collective
As a significant art collaboration that has evolved much over the past decade, The Bushwick Collective is a monolith near and dear to the hearts of Brooklynites.
In 2011, native Bushwick man Joseph Ficalora started the Bushwick Art Collective. Graffiti has been a part of Bushwick’s (and Brooklyn’s) culture for decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, the graffiti art movement became a notable art wave in New York City – and Brooklyn especially.
Curiously, much of the “street art” created at this time wasn’t necessarily street art at all since it often appeared on the sides of subway cars. Sometimes, a single piece would span the entirety of a train car. With subway train yards located in Brooklyn, the movement naturally was based in the area. Artists like TAKI 183 and Tracy 16 were especially well-known for their train work and tagging in Washington Heights.
In the 1980s, however, the New York government took action against graffiti with removal initiatives. Much of the art, especially on city property, was considered vandalism. Because of initiatives by the New York Transport Authority, street art shifted over to, well, the streets.
Growing up in 1980s Bushwick, Ficalora was surrounded by the emergence of local graffiti. Having inherited his family’s business, GCM Steel, he also completely covered the building in murals. It sits within the art collective, located just off of Flushing Avenue. Ficalora started the collective as a way to make the streets less industrialized and more representative of the art culture New York has to offer.
Today, the Bushwick Art Collective brings together street artists all over the world, including legendary NYC graffiti artists and local Bushwick talent. Every piece of art in the collective is temporary – most sticking around for about a year on average. And it’s perfect for repeat visits since a new piece is completed every two months or so.
One major facet of this cultural experience is The Bushwick Collective Block Party. During this annual event, you can find graffiti, street art, music, food trucks and local vendors piled into the area to celebrate the art. The event is free to attend, and it’s when the most art is being created simultaneously.
Visiting The Bushwick Collective
Whether you’re a street art connoisseur or not, the Bushwick Art Collective is worth seeing in person. Well-known artists from Blek le Rat to Banksy, Shepard Fairey, ROA and local, notable Brooklyn artists like Sara Erenthal have all contributed to the collective in the past. So, you never know whose signature you’ll see at the bottom of one of the works.
Apart from famous artists, some of the pieces are by up-and-comers, so you’ll be sure to discover new creators while taking it all in. Currently on display are pieces by artists like Shark Toof, Osiris Rain and Ron English. Each featured artist has their own style, so the uniqueness of each piece keeps up the momentum of each visit.
Because the displays are street art, you’re welcome to take photos in front of, beside and even touching the art. Looking for the ideal Instagram photo op? You’ll find it in Bushwick.
Although this collection is outdoors, it isn’t seasonal, so you can see new art at any time. The streets get busier on weekends and evenings, so plan your visit during the regular workweek if you want to enjoy the art without a crowd. It’s super easy to get to the area by subway, with the Jeffrey Street stop on the L being the perfect place to begin your exploration.
With street art on display spanning almost 100 blocks, you may want a plan before visiting. There are a few different options for self-guided walking tours. The main area you’ll want to focus on is from Johnson Avenue to Troutman Street, but the surrounding areas are also rife with impressive graffiti and street art.
Moreover, this area houses a few other neighborhood staples. The Johnson’s, located on Troutman Street, is a fun, mellow hangout that serves cheap drinks in an old-school atmosphere. And Elsewhere, a popular music venue, is right on the edge of the collective. Elsewhere is a concert venue, a nightclub, and an art space all in one with multiple rooms so everyone can enjoy the fun!
No matter how much time you spend at the Bushwick Collective (though we recommend a couple of hours, at least), you’ll be struck by the diversity of artists and techniques that you find. Truly a pinnacle of the art space that Brooklyn embodies, the Bushwick Collective gives this neighborhood its own creative flavor, making it a must-visit destination in New York City.
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