Hub Profile: Grace Exhibition Space

Jill McDermid-Hokanson. Photo by Chris Rini

Grace Exhibition Space is a conceptual, body-based performance space located at 840 Broadway, under the J train. They provide Bushwick with events every Friday night, featuring both local and international performance artists. The night I visited, their current group of residents hailed from Nottingham England, Estonia and Chicago. They shared video of past performances, fielded questions from each other which were quite hard hitting, as well as offered encouragement.

Most of GES’s attendees are locals who have come to expect something different each time they visit. Rainy nights are among GES’s most popular, when locals desire to kick off the weekend without straying far from home. Grace was started by Jill McDermid-Hokanson in 2006 to fill a need. Her performance art was too “out there” for the theater, but not exactly gallery friendly either. GES melds the two together. The physical space is a long curving loft with floor to ceiling windows that look out onto Broadway. Her partner (in life and GES), Erik Hokanson describes it as “not overly precious” and up to the rigors of performance art. Their residents can fling liquids, dance, pound the floor and scream til their heart’s content. He only asks “Just let us know what you’re going to break.”

Adam Rose performing a monologue. Photo by Chris Rini.

During Grace’s six year tenure, Jill notes that the most conspicuous change has been in the neighborhood demographics. Their foreign artists often fall for Bushwick right away, thrilled by the variety of people, foods and shops (particularly the 99 cent stores). Among the proprietors, Microscope Gallery and the Pine Box Rock Shop are favorite hangouts, and the best place to see the sun set is from the courtyard of the English Kills Gallery.
Jill keeps her eye on the gallery’s (perpetually, it seems) unlocked front door, sizing up all visitors as either art patrons & lovers, or potential cat burglars casing the joint. This is due to the realieties of the neighborhood, best summed up by an anecdote Jill shared about the GES before its inception:

Some enterprising thieves broke into the second floor loft and cut a hole in the floor; robbing the downstairs liquor store.

Bathroom decor at Grace. Photo by Chris Rini

Last year for BOS2011, GES hosted a performance exhibition featuring five artists and two resident studio artists (and the year before that, GES hosted a solo show for Dublin-born artist Myk Henry).  Continuing in their tradition of participation, we’re thrilled that they decided to partner as a HUB space for BOS 2012.  GES just signed a new three-year lease, and shows no signs of slowing down. They have a full house of local and international performance artists, ready to provoke, perplex and entertain you each Friday night.


Chris Rini