Making History Bushwick



Coinciding with the tenth anniversary of Bushwick Open Studios, Making History Bushwick is a 400 page hardcover book written, edited and published by the core collective members of Arts in Bushwick, the facilitators of the annual arts event in Brooklyn, New York.

The glossy 9×9 inch hardcover is available on Amazon and features 400 pieces of art by 405 artists, submitted as part of an open call exhibition in Bushwick in spring of 2015.

The book launch party will be hosted September 30, 6-9pm, the opening night of Bushwick Open Studios 2016, at Arts in Bushwick’s official group gallery show Seeking Space: Making the Future, at David&Schweitzer Contemporary, featuring Arts in Bushwick’s seventh annual open call of work, this year including 305 local artists.

To introduce the art in the context of its geography, Making History Bushwick shares historical ephemera from a nascent and maturing arts organization, following its growth trajectory through ten years of volunteer artist-coordinators and community builders. The timeline turns to the historical record of Bushwick and moves into a deep archive of stories from ten years of Arts in Bushwick’s existence and some of the problems posed by organizing arts events that create influence in a rapidly gentrifying community.

Making History Bushwick was made not just in celebration of our organizational anniversary, the amazing and creative talent that has associated with Arts in Bushwick and our neighborhood, but as a way to document, question and understand our history, experience, place and current events of our beloved space in context.

As a collective, Arts in Bushwick’s principal asset is our ability to empower a socially responsible group of intersectional humans to create art and showcase it to our community and beyond through projects like . What becomes apparent in the front of the book is that our greatest vulnerability as an arts collective is when we ignore the role that artists, and our art plays, whether we like it or not, in how the neighborhood, and its economy, have changed over time. Furthermore, how this negatively impacts the lives of local community members and eventually also displaces the artists who created value for real estate development.

The conversation sheds light on the difference between being merely ‘open’ and actually ‘inclusive’ of existing communities and the role art plays in the geography and culture of a changing urban landscape and economy. While it is crucial to recognize the potential and inherent influence of artists, technology and creative manufacturing to our local economy, Arts in Bushwick challenges itself, and arts organizations everywhere, to be responsible for building accessible, equitable and sustainable new economies and begin to build alliances with all community stakeholders.

Arts in Bushwick strives to have this open, and often difficult, conversation because we believe art is political, it is revolutionary, and it can and should be used to integrate and intersect the lives of all members in the Bushwick community, past, present and future. We feel ours is a local example we can share through media that will ring true for many people around the world.


Making History Bushwick is a first-of-its-kind document, presenting a contemporaneous snapshot of a vital and growing arts community in the heart of New York City. With more than 400 artworks, essays by noted writers, critics, community activists and members of the thriving Bushwick scene, the book presents an alternative, inclusive, present-tense model for history making. The handsome full-color hardcover volume is the first publication from Arts in Bushwick, 488 pages with a limited edition of 2000 copies.

The art work in the book comes from a groundbreaking exhibition. In May 2015, Arts in Bushwick organized the largest exhibition in its decade long history, including 402 artworks from 405 artists, all drawn from an open call which collected high resolution submissions for the book on Artists had to self-identify as part of the Bushwick art community and donate their work. The exhibition culminated in a spectacular benefit gala, where the entire show was offered for sale in a raffle style and 260 of the 402 works were sold. The money raised at the gala, $32,000, was used to self-published AiB’s first book.

The book was launched September 30, 2016 as part of the festivities for the tenth annual Bushwick Open Studios. Making History Bushwick starts with a collection of published articles that combined with testimonies from key past volunteers describing the history of our all-volunteer organization. Also included are a collection of texts and works on displacement and gentrification that illustrates the paradigms and conflicts that Arts in Bushwick grapples with. The book concludes with a complete catalogue by artworks from the 2015 Making History show.

Contributing writers include James Panero, Hrag Vartanian, Tom Angotti, Loren Munk, Robin Grearson, Aniela Coveleski, Nicole Brydson, Anthony Rosado and many more. A few of the 400+ artists included are Rico Gatson, William Powhida, Tamara Gozales, Meryl Meisler, Deborah Brown, Meg Hitchcock, Lori Ellison, Etty Yaniv, Don Pablo Pedro.

Included below are a few brief excerpts from the book and the introduction can be read on our blog.

From Chloë Bass, artist, co-lead organizer of Arts in Bushwick 2007-2011:

[It] Feels important to me in terms of artistic practice as well: A studio visit shouldn’t be a sales pitch; it should be a direct and frank conversation about the way the artist has been working, the results of the work, and how the visitor feels about that process and those results. I hope that this sentiment of reachability, humanity and direct connection persists as Arts in Bushwick continues to grow and change. I value the flexibility of the organization’s structure because it offers opportunities for the results the public sees to reflect the people who are doing the work at any given time. Simultaneously, I hold fast to the “good neighbor policy”: it’s great to bring visibility to Artists and an Arts Community (writ large). That can provide strength, in a certain way. But the most important work we do is not at the large scale, it’s at the small: person-to-person and neighbor-to-neighbor.

From Five Things You Can Do About Gentrification in New York City by Tom Angotti, 2013:

TALK TO PEOPLE on your block and in your neighborhood. If you are a gentrifier, talk to the people getting gentrified. If gentrifiers are moving in and you’re afraid you’re going to be pushed out, talk to the gentrifiers. If we don’t talk with each other we can’t work together and if we don’t work together gentrification will proceed unchecked. Talk, argue, become friends or enemies, but if we ignore each other it will only deepen the divide and make it harder to change anything. These connections are the best foundation for building alliances and creating community coalitions that can stop displacement and protect residents and businesses. Too many people get outraged at what’s going on and never talk to anyone else about it, least of all the people who are “different.” The people united will never be defeated!

From Making History Bushwick, by James Panero, 2016:

Just as with other historical arts neighborhoods, Bushwick will one day cease to be a place of artistic relevance, not necessarily as artists are pushed out, but as non-innovators push in, diluting the spillover of knowledge and diverting the flow of innovation to the next arts neighborhood. But as new spaces may give rise to new ideas, history is also lost in such transitions, which is why the artists of Bushwick rightly regard documentation as among their most important and lasting creations..

From History by Exclusion, Illuminating The Dark Matter of the Art World by Loren Munk, 2006.

Maybe now we may begin to question what is art, who gets to decide and what is the artist’s place within society? As self-selected members of the art world, it is time we declared, “we are our own art history.”


Each year, Arts in Bushwick organizes an exhibition and benefit raffle of locally produced art to raise funds for the all-volunteer organization. Previously a one-day benefit event, Making History was a three-week exhibition at the gallery Storefront Ten Eyck that began on April 19, 2016 and concluded with a raffle of the work on May 10, 2016.

Each work was submitted to the show through and represented in an online gallery, which became the basis of Making History Bushwick. The pieces sold at the price of one $200 raffle ticket. Buyers chose the works they would take home when their number was called from a hat.

Fundraising at this event created the budget for the publication of Making History Bushwick, and the front of book text was contributed by Arts in Bushwick’s volunteers or reprinted with permission from sources that have written the first draft of recent art history of Bushwick.


Bushwick, Brooklyn has grown to include a highly concentrated community of artists, in part due to the annual Bushwick Open Studios fair, facilitated by the volunteer collective Arts in Bushwick. Recognized by art historians, critics, buyers, gallerists, and other artists across the globe who visit over 1,000 art studios, 60 gallery and performance spaces, and myriad murals packed into two square miles, the creative energy of the neighborhood is currently unrivaled, collaboration sometimes unavoidable—within certain spheres—and the pace of change in the area utterly overwhelming.


Over 1,200 artists registered for, and many more participated in, Bushwick Open Studios 2015, the 9th year of operation. Arts in Bushwick has also facilitated dozens of exhibitions, community programs, educational events, panels, blog coverage of the neighborhood, and year-round opportunities beyond the visual arts.

After 2015, the collective took a step back from operations to examine whether it was meeting its original goals of being inclusive and self-sustaining, and began a series of difficult internal conversations about its purpose and mission.

The core re-emerged in 2016 announcing changes to the Bushwick Open Studios dates, moving from June back to October, and hosted a town hall discussion with members of the Bushwick community about the future of the organization. Core members discussed goals to continue to produce popular events, all year around, while also breaking down the silos that separate us by class and culture through creating equitable visibility in the local community. The core also voted to stop producing a printed catalog to reduce waste and focus more attention on creating digital visibility for artists in Bushwick.

This new digital media, run and supported by members of the community, created the foundation for receiving the large scale of art submissions featured in Making History Bushwick. With sustaining membership levels for individual artists, galleries, non-profits, and small businesses, the collective seeks to create equitable visibility on a community platform where members can contribute public information about events, blog posts, classified ads, real time connection, all year around, in addition to facilitating open call submissions and event listings for the annual open studios.