THE AMAZING BUSHWICK COLLECTIVE STREET ART TOUR, BROOKLYN
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of street art and one of most renowned in New York’s Brooklyn district is the Bushwick Collective and the inspiring story behind it’s founder.
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The tour is run by Free Tours By Foot, which will give you a meeting point on booking and you pay what you think the tour is worth at the end. Essentially it’s a ‘name your own price’ tour, which encourages the local tour guides to deliver the experience to the best of their ability on each occasion.
The two hour walking guide with our local guide, Mar in Bushwick, which is located on the north side of Brooklyn on the Williamsburg border.
Mar is a former graffiti artist and now still partakes in supporting the art community by running galleries and organising events in the area. He explained that NYC is a bit of a mecca for graffiti and street art, attracting artists from around the world. Bushwick is a working class district and has been attracting many global artists. The area has a large collection of art studios and galleries but Bushwick’s industrial landscape is the main draw for these artists.
Graffiti & Street Art
Graffiti is essentially a message, it’s classed as a marking or a symbol on any surface. Marker pens were used for graffiti prior to 1947 after which spray paints were invented and then started to be used. In much earlier times such as the 1920s and 1930s stencils were used for graffiti, however now it is predominantly spray paints. It may surprise you to know that the neo-expressionism art scene in this area spans over 100 blocks and you’d probably need a lot of time to capture it all in one trip! Pretty impressive right?
The birth of hip hop, gang and gun crimes in 1973 saw the rise of graffiti, which originated in the neighbourhood of the Bronx. Graffiti was illegal and so anyone seen painting the walls would be given a ticking off, but later jail sentences were implemented. There was another option to avoid jail and that was to join a group where you got mentored in the art of graffiti. It may not be a surprise that many rappers are involved in street art and often paint under different monikers.
The word on the block was very much…
Cash Paycheck I Call grandma I Paint that spot I Don’t get arrested
The objective of the tour is to give a background and history behind the artists, many are famous and obtain appreciation and a critical eye for these evolving forms of expression.
The Bushwick Collective
The globally renowned, Bushwick Collective street art was founded and started by a Bushwick local named Joseph Ficalora who was Brooklyn born and bred and now runs his family’s steel business. Joseph started the transformative Graffiti and Street Art Project to heal after the tragic murder of his father in 1991 and also the death of his mother from a brain tumour in 2011.
A year after Joseph’s mother died he threw a street party for children with brain tumours and invited street artists to create some art work on some of the walls around the area. He later went on to contact further artists from many countries, asking them to contribute their talents to the canvases that are the industrial and residential buildings of Bushwick.
There are a few rules: nothing offensive to children, women and local businesses. Street art is not permanent and mostly stays around for 12 months but there are works surviving for five years.
Joseph is now learning to heal from his years of growing up in a dirty and crime-ridden neighbourhood by transforming the walls of Bushwick into a safe & hip outdoor gallery. He has learned to wrangle the permits needed to legally display hundreds of artist’s work.
Street art can be expressed in a number of ways as seen from the image gallery above and it aims to convey a message to its viewers. For example, stopping violence and encouraging love, racial diversity statements as all are equal, animal conservation and priority (as can be seen by the bee above).
How To Get To The Tour Location
My advice is from Manhattan head to the Jefferson Station in Brooklyn via the L line! It takes around half an hour or more depending where abouts you are in Brooklyn. Once you have been on the tour, which also introduces you to some of the vintage shops and local eateries (Roberta’s Pizza and Sea Wolf in the area), you can explore the art yourself but as I said before; remember there are 100 streets of art but you have plenty of time as this is an open air art gallery, it’s yours 24/7!
Bushwick Collective Street Party
We were in Brooklyn during the first weekend of June 2019 which coincides with top street artists gathering to produce their pieces murals and wallscapes. These spray-can masters work on their murals while musicians provide backdrop tunes. This is truly a sight and if you are in the NYC area, you must go during the party, and watch these artists at work. The detail, time and skill is phenomenal and mesmerising.
Joseph Ficalora, produced The Power of Art to transform a neighbourhood. He created the worlds biggest open-air gallery and tourist destination and in my opinion it’s a must see if you’re a fan of street art. I defy you not to be blown away!
Tell me in the comments below, have you visited Bushwick or experienced the Street Art of Brooklyn?
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