THE BLOG
06/08/2011 03:26 pm ET | Updated Aug 08, 2011

Arts Thrive in Bushwick

"You can't stop change" is a truism applicable to any New York City neighborhood, especially those that are attractive to the young, hip and creative.

Take, for example, Bushwick in Brooklyn, where last weekend an open studio event showed off the work of the many artists who live or who rent workspace there.

At 1 Grattan St., an old factory building, four sprawling floors have been turned into a warren of artist studios, many of which had opened their doors for the Bushwick Open Studios event. Visitors wandered from room to room, floor to floor, checking out the paintings, sculptures, photographs, light installations and other creations -- and mingling with the artists.

One room held a group of paper sheep by artist Kyu Seok Oh, part of a herd that earlier this year was shown in Times Square. Another held sculptures made to look like huge strips of realistic-looking tree bark, some adorned with fungi, by artist Eric Lindveit.

Studios with views looked over industrial Brooklyn toward Manhattan and Queens, where many of the artists got their starts. Some spoke of earlier studio rentals in Tribeca and Long Island City.

The two-day open studio event, which also included musical performances and a film festival, underscored the fact that Bushwick houses a rich artistic vein that is growing in influence.

In its first year, 2007, 75 studios took part, said organizer Chloe Bass. This year, 383 exhibits were registered. Bass, a 26-year-old performance artist who lives in Bushwick, said the group estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 artists were represented at this year's event. (She said the number was not exact because organizers had not accounted for artists who showed at more than one venue.)

But even with those impressive indicators of growth, Bass was quick to quell talk about Bushwick being "the next Williamsburg." She distanced herself from that neighborhood's story, where gentrification forced many artists who had left Manhattan for the cheaper shores of Brooklyn to yet again seek out affordable space in outlying places like Bushwick.

Gentrification is "the last thing in the world" she wants for Bushwick, Bass said. She would like to see the neighborhood retain its current character -- artistic, yes, but still a real neighborhood with a variety of races and socioeconomic levels represented.

On that Saturday of the open studio event, people taking a break from art could be seen sipping iced coffees on sidewalk benches, and stopping in a bar that served microbrewery draft beers. Are these small signs of change?

Bass said she hoped that the artists of Bushwick would raise their "amplified voices" against the kind of high-end development that pushed up real estate prices in Williamsburg.

Having a bad economy doesn't hurt either. A slump in the city's real estate market could be a good thing, she said. Bass pointed out that until all those newly built apartments in Williamsburg were sold or rented, developers probably wouldn't turn their sights on Bushwick.