Located in an industrial area of Sunset Park, the Brooklyn Army Terminal may appear to be factory remnant of a bygone era but it is actually one of Brooklyn’s hidden treasures. Designed by architect Cass Gilbert and completed in September 1919, the terminal was once the largest military supply base in the United States. Today, two buildings on the site have been re-purposed by the organization Chashama into studio spaces for more than 93 artists.
Chashama aims to connect art and real estate by transforming underutilized properties into work and presentation spaces. They acquired the first building in partnership with the Economic Development Corporation in 2005. In 2009, after the success of an artist residency, they acquired a second building. These two building not only provide a working exhibition space for artists, but they are also serve as direct inspiration for the creative minds that occupy it.
We took a tour of the spaces this past weekend for Chashama’s Open Studios event and were impressed by the vibrant and creative environment of this place.
Our walkthrough started with Building A, which houses about 26 artist studios. Every square foot of the third floor is utilized by the artists as either working space or exhibition space. The studios provide a working environment for an array of artists whose work reflects the diversity of the artists themselves. The layout of the floor seems to be a maze, designed for unplanned encounters. Walking through the spaces we talked to a few of the artists who told us a bit about their work and their experience in the studios.
The first work we saw was by Israeli artist Tirtzah Bassel. Her work is characterized by her use of duct-tape to create her site specific drawings and paintings. From afar the texture of her work could pass unperceived, but a world of intricate layers and color emerges as you get closer.
In Building B (which houses about 60 artists) we met with Nick Vaughan from the husbands duo Nick and Jake. Their installations, sculptures and performances explore their relationship between the American Dream and the iconography of western masculinity. In our conversation, the artist talked about the correlation between their life as a gay couple and the correlation to the socio-political tone of their work.
Lastly we spoke with one of the photography artists of the studio Barry Rosenthal. The environmentally conscious photographer collects, rescues and recycles the objects he utilizes in his work. His photographs are beautiful arrangements of recycled objects from various regions of New York City which provokes reflection and remind us of the extent of trash that occupies our cities and oceans.
Chashama’s Brooklyn Army Terminal Studios are not only affordable (rental of space is less than $1/ft2) but its location, building and creative artist community also creates a vibrant atmosphere for future generations of visual and performing artists.
Find out more about Chashama here.