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Exit Room is a unique gallery and cultural space in Bushwick, Brooklyn that showcases visual art, film productions, poetry and musical performances. Located at 270 Meserole Street, (two blocks from the L train’s Montrose Ave. stop), Exit Room occupies a portion of a former brewery which was built in 1856. It sits adjacent to The Well, a 16,000 square foot beer hall and garden. There is also a large outdoor area in the back. We spotted some great original architectural details on our stroll around the block. We also had a chance to chat with the Exit Room NY founders Dariel Mtz and Daniela Zoe about the gallery and the Exodus exhibition.

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The latest exhibit “Exodus”, which opens Thursday, features the work of 15 photographers including Ricky Powell and Studio Sweet Home, and the theme of the show is the experience of the immigrant in New York City,

Untapped Cities: Tell me about Exit Room. How did this gallery come to be?

Exit Room:  The gallery was born out of Dariel’s outdoor project, New York Street Gallery. We have 33 outdoor walls in Brooklyn.  In the beginning we got this space to use as a studio, and then we had the idea to turn it into a gallery.  Since we are working to help project the image of the street artists with the outdoor gallery, and since we had this great space, we decided to keep going with that project and create our own indoor, physical space.

It is important to us to give a place to street artists and photographers – not just the famous ones but up-and-coming artists who often times struggle to get in galleries. We also try to help the artists by working with them on art, sharing art materials, and promoting them. We actually collaborate with artists, and also provide a chance for the community to interact directly with the art and the artists. It is also very important for us to be a part of the local community.

Untapped Cities: Why did you choose immigrants to be the theme of the “Exodus’ show?

Exit Room: We ourselves are both immigrants and came to this neighborhood a little before the real gentrification. The majority of people living in the community are immigrants as well.  In our last 2 shows, we have involved a lot of artists  who came from outside of America.

As immigrants ourselves, we have been thinking about what it means to be an immigrant. New York is so cool, but there are common struggles that come with leaving one place and the arrival in a new country.  Some of the struggles may be like taking care of your family, learning the language, and interacting with people whose roots are very different than yours.  Art is a way to express and communicate these problems.

Untapped Cities: What was it like to curate this show?

Exit Room: For “Exodus”, photographers contribute to and interact with painted murals using stencils and wheatpaste art created with their photos.

Untapped Cities: What was have some of the challenges been?

Exit Room: This is not a regular gallery with just art on the walls. We have seen many times where art has been presented in environments that are not welcoming to everyone.  So we are not the classical white cube space that you see in many galleries, we want to keep the inside looking not so different from the outside.

Our goal is to create an experience, so we include musical performances and poetry as well as visual arts. We want people to stay and hang out. We also work very hard to make this a place that is accessible. Come as you are to Exit Room, it is a melting pot and everyone is welcome. Art is for everybody.

Untapped Cities: What is your relationship like with the local community?

Exit Room: It is important to us to be a real part of the community, so we promote artists that are part of it. We are also planning several events to involve everyone. For example, May 31, we will be having a music concert/ painting event in the handball courts in the schoolyard across the street. We are planning to do 5 murals in the park. We are producing this event in in collaboration with NY Street Gallery, and The Well.

Exodus is opening Thursday, February 20.  Find out more info here.

Get in touch with the author at Rachel Fawn Alban