Erika Sequeira | ESPO's Art World


9 Brooklyn Art Spaces To Watch This Summer

Whether you’re looking to browse through a gallery or create some art of your own, there’s something for you here.

by Amy Wilkinson

When you think of the art scene in New York City, what springs to mind? Perhaps it’s the expansively grand museums on the Upper East Side. Or maybe your interests skew more contemporary, and Midtown’s more modern offerings give you goosebumps. Are you keen on new and emerging artists and consider Chelsea’s galleries a must-see? You’d surely be forgiven for concentrating your art outings to Manhattan, but it’s not the only borough bursting with unforgettable masterpieces. Just a short subway ride (or ferry trip) away, Brooklyn is home to dozens of galleries suited to nearly every taste. From street art to Black urban expression to video installations, there’s no shortage of excellent art to gawk at (or even purchase, if you’re in the market…). To that end, here are nine highly curated Brooklyn gallery picks to get you started.

Don’t let the tongue-in-cheek name fool you: Established is a relatively new space (it opened in 2019), occupying a small red storefront on 6th Avenue that previously housed a thrift store. The brainchild of painter and sound designer Greg Griffith, this Prospect Heights gallery caters to contemporary art enthusiasts, and is currently hosting the solo show—dubbed The Long Goodbye—of its head curator and director, Johnny Thornton, whose work deals with themes of “corporeality, impermanence, and preciousness.”

Just a couple of blocks northeast from the stalwart Brooklyn Museum sits FiveMyles in Crown Heights, which has been highlighting artists working outside of the Western tradition since 1999. What does that mean? Expect to see an array of pieces that lean heavily into East African, Native American, and Caribbean cultures. FiveMyles typically hosts five to six exhibits a year and also offers up its space free of charge through its community-oriented SpaceProgram, hosting emerging artists, musicians, and performers for short-term engagements.

For gallerist Richard Beavers, making art accessible to the community it honors and reflects is a top priority. Which is why when he opened his contemporary fine art gallery in 2007, he eschewed the typical Chelsea storefront for a spot in BedStuy. The space hosts thoughtful, engaging works from artists exploring political and social issues affecting the Black community.

If the hours spent strolling Brooklyn’s art galleries have left you yearning to pick up your own paint brush or charcoal pencil, this DUMBO spot should be your next stop. Founded in 2009 by New Zealand artist Donna Marée Wilding, Creatively Wild Art Studios boasts a robust schedule of ongoing art classes, including Adult Oil Painting for Beginners, Introduction to Digital Art, Painting Faces for Beginners, and Mixed Media Assemblage and Collage. If you’re in the market for more of a one-and-done experience, the studio also offers adult party packs that include instruction, pizza, and prosecco. Nothing screams “Happy 31st!” quite like painting a portrait of your goldendoodle George while sipping some bubbly.

Come for the dope views (hello, Lady Liberty); stay for the even doper artwork. BWAC (short for Brooklyn Waterfront Artist Coalition and pronounced bee-wack) calls a sprawling 25,000-square-foot Civil War-era warehouse located on the East River in Red Hook its home, and over the course of four decades, it’s become the largest artist-run organization in Brooklyn. Showcasing a rotating roster of exhibitions, BWAC’s latest feature is called The Elements, and it fittingly displays pieces from various creators centered around the themes of earth, air, water, fire, and sky.

This cultural center founded by visual artist Dustin Yellin bills itself as a “museum of process,” where art and science converge. This forward-looking philosophy finds a nice counterpoint in its historic home — a former iron factory first built in 1866 and later rebuilt following a fire in 1881. In addition to revolving exhibits, you’ll find music performances, science lectures, and various workshops. There’s really no way you can leave Pioneer Works without feeling at least a little bit smarter about something.

Art gallery, television center, and educational facility — BRIC is many things to many people. Headquartered in the Brooklyn Cultural District, BRIC’s 3,000 square-foot gallery houses the works of emerging and mid-career artists, such as Na’ye Perez, whose show What You Know Bout Love… composed of vibrant streetscapes depicting the Black experience, runs through August.

Located in Greenpoint, this gallery champions artists exploring the convergence of contemporary art and new media. Just how contemporary is their philosophy? Let’s just say they have not one but two exhibitions slated for June that highlight NFTs. Currently showing, however, is Sapovnela, featuring pieces by Leila Spilman and Ryan Dawalt. Though each has their own style, the two artists share an interest in reflecting light off of surfaces and objects to create abstract expression.

ESPO stands for Exterior Surface Painting Outreach, and it’s the alias of contemporary artist and muralist Stephen Powers. Raised in Philadelphia, ESPO gained a name for himself in ‘90s New York thanks to his eye-catching graffiti, though he now focuses more on mixed-medium pieces. His “indoor” work — colorful, graphical, and playful — is on display at this corner spot in Boerum Hill.