5 Things Phoenix's Art Detour Can Learn from New York's Bushwick Open Studios

Categories: Visual Art

Connor Descheemaker
Members of performance art group thingNY make music from a destroyed piano as part of Bushwick Open Studios

Bushwick Open Studios represents the next wave of the New York art scene, shining a light for one weekend on the studios, galleries, and art spaces which make up its up-and-coming Bushwick neighborhood. In visiting New York for the first time, I found myself working through the heart of this annual event, exploring the work of the top new practitioners of visual and performance art in the city. Sound familiar?

In researching and attending the event, which took place from May 30 to June 1, I saw immediate parallels to Phoenix's own annual studio and gallery tour, Art Detour. Both are put together by entirely volunteer-based organizations (Artlink and Arts in Bushwick or AiB). Both were founded with the intent of exposing their respective communities' underground art scenes to the public. Both feature a mix of official and unofficial happenings.

While incomparable in terms of sheer scale -- 600-plus spaces to visit in New York versus 100-plus in Phoenix -- there is still a great bit of knowledge I gleaned from BOS that could be translated into success locally. To be sure, this is not a "Phoenix just isn't New York" (because duh), but a "Hey look! We can do this, too!"

See also: Artlink Needs to Rethink Art Detour

5. Multimedia Venues

As I wandered through the studio spaces, apartments, and storefronts which made up the tour, more than once I became a part of the art I was ostensibly viewing. Walking into one apartment, I was immediately invited to sit down, as I was "just in time for my appointment." Over the next 15 minutes, I proceeded to work through a video-recorded performance with a local actress, discussing our alleged alcohol addictions and in-progress recovery.

Though bewildering at first, once I settled into a rhythm (with a highly skilled and rehearsed counterpart, mind you), the exercise was captivating. Sometimes you need to be forcibly slapped with art to be reminded of what it can mean.

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I'd be curious to know if BOS has a paid staff component or is strictly volunteer as Art Detour has been for practically 26 years. There was a short window where funding did pay for a part-time staff member, but it went away years ago.

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