Spotlight On: The Java Project
Long in the shadow of neighboring Bushwick and Williamsburg, Greenpoint’s artistic community is getting a lift thanks to a new gallery and project space set to open in February. Boasting a new 250 square foot gallery plus 400 square feet of outdoor space, The Java Project will feature 12 exhibitions a year and additional programming. Last week, I sat down with The Java Project’s founder and director, Dakota Sica, to learn more.
Greenpointers: First, what is The Java Project, and how did it come about?
Dakota Sica: I had been thinking about opening a gallery for awhile because I felt like the artists I knew weren’t being given the opportunities their work called for. I was underwhelmed with most of the exhibitions I saw, which relied on the notoriety of the artist’s name instead of offering a dialogue. The Java Studios compound, which includes over 200 artist studios, saw this unharvested talent and sponsored The Java Project in their storefront gallery space. We are a project that advocates for artists and exhibits new and challenging works.
GPers: What are The Java Project’s plans and goals for 2015? Beyond 2015?
DS: For our inaugural season, we have many interesting exhibitions scheduled. Our first show will be Lindsay Dye, a former cam girl who draws on these experiences as performances and transforms them into wearable sculpture and installation. Our programming will include film screenings, artist lectures, and panel discussions.
DS: In the summer, we’ll expand our gallery to our outdoor space and exhibit large-scale sculptures. This will include the works of Heather McKenna, who captures subtle glimpses of light, texture, and color and transforms them into larger-than-life sculptural installations. We’ll also be hosting an artist-in-residency program where international artists can apply to work in our studio and have an exhibition at the end of their stay. We are very excited for our first visiting artist, Karian Amaya from Mexico City, who will be having her first New York solo show.
GPers:There’s been a lot of press lately about gentrification and how it impacts artist neighborhoods and communities, usually making them more decentralized or pushing artists out of New York City altogether. To that end, how are spaces like The Java Project helping to bridge that gap? What community needs is The Java Project responding to specifically?
DS: We are all to aware of how hard it is for artists to find affordable studio space, opportunities in the arts, and communities where they can contribute. We located ourselves in a section of Greenpoint that seems to be unaffected by this push. Seeded within factories, sawmills, waste management facilities, and blocks from residential properties, we are a sanctuary for our extended artist community. All of our programming is inclusive, free, and open to the public.
GPers: How is The Java Project distinct from Java Studios and the former Java Studios Gallery? Are there any spaces you see as precedents?
DS: Although we are a part of the building compound of Java Studios, we are a separate entity. The Java Project is a fully functioning gallery with its own agenda. We support the larger community of studio tenants but maintain our own identity.
We are really inspired by other artist-run communities that let artists meet and share their work. Places like The Bruce High Quality Foundation, which began a free university in the city to provide a wide range of classes for artists to share work and educate themselves, the Bushwick Art Crit Group, which provides a platform for artists to present their work and ideas, and Pioneer Works in Red Hook, which has classes, movie screenings, workshops, and concerts, just to name a few. We humbly would like to add to communities like this and provide another space where artists, those interested in the arts, and anyone who is just curious about The Java Project can participate. Further details of programming will come in the later months.
GPers: There’s a really diverse lineup of artists slated for the first set of shows at The Java Project. How would you describe your curatorial vision for the space? How did you go about putting together this specific group of artists?
DS: The curatorial process for The Java Project was very fluid. Our curators had an archive of artists we were interested in and had been following for years. The artists who show at The Java Project are able to exhibit their work without being bound to production budgets, annual contracts, or sales reports. Since the gallery does not represent artists in a traditional and contractual sense, we instead advocate for these artists and share with them the space and vision for the project. The curatorial staff was determined to find artists who were very different from each other in practice, ideology, and making. This assures that no one steps on each others toes and that the gallery is not known for only showing a specific “type” of work.
GPers: You’re an artist yourself with a highly interdisciplinary practice ranging from performance to sculpture to 2D work. How does your own artistic practice inform your work as director of The Java Project? What are the benefits of having an artist-run space?
DS: Most galleries I meet with to discuss my personal work are more interested in the commerce of the pieces rather than the ideas behind them. Having had this experience, as the director of The Java Project, I want to make sure our model is not contingent on sales of artwork but on the concepts of the work we are exhibiting. Our vision for showing effective works outside of a dry economic court is paramount. We are for artists and by artists.
GPers: Greenpoint has more of an under the radar arts scene, with a lot of the galleries closer to Williamsburg, although there does seem to be some renewed interest thanks to the recent Greenpoint Open Studios. So, why Greenpoint?
DS: It was after Greenpoint Open Studios that I felt a real desire to have more spaces in this neighborhood. Chelsea is dominated by museum-sized galleries, Williamsburg is like Disneyland, and Bushwick is already being contextualized as a buzzword for art fairs. I feel like Greenpoint has a lot of meat left on the bone. We intend to extend our reach to the galleries in our neighborhood and also to our neighbors in Long Island City. It’s funny how many artists are hiding out on these back streets—Richard Serra makes his prints just a few blocks away.
GPers: Tell me a little more about the residency program. How do you foresee this studio exchange benefiting the wider arts community?
DS: During my own time abroad studying at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, I was very intrigued by how artists from other countries approached the idea of making artworks. It was a very enlightening experience to be submerged in another type of environment that had different ideals. Through the residency program, we plan to host artists from different cultural backgrounds and encourage a cross-pollination of ideas and discourse in the arts.
GPers: What’s been the biggest challenge so far? The biggest surprise?
DS: Opening a gallery is a lot of work, surprise! †
The Java Project (252 Java Street) will open Friday, February 13th with a show by Lindsay Dye. You can follow The Java Project on Twitter & Instagram @thejavaproject