Greenpoint’s gallery scene just got bigger, with the addition of a tiny public gallery. The NBK Little Gallery, a free and open community art exchange, opened this spring on Metropolitan Ave. between Roebling and Driggs. Artists and art appreciators of all kinds are encouraged to leave artwork, take a piece, or both. The Little Gallery public structure is maintained by volunteers from North Brooklyn Mutual Aid and the broader community, who provide the space with as little intervention as possible. The space is curated by all who interact with it, with found Heaven Ender serving as Gallery Director. Artists of all ages, working in any medium, are welcome to display work at the little gallery space.
“I had been thinking about public art for a while in my personal art practice and I felt that despite there being lots of art in New York City, that most of it is not accessible to the broader public on a day to day basis,” Ender said of their inspiration to found the gallery. Different versions of little galleries on instagram, including a recent one in Seattle, helped Ender realize this could happen in North Brooklyn.
“The concept of displaying artwork in public is nothing new, but after working with the community fridges, little libraries and the NBK Free Store, the community is more open now to these types of semi-anonymous community exchanges,” Ender said. “At this point in the pandemic the community has created and supported reliable places for neighbors to get food, clothes and other necessities, we felt we could now focus on other things that help our community thrive. We believe that art is an essential part of a healthy and happy community. Myself and some neighbors working with North Brooklyn Mutual Aid wanted to take this idea of an open gallery and bring it to our area to support artists who may have been struggling to find places to share their work post-COVID, but also to foster creativity, joy and arts education to help enrich the lives of our neighbors. “
To start NBK Little Gallery, a group of interested neighbors got together and started planning. They focused on identifying spaces in the area that were neglected or underutilized, and began discussing the goals and potential routes that this type of project could take. After agreeing on guiding principles, it was a matter of applying some street art tactics to put the gallery in place, Ender explained.
The current gallery on Metropolitan Ave resides inside of a converted ATM box. “The ATM had been removed many months ago and was often filled with garbage,” Ender said. “We had been scouting the location, checking it at different times of day to see the light and foot traffic. Finally one day a new nail salon moved in next door and instead of removing the ATM box, they painted it with a fresh coat of white paint. That evening I grabbed a few random art pieces I had, some from my collection and some from the NBK Free Store I had grabbed over the months, I went over to the box, added the stickers, put the art inside, snapped a few photos and walked away into the night. Afterwards we posted the photos on the instagram and the project was off the ground!”
The NBK Little Gallery is fully curated by the community. Any neighbor is invited to stop by to leave art, take art, or even rearrange the art that is already there to change the vibe. Volunteers stop by daily to check in and make sure that “nothing messy” has arrived and to grab photos for social media and an archive.
“We have had overwhelmingly positive responses so far,” Ender said. Paintings, drawings, stickers, ceramics, prints and zines have all been left by local artists. “People have also been slowly taking the art, I think that some people see it and assume it’s just for display but all the art is indeed free to take home,” Ender added. “We are so happy to be connecting with local artists and art appreciators and hope to keep doing everything we can to bring art into the everyday lives of our community.”
NBK Little Gallery is open 24/7 and the collective is working on more pop-ups, as well as plans for a more permanent location in the future.