By now it has been very well documented that Monster Island in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has closed its doors after seven years of art exploration and experimentation with murals, art shows and music concerts. The building is set for demolition and it is rumored that it will be replaced by a Whole Foods Store.
During these years we’ve watched the exterior of Monster Island with great interest as it was an every-changing heaven for emerging artists to show their stuff to the public. The environment engendered creativity; With non for profit art galleries and performance spaces, an underground music venue, a surf shop, a screen-print studio, a recording studio, several artists studios and a family of lovely street cats, Monster Island was a symbol of what Williamsburg was all about; artists and community struggling to make cool stuff for each other and sometimes a big audience. Since the early 1990s, ad-hoc love-driven venues like this have opened and closed, along with art parties, loft performances, artist collectives, and a loose association of art galleries. The settlement of writers, dancers, bands, performers, and all sorts of artists helped give the area a decided edge, even if you couldn’t convince your Manhattan friends to come visit the neighborhood at night.
Kid Acne (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Now “The Edge” of course is the name of a corporate looking glass tower on the waterfront and the moderate frightened masses began their march to Williamsburg after the developers re-zoned 30+ blocks in North Brooklyn in 2005, transforming it quickly to a New York suburb with quirky, kooky shopping opportunities. It’s an old story, but we have to tell it; Now the rents are too high and the culture is increasingly inhospitable to artists and the Monster Island landlord has a different plan for the lot and the lease wasn’t renewed. Williamsburg is going upscale just like Manhattan and the rest of the city and for struggling artists and the venues that give them shelter and nurture them this is another reason why we are watching people move to other neighborhoods or out of New York altogether. In a way, this is what NYC is all about; Re-invention and greed.
We have been photographing the ever-changing facade of this building that was offered as a canvas for local and visiting artists all over the world to put their art up. Today we pay homage and say farewell to this iconic institution and to the people that endeavored to make it unique with a photo essay of the numerous murals that went up there since 2004. We have made an effort to identify most of the artists. Please let us know if you know the names of the artists we have tagged as unknown or if we erroneously credited a piece of art.