Following the evolution of The Bushwick Collective and its annual block party in Brooklyn has been a captivating journey akin to an anthropological exploration into the growing embrace of street art and murals within the realms of graffiti and HipHop. Back in the day, as the neighborhood began transforming with the influx of gentrifiers, street art faced outright dismissal or was treated as a rare phenomenon, a curiosity.
Unaware of the previous codes that roughly governed the practices of graffiti writers on the street, art-students-cum-street-art-poets often obtusely stomped their way into public view to circumvent a gallery system and to express their right to self-expression in public; something HipHop culture had been encouraging for years but had perhaps not envisioned this way. The rivalry between graffiti aficionados and street artists/muralists was sometimes palpable, with throwies vandalizing fresh paint, the OGs asserting territorial dominance, and at times, even resorting to threats and insults in person and in online forums.
As the block party, now in its twelfth year, unfolded, its early editions predominantly featured international and some local street artists eagerly seeking out BC’s visionary leader, Joe Ficalora, for an opportunity to leave their mark on his neighborhood walls. Local street art forums found fault with Ficalora, masking a barely hidden contempt for a streetwise guy taking a leadership role and betraying their own classist privileged opinions about the right to curation. That has all melted appreciably; this year’s event evidenced the remarkable shift that has been underway. Graffiti writers took the stage alongside the muralists in prime spots, sometimes seamlessly collaborating to create art transcending boundaries, all while the electrifying sounds of live HipHop performances reverberated through the air and TikTokers danced in front of them.
Let’s raise a bottle to those who always believed in the possibility of this transformative phenomenon, and to those who championed inclusivity over exclusivity. It’s yet another reason why our hearts beat for this extraordinary international art movement, the embodiment of the people’s democratic spirit and the unlimited creative spirit that is in every person. And most importantly, it’s a reminder of why we hold you dear.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Adnate, Ben Angotti, Cekis, Cesism, Damien Mitchell, Danielle Mastrion, Dirt Cobain, Evan Paul English, Gongkan, Li-Hill, MeresOne, UFO 907, Vince Ballentine, and You Go Girl!