Discovery Series: Fowler Arts Collective Interview

Discovery Series: Fowler Arts Collective Interview

Rhoni Blankenhorn for COMPANY

(November 2, 2011)  I first learned about Fowler Arts Collective during my trek through Northside Open Studios.  Located in the strikingly industrial Greenpoint Terminal on the edge of the East River, Fowler houses 24 artists in a maze of semi-private studio spaces, encouraging a communal atmosphere.  Their gallery presents collaborative, artist-directed exhibitions of emerging works, artist projects, readings, and classes, making for a truly dynamic creative community. 

Though a native of South Carolina, founder Cecelia Post has immersed herself in the Brooklyn art scene.  An identical twin and the daughter of an ornithologist and an artist, this artist-slash-community-builder extraordinaire earned her MFA in photography and video from University of Pennsylvania before relocating to Greenpoint to work her magic. 

COMPANY:  How would you define Fowler Arts Collective to someone who’s never heard of it?

Cecelia:  Fowler is a studio and gallery collective located in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.  We run a gallery program of emerging artists and also offer affordable studios to artists of all mediums.  Fowler is a collective in the sense that by sharing space and resources, we have been able to draw more attention to each artist’s individual work by providing a destination for collectors, critics, and curators who are interested in seeing work from a large group of artists in an environment that is very different from the traditional Chelsea gallery.

COMPANY:  What inspired you to start a collective?  Did you have a specific purpose in mind?

Cecelia:  I was still very new to New York City a year ago, and I felt frustrated and isolated as an artist outside of the commercial gallery system.  I wanted a way to connect with a community and use the strength of it to keep my head above water.  I realized that by sharing a large industrial loft, a group of artists could gain access to more space and opportunities than we could have by ourselves.

COMPANY:  This is quite different from the Chelsea gallery scene.  Do you see any similarities/differences?

Cecelia:  The Chelsea gallery scene has obviously had quite a few years to evolve into the kind of place it is now, and Fowler is only a year old - I’m still not sure what we are going to become!  Chelsea really is the center of the art world, especially in New York, and just the fact that we are located in Brooklyn makes us pretty far removed from that scene.  What spaces like Fowler provide is an alternative showing and viewing experience, set apart by a unique building, working artists nearby, and industrial Brooklyn churning away outside the window.  Both scenes are just as valid and valuable to the art world conversation. 

As a young artist, I see that it takes so many steps along the way to get that dream Chelsea solo show, but there is no set blueprint for success.  Fowler gives young or under-represented artists the chance to start taking themselves seriously no matter where they are in their career trajectory. 

COMPANY:  With all the economic turbulence, what do you think keeps collectors interested in art?

Cecelia:  The making of art, for artists, operates outside of the ups and downs of the financial market.  When times are tight, it is important to seek out rich, emotional experiences and to find moments of beauty or tranquility to help us imagine a new path. That is when art is at its most valuable.  Basic human curiosity, questioning, and vitality are at the center of art and I feel like that is a big reason why people collect art no matter what is going on in the world.

COMPANY:  How has Fowler affected your own work?

Cecelia:  In some ways Fowler has actually kept me from doing my own work!  I took a huge risk with this organization and I didn’t know if it could sustain itself.  Now that Fowler survived its first year, I feel some release from the stress of simply keeping the collective alive.  The artists I’ve met and worked with have rekindled my excitement for artistic life in New York and the community has enriched my life artistically and personally.  I hope it does the same for all involved.

COMPANY:  Any other collectives do you admire?

Cecelia:  I don’t personally know many collectives similar to Fowler, but there are many vibrant organizations approaching art from unique angles.  Before I moved to Philadelphia in 2007, I worked at Redux Contemporary Art Center in my hometown of Charleston, SC.  It changed my ideas about what sort of environment is beneficial to viewing and making artwork.  Regina Rex in Queens is another great alternative space.

COMPANY:  Most memorable exhibition?

Cecelia:  All are memorable of course!  Paint It Now from summer 2011 showed me that if I just step back and let the artists collaborate on their own exhibitions, the exhibition can become a work of art in itself.  It was organized by one of our studio artists, Scott Chasse.  About 18 artists painted directly onto the gallery walls, covering every single bit of white.

COMPANY:  Any standout artists you’ve worked with?

Cecelia:  I owe so much to the talents and energy of Ramon Urenia and Kurt Freyer who helped me build all of these walls and kept studios at Fowler for the longest time.  Scott Chasse, Deanna Lee, Kate Nielsen, and Tory Sica, are all artists who first took studios at Fowler, and continue with us today.  They have contributed so much to the collective by staying involved and making amazing work in our studios.  I have to say the most interesting part of running Fowler is the artists I get to meet and work with.  Sometimes they bring the drama, but that is all part of the fun!

Fowler’s next exhibition, The Build Up, opens this Saturday November 5.  Make your way to Greenpoint and check them out for yourself.

The Build Up: Group Exhibition
November 5 – December 5, 2011
Opening reception: November 5,  6 – 9 pm
67 West Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222, Second Floor

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