New Artist-Run Gallery to Launch in Rockaway

by Paddy Johnson on January 29, 2016 Newswire


By now, Industry City has a reputation of consistently raising artist studio rents and quickly pushing them out. So where are these artists landing? One former Industry City artist and entrepreneur, George Turner, has moved most of his life to Rockaway. He’d already purchased a home there in 2008 (a random bike ride with his wife in 2007 led them to Jacob Riis Park where they feel in love with the beaches and shorelines). This August, when the Fecund Clown Building came up for sale, he jumped. Since that time, he’s founded an Artist Run Center called New York Arbor, which will launch its first show March 18th.

It’s exciting news for the neighborhood, which has recently started to see more attention from the mainstream art world. Klaus Biesenbach and Patti Smith famously have homes in Far Rockaway, and in 2014 the “Rockaway” art festival paid tribute to the reopening of the old Sandy-damaged park, Fort Tilden. That brought in celebrities the likes of James Franco, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, and Marina Abramovic. The local scene is growing too, according to Leo Turner.

“If you’re not an artist, when you get to Rockaway, you become one” Turner told the Rockaway Times recently. When I asked the artist what meant by that, he explained that the neighborhood made “you more sensitive to beautiful things”. Certainly living on a beach will do that, but it was the strangeness his building’s giant clown facade that made me think the place might be a natural fit for artists. It seemed like the kind of place that would be too weird to be loved by anyone other than an artist. Perhaps demonstrating Turner’s theory, the neighborhood loves the sign, which was first painted in 1997 by Geoff Rawling.

During my first visit to the gallery in December, I arrived as the sky darkened and a stream of twinkle lights suspended on the clown’s tiara lit the building. The lots across the street were all empty, I learned later due to a fire that decimated the homes that once stood there. It had all the markings of creepiness, except, for a giant picture of Pablo Picasso in the store front’s window. Even with no gallery built out yet, the space felt too arty to be scary. Inside were the furnishings of an old yoga studio.


“The building itself has always been a curious thing to the people around here.”  Turner told me when I remarked on the the gallery’s facade. The sign’s been through a lot. “After Sandy, the previous owner had him come and retouch it.” The owners were able to replace their facade with relief money. Still, it’s on ¾ inch untreated plywood that’s warping. Turner admitted he was unsure if he would be able to keep it in the long term. 

For, now though, it’s here to stay, and makes the gallery’s storefront all the more unique. With a quarterly season themed to the seasons, Turner is looking for submissions from artists who have made work inspired by place with a preference towards Rockaway. His woodshop will potentially be available to artists who need it, and hopes artists will make new work for his shows that respond to Rockaway. Meanwhile, a small storefront vitrine at the front of the gallery will display prints and art ware similarly matched to the seasons.

Down the road Turner hopes to represent artists and promote their careers. This may involve art fairs, though Turner understandably feels conflicted about them. “I’ve set them up and broke them down—I’ve been on every side of them.” he told me, referring to his past work experience as an art handler and  furniture maker. “But I guess I can’t help but feel a little like it’s gone crazy. Like everything. That can be great, but it’s not my first instinct to run towards an art fair.”

And in the context of a city with out of control rents and near manic production, it makes sense that some artists would want to escape that. “It’s an inspirational place for me personally,” Turner reflected. “the sea shore and the bay and the stars and the skies and the moon—you get it all out here.”

Artists wishing to submit works celebrating the spring equinox should do so by February 15. Selected artists will be notified by February 22. Applicants can submit up to five image files of recent work, each less than 1MB,  accompanied by a corresponding image list with titles, materials used, dates of production, and links to any other relevant work. Include contact information, a brief description of their creative philosophy, and how they have been affected by Rockaway. Send submissions to:

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