Housed in a former textile factory in Bushwick, The Living Gallery is an alternative art space and community outreach venue in Brooklyn. I was somewhere between the Secret Project Robot and one of the Bushwick late-night taco joints when I stumbled upon the gallery space for the first time. There was a closing event for an exhibit cheekily entitled “Presidents with Boob Faces.” The owner, director, and curator Nyssa Frank personally welcomed us in, smoothing down her long silver-blue hair and gracefully adjusting her wide-brimmed vintage hat.
Frank, an artist herself, paints, draws, and sings/screams in Cum Blood. She describes growing up in an artistic household in Long Island. “My mother is an artist and my father is a composer. I grew up playing in my mother’s studio which was attached to our house in Springs, Long Island,” she reflects upon her childhood and adds, “I always traveled with my parents, and I was exposed to art and music.”
Before opening The Living Gallery, Frank had traveled extensively and in New York, co-founded Damon Dash’s Tribeca art gallery. “I didn’t know I wanted to be involved so directly in the arts until recently—when I realized that everything hasn’t been done, at least not here in Bushwick, and that the community needs a competitive free platform for artists.”
Since The Living Gallery’s opening four years ago, Frank has been collaborating with local parents and teachers to host community-oriented classes and events. “We have ongoing classes, from oil painting, cooking, photography, and drawing.” Frank, who has a Philosophy degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara, adds, “We have an ongoing philosophy discussion night and film screening night.”
Frank’s vision for her gallery is to create a welcoming arts space and an open environment. She explains, “We want to encourage support for all artists, and erase any competitive air.” Unlike many small galleries that rely on artist-generated profit, the gallery focuses on hosting affordable classes and offering the space for event rentals. She says, “I want to make sure my gallery is as accessible as possible. I want everyone to feel included and invited. I want to make sure that everyone has equal opportunities to exhibit his or her artwork, and take advantage of what we have to offer.”
Bushwick is where the gallery will remain. With a vision to expand the space and one day, host musical events, Frank is currently searching for a new home for The Living Gallery in Bushwick. Nyssa explains, “We want to celebrate the local community, its culture and charm, as well as enrich it and offer people a different perspective on the possibilities the world holds!”
Article by Sewon Christina Chung