Dumbo’s waterfront arts district– world-class performance venues, premier art galleries, artist residency programs, public art & festivals.
Smack Mellon is not only pretty fun to say, it’s also pretty cool to see. This giant art center is 12,000 square feet of art awesomeness that includes exhibition space, artists’ studios, shared workspace, a digital production lab, and a kitchen/lounge.
But it wasn’t always this way – Smack Mellon was born in 2005 and hosted events in the founders’ own loft. Later they began showing exhibitions in various locations throughout the Dumbo neighborhood. In 2005, they moved to their current location in a former boiler building that used to provide the heat and power to the surrounding buildings.
While you can still feel the building’s industrial roots, it’s been completely renovated. These days, it’s a bustling artist community that’s also a popular space for weddings and private events. But it seems like what they’re most proud of is the education and support of artists. They offer things like free intensive art camp for underprivileged young people and free studio space for struggling artists. So, it’s clear that they’re deeply rooted in the art community and are doing their part to encourage its survival in NYC.
Smack Mellon usually has one or two rotating exhibitions on display, often working with emerging, female and mid-career artists rather than more established artists. Sometimes they have group shows that center around a theme like “Race & Revolution: Still Separate – Still Unequal,” but they also present individual artists.
During Culture Forward 2017, Smack Mellon’s exhibitions are from two individual artists: Ron Baron and Karina Aguilera Skvirsky. Baron’s show, “Beyond-Beyond” is an installation piece that includes almost 100 pairs of life-size, ceramic shoes. It’s an impressive and haunting display that was inspired by his visits to yard sales and vintage shops, during which he began to feel that the cast-off belongings of strangers held feelings of absence and loss.
Skvirsky’s show is called “The Perilous Journey of María Rosa Palacios” and is a 30-minute, performance-based film that documents the artist’s trip from Ecuador’s Chota highlands to the coastal town of Guayaquil. This was a recreation of her great grandmother’s journey by foot and by mule in 1906 and explores themes of personal and national identity, place, and representation. Skvirsky’s film is a combination of improvisational performance, interviews, and research on travel during the time her great-grandmother made the trip.
As you can see, Smack Mellon carefully chooses a wide variety of artists that represent different media, perspectives, and themes that are deeply personal and sometimes political. The massive, beautifully renovated space is, in itself, a work of art and a treat for fans of vintage architecture.
Check out the massive concrete coal hopper that stretches 70 feet in length and is 18 feet overhead by the steel and concrete columns. This is just one link to the current building’s industrial history.
Cover photo from www.artindumbo.com