Foreign Artists Find Freedom at Brooklyn’s Summertime Gallery

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Sophia Cosmadopoulos and Anna Schechter, who direct summer gallery in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, do not write press materials for their exhibits. And when women organize an exhibition, they exert little influence on the works exhibited, or even on the appearance of the gallery. They are, by design, hands-off gallery owners.

Housed in a 575 square foot storefront nestled along a quiet residential street, Summertime is an art studio and gallery for artists with developmental disabilities. In the wider art world, those who exhibit there could be categorized as self-taught “foreign artists”, and indeed several have shown the Raw art fairbut categories of all kinds are shunned at Summertime, which is the point.

“We are trying to break down the barriers that have traditionally made these artists outsiders,” Ms. Cosmadopoulos said.

“We are following the lead of artists,” Ms. Schechter added. “Some identify as artists with disabilities and some don’t. Artists define themselves.

Ms. Cosmadopoulos, 36, and Ms. Schechter, 38, do the traditional job of promoting their artists and introducing them to collectors. But their role could be described as delivering the vision, and in that way they are on the ground. When vincent jacksona San Francisco-based painter, asked for a red carpet for the opening of his solo exhibition at Summertime last November, Ms. Cosmadopoulos and Ms. Schechter rolled out one.

Inspire Michael Pellewwhose sculptures, drawings and paintings are influenced by his love of heavy metal, Ms. Cosmadopoulos took him to a Megadeth concert, where they ended up together in the mosh pit.

Summertime’s current solo exhibition ‘One in a Millien’, which runs until April 10, features the work of Dean Millien, who makes sculptures of objects, people and especially animals from paper of aluminium.

Ms. Cosmadopoulos and Ms. Schechter founded Summertime in 2019, having both worked in similar spaces for artists with disabilities, such as Creativity explored in San Francisco, Diggity Arts Bomb in Portland, Maine, and LAND Studio & Gallery in Brooklyn. Such programs have existed since the 1970s and are often funded by Medicaid and defined by diagnosis. Ms. Cosmadopoulos and Ms. Schechter wanted to spin this model in a new way, bringing artists out of a siled world and into mainstream culture. For example, Summertime hosts studio hours where artists with and without disabilities create side by side.

In March 2020, Ms. Cosmadopoulos and Ms. Schechter launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Summertime, which seemed like a terrible time in the middle of a pandemic, but turned out to be fortuitous. They exceeded their fundraising goal and, with studio space available during the closures, they launched a residency program to give artists time and space to focus on their work and on their own terms. . The residency often ends with a show to sell the artists’ work. (In addition, Summertime received a $50,000 grant over two years from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.)

For the past three months, Mr Millien, 49, who lives in supportive housing in Bensonhurst, has been coming to Summertime four days a week, making more art during his residency than he had For years. On a recent afternoon, he sat at a long table in the gallery, surrounded by his silver animals – pigs, sheep, a tortoise, a horse’s head, a mother gorilla holding her baby, in sizes ranging from miniature to near life – Size.

Boxes of Reynolds Wrap sat on the table; Mr. Millien had walked through 33 at last count, including two boxes of extra-large aluminum foil. A closing sale at a nearby supermarket had been a boon to his practice, and Ms. Cosmadopoulos and Ms. Schechter took him to the American Museum of Natural History for ideas on how to display his aluminum animals in the gallery. .

“When I was younger, all I did was cartoons,” Millien said, whose work has been shown at LAND and J. Crew’s flagship store on Madison Avenue, and commands up to $3,000 for a full-scale piece. “Now I’m more focused on realistic things. The more TV I watch, the more music I listen to, the more creative I am. I don’t like to be regular.

While Ms. Cosmadopoulos and Ms. Schechter watched, Mr. Millien grabbed a fresh leaf. He chewed and molded it into a little bunny with almost effortless skill.

Because Mr. Millien loves dark-wave music and disco, Ms. Cosmadopoulos and Ms. Schechter painted the walls and floors of the gallery black, on his instructions, to make his work stand out and suggest a nightclub vibe. . They also surprised him with something he had wished for.

“Look, Dean,” Mrs. Cosmadopoulos said, pointing to a disco ball that would be hanging from the rafters.

In the statement he wrote for his show, Mr Millien asked visitors to ‘imagine Noah’s Ark in a nightclub’, adding: ‘It’s going to be brilliant, to say the least to say”.

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