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PROFILE: BROOKLYN: CINDERS
PRIYA BHATNAGAR

LIKE the proverbial phoenix, Cinders gallery arose from the ashes of destruction. In 2004 young artists Kelie Bowman and Sto were celebrating the fact that they had found the perfect space, in the hipster enclave of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in which to open their own gallery. They returned home from a ten-minute beer run to find Kelie’s apartment building on fire. She was homeless – and to add insult to injury, their potential landlord decided to rent to a women’s gym instead. The couple found a new space on a tranquil tree-lined street in Williamsburg’s Southside, and lived there for the first year while they fixed it up. They named the new gallery ‘Cinders’ to commemorate the circumstances of its birth.





Since summer 2004, Cinders has become a social hub for Brooklyn artists, local bands and neighbourhood artists alike. Bowman and Sto started by showing the work of people they knew from New York and their home states of Virginia and Florida, but soon began to contact and befriend like-minded galleries in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Oakland, Portland, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. Cinders was initially envisioned as a parallel world in opposition to the high-rolling art scene across the river in Chelsea, but through a shared DIY ethic it has found itself part of a growing national network of small community-oriented spaces.





The gallery champions drawings in particular, though all kinds of handmade objects – clothes, prints, artist’s books, zines and multiples – are on sale in a little shop in the back room. Recent exhibitions include ‘These Bagels are Gnarly’ (2007), a group show of drawings on 8 ½ x 11 inch paper in ballpoint pen, curated by Rich Jacobs. Another recent exhibition, ‘Homohome’ (2006), curated by Kay Turner, featured specially designed ‘must-have’ objects for the gay home. Cinders prides itself on selling affordable work so ‘the man on the street’ can – and often does – step inside and become a collector. The gallery’s storefront location next to a beloved local deli helps it function as a community art space involved in the area’s daily life. Their goal is to cultivate a following of local art lovers and artists alike.

In 2005 Cinders mounted a show that brought this point home, literally. Sto and Kelie built a wooden porch inside the gallery, complete with a lawn, water sprinkler and thematically linked artworks. The exhibition opened with a neighbourhood barbecue, local bands played impromptu shows on the porch, and the backyard idyll became a popular meeting place and oasis in the hot Brooklyn summer. A second edition – complete with lemonade and a dose of Southern hospitality – is in the works for this summer.

PRIYA BHATNAGAR IS A WRITER BASED IN NEW YORK

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