Farewell from NURTUREart
June 20, 2019
NURTUREart announces that after careful consideration, we have decided that our current season of programming will be our last. Due to a confluence of resource challenges and a shifting environment for non-profits, we find ourselves unable to continue serving our communities in our ideal capacity. We are grateful to have been able to make a dynamic contribution to the creative vibrancy of art in New York City over the course of our 22 years. We would like to thank all of the supporters who made it possible for us to provide services to emerging artists and curators, as well as local public school students.
In all, NURTUREart presented 17 full seasons of 6 to 8 exhibitions each in our own galleries, in addition to many curatorial projects at guest locations around the city, hosted over 120 Muse Fuse talks, as well as dozens of enriching performances, readings, and panels over the years. Through the online registry we drew attention to the work of 2,100 emerging artists and curators. Our Education Outreach Program is proud to have had 161 artists and 11 curators teach 1,170 public school students in 4 neighboring schools' classrooms, as well as through gallery and studio visits. These education programs culminated in 35 exhibits and events, creating exhibition opportunities for 80 artists.
In 1997, George J. Robinson founded NURTUREart Non-Profit, Inc. to realize his vision of an organization dedicated to helping emerging artists. Long before the term "pop-up gallery" became fashionable, he began by mounting guerilla exhibitions in donated spaces whenever and wherever possible, starting a slide registry in a filing cabinet in his Washington Heights apartment. As the Artists' Registry grew, exhibits took place in all corners of the city from the United Nations and the Limelight, to Presbyterian Hospital, empty Lower East Side storefronts and corporate lobbies. From its inception the organization sought to not only provide opportunities for exhibitions and exposure, but to create a nurturing community. To that end a monthly networking meeting was started to introduce the artists of the registry to one another. This forum, "Muse Fuse," evolved into a popular salon, organized and hosted by board member Karen Marston in her studio for 11 seasons. During its tenure the salon featured an impressive roster of guest speakers from the forefront of the New York art world who engaged in direct dialog with artists in a friendly and informal environment.
In 2002 NURTUREart expanded programming to include emerging curators, facilitating introductions and collaborations between curators and artists. Then in 2003 NURTUREart opened a gallery of our own in a small space in an artist filled warehouse on Keap Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, generating the exciting opportunity for a full season of exhibitions. The gallery was launched with a philosophy of openness and accessibility for diverse artists, curators, and audiences, seeking to create opportunity for artistic experimentation and expression with a transparent process of selection by means of an annual open call, administered, like all of our programming, free of charge. Eventually we grew the budget to allow for paid stipends to participating artists and curators.
Establishing our own space allowed NURTUREart to embark on an exciting period of growth in all of our programming. The rapidly expanding slide registry was digitized and launched online, the exhibitions took place monthly year round, and Muse Fuse and other special events flourished. In 2005 board member Eliot Lable, a teaching artist himself, founded our Education Outreach Program with 9th graders at the neighboring Juan Morel Campos Secondary School. He created a blueprint for promoting teaching and learning opportunities for artists and school students, which quickly grew to encompass hundreds of students in an array of schools with far reaching programming—even including collaborative projects with school children in Africa and South America.
Our ambitious exhibition program continued to succeed and grow as we relocated to bigger and better spaces in response to gentrification and the shifting locus of emerging art. We first moved to East Williamsburg on Grand Street (2006–2011) and then on to our current location at 56 Bogart Street in Bushwick. We are proud to have presented an extraordinary number of exhibitions, enlarging dialog and creating awareness of hundreds of emerging artists and dozens of emerging curators, providing unique opportunities to make, discuss, and experience contemporary art, bringing recognition and praise by the public and the press.
The 2018–2019 season energetically caps our achievements. Our education programs continued to bring robust and dynamic programming to over 250 students at our 4 Brooklyn public schools taught by artists- and curators-in-residence. One of our most esteemed programs, Project Curate culminates this year with the current exhibition (Im)Perfection, curated by students from Juan Morel Campos. Our exhibitions and public events this year featured critical programming by artists and curators investigating social and psychological constructs of race in America; detainment of immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border; affective haptics, distance, and intimacy; the history of child psychology, spectatorship, and subjectivity; technological advancement and the continued erosion of workers’ rights; and artists’ roles in protecting the environment in the face of government rollbacks.
NURTUREart was built and sustained by the collaborative energy and commitment of many, many people—more than we can list in entirety. The earliest iterations of the Board of Trustees were primarily composed of working artists volunteering tremendous amounts of their time, idealists who forged an organization to serve the needs of their peers. Some of these pioneering artists included: Sandra Bermudez, Kristin Anderson, Patrick Meagher, Robert Martinez, Robert Curcio, Eliot Lable, Maria Spector, and Mariestella Colón-Astacio, and carrying on the tradition in later years Susan Hamburger, Deborah Brown, and Rachel Klinghoffer among others. Still with us from the early days are artists Carol Salmanson, serving as Vice President, and Karen Marston, who succeeded our founder after his retirement in 2006, and led the organization as President for ten years before passing the mantle to Christopher K. Ho. Over time the board’s composition has expanded to also include other dedicated art world professionals and business people lending their knowledge and expertise. We welcomed the engagement of Sayaka Araki, Chief Financial Officer of the Noguchi Museum, in our earlier days, and Larry Mascera, Partner at Capital Market Solutions, our most recent Treasurer. We had the benefit of input from independent curators Julie McKim and Ian Cofre, Dave Harper, who was the first Curator of Visual Arts at BAM, as well as architect Steve Scuro, Partner at Janson Goldstein. We have been fortunate to have the advice of several gallery directors, Asya Geisberg of her eponymous gallery, Benjamin Tischer of Invisible Exports, Liz Dimmitt of Lehmann Maupin, and Heather Darcy Bhandari of Mixed Greens, as well as Benefit Auction Specialist Laura Burton of Paddle8. We also wish to acknowledge our latest additions to the board, gallerist Cindy Rucker and educator Jon Ramsay, whose enthusiasm we wish we had more time to cultivate.
Many generous funders believing in us made it possible to realize our mission. As our budget grew, we were very pleased to be able to establish a paid staff. NURTUREart was fortunate to attract some phenomenal people who contributed tremendously to the growth of the organization. Our gallery program got off the ground with our first director, Veronica Mijelshon, and our Education Outreach Program would not be what it is today without the tireless and innovative efforts for over ten years by Education Director Molly O’Brien. Among the others we are particularly grateful to have worked with in the past are Gallery Director Benjamin Evans, and Assistant Gallery Director Rachel Steinberg, from our formative Grand Street years, and our defining Bushwick era Executive Director and Curator Marco Antonini—all of whom left their creative mark on the organization; followed by the recent tenure of Executive Director Will Penrose, previously of the LMCC and Rema Hort Mann Foundation.
That legacy of talent, tenacity, and heartfelt commitment continues with our current staff, Programs Manager Ivan Gilbert, who in recent months graciously stepped up to the role of Interim Managing Director, and Education Director Grace McDonald. It is through their hard work and leadership that we are able to seamlessly wrap up an excellent final season, fulfilling the vision of our founder with enthusiasm and integrity.
George J. Robinson, Founder and Executive Director Emeritus, offers this note of inspiration, "I encourage all those who have contributed to and benefited from NURTUREart to please reach out to others you’ve met and worked with along the way and continue nurturing those emerging artists and curators such that by extension and the multiplier effect the nurturance will continue to enrich our communities well beyond the boundaries of atelier and gallery walls."
All of us at NURTUREart are saddened to find our time together drawing to a close, yet very happy and proud to celebrate a long and distinguished contribution to the art community. NURTUREart, our name is our mission.