For a colorful outdoor experience in New York City, walk among the biggest, most diverse collection of street art in Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood. A must-see if you’re in NYC and like urban art!
A large section of Bushwick and bordering East Williamsburg has evolved into a huge, free and authentic outdoor gallery of graffiti, murals and other visual art created by artists from around the world.
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History of Bushwick Street Art
Graffiti, murals and other street art have been covering the walls, doors, tunnels, garage doors and trains of Brooklyn for many decades. Actually, you don’t see much graffiti on trains anymore. Instead, you see more and more large scale works of art that go far beyond the creative display of an artist name – and more smaller scale stencils, wheat-paste and sticker creations.
Something distinctly changed about the scale and variety of NYC street art after Joseph Ficalora launched the Bushwick Collective in honor of his deceased parents. He wanted to change the look and feel of his neighborhood and started the non-profit to connect international street artists with wall spaces (by getting permissions from the buildings’ owners).
What began as a rather personal project got the ball rolling on turning a section of Bushwick into arguably the largest, most diverse and popular place to see and create street art in New York City.
Why Street Artists Flock to Bushwick
International street artists flock to Bushwick for several reasons. Historically, the Bushwick neighborhood has been an industrial part of Brooklyn, with lots of warehouses, factories, and workshops. With increasing rents in the former *it* neighborhood Williamsburg, artists and other adventurous types started moving east into East-Williamsburg and Bushwick, turning that area into the next hip (or over-hyped, if you like) NYC neighborhood.
Even if some of the occupants have changed, a large part of Bushwick still features the warehouse architecture providing graffiti artists with large canvases on walls barely interrupted by windows or doors and on lots of industrial-sized pulldown gates (think big garage doors).
Of course, having the Bushwick Collective or someone else go through the process of picking the “canvas” and acquiring the permission to put a piece on a particular building takes away one headache (but possibly also the thrill of unapproved fly/spray-by-night creations).
Last but not least, the popularity, reputation and diversity of the Bushwick street art attracts artists who want to have their work seen and be part of this unique outdoor gallery experience. Rumor has it some business owners also pay artists to beautify their buildings.
Take a Virtual Tour of Bushwick Street Art
Most people head over to the headquarters of the Bushwick Collective to explore the art-covered streets around there. We decided to veer off the beaten path just a bit to show you the incredible street art just a few blocks further west. That area around Meserole Street and Bogart Streets is technically already East Williamsburg. If you’re into photography, you’ll have less people to deal with and you’ll capture pieces that have not been shared online quite as much.
Here are a few of our favorite images…
How to Get to the Biggest Selection of NYC Street Art
The headquarters of the Bushwick Collective are at the corner of St. Nicholas Street and Flushing Avenue. The Jefferson Street stop of the L train (subway connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn via Williamsburg) is only 2 blocks away.
The art featured in this post was discovered in a quadrant between Bushwick Ave and Morgan Ave and between Meserole Street and Stagg Street. There are several train options. The closest subway station is Montrose Avenue (L train); not too far are Broadway (G train) and Lorimer (J and M trains). Make sure you check first if your preferred train is running – there’s quite a bit of interruption of train service on the weekends due to construction.
Once you get to either of those two sections, graffiti and murals will be all around you. So just roam freely and take in the art. If you prefer a Brooklyn Street Art Guided Tour, you could go on an organized Pay-What-You-Like Tour by Free Tours By Foot. or a $25-tour with Street Art Walk. We haven’t gone on either tour because we prefer to explore on our own – so this is not a direct endorsement, just two suggestions.
More Brooklyn Happier Place Tips
If you’re hungry or thirsty after all your street art gazing, we recommend The Anchored Inn (57 Waterbury Street), where you get to enjoy an impressive collection of velvet paintings. Or check out The Well (272 Meserole Street) for a large beer selection, backyard and live events.
The street art on the walls of Bushwick and East Williamsburg changes frequently – especially around the time of the annual Bushwick Collective Block Party in the summer. So come back frequently to see the vast outdoor gallery keep changing.
Save one of these images to Pinterest as a reminder and inspiration:
The mural of the ship among the waves (top of post) is by Nubian Art. A special thank you to Chris Christian for his vast selection of street art photos on Flickr with the street artist’s names and links!