Gowanus: Art in the Midst of Change

How artists old and new are weathering new developments in the neighborhood.

By Amanda Rae Prescott - Source: http://thebrooklynink.com
A view of Gowanus from the F train overpass. Amanda-Rae Prescott/The Brooklyn Ink

A view of Gowanus from the F train overpass. Amanda-Rae Prescott/The Brooklyn Ink

Formerly industrial neighborhoods attract artists in New York City, and Gowanus is a prime example of this trend. Empty warehouses and lofts in Gowanus are well suited as workspaces for a wide variety of artistic pursuits.

In 2009, the Department of City Planning mapped out a rezoning plan designed to promote future development in the neighborhood. Now, a few years later, new residents and businesses have moved in. Newer artists are working near established Gowanus artists.

On the same block as a new hotel and apartments sits a store with folk art furniture and African wooden drums, all lined up outside on the sidewalk. Ibrahima Didkhane makes, repairs, as well as teaches the drums at Keur Djembe. He is also a collector of African art which is displayed right alongside completed drums. Didkhane learned how to make and play the drums in Senegal many years ago. “Nobody was here when I first opened up the store,” Didkhane said. “Now the hotel and new buildings are here.” He started making drums out of his apartment above the store in 1986 and then opened the shop in 1998.

“My customers are not buying drums as much as they used to,” Didkhane said. “It’s hard to keep the store going.” Most customers are more interested in repairs and classes, he explains, but his business depends on people appreciating his skills as a builder and an artist.

A few African masks on display at Keur Djembe. Amanda-Rae Prescott/The Brooklyn Ink

A few African masks on display at Keur Djembe. Amanda-Rae Prescott/The Brooklyn Ink

Read the rest at: http://thebrooklynink.com

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