Brooklyn 20: An Artists’ Colony on the Gowanus

543 Union Street used to be a box factory. But what goes on there now is decidedly more interesting—it’s home to Proteus Gowanus, a gallery that hosts exhibitions organized around a yearlong theme. (Until July, it’s Migration; before that, it was Paradise.) “Our annual themes percolate out of our conversations with the public: our visitors, a large community of artists, and interdisciplinary collaborators we work with,” founder Sasha Chavchavadze tells us, which “shows how active and integral our community is in making things happen here.” (The space also opens the galleries to writers, readers, and others looking for quiet, and is surrounded by projects-in-residence, grown out of previous exhibitions.)

Chavchavadze considers the Gowanus location—both the people and the landscape—to be a big part of what she and her team do; they even have a small museum dedicated to the waterway called The Hall of the Gowanus. “We consider the area ‘creative empty space’ and feel lucky that the area has not been developed in ways that would squelch that,” she tells us. “We like the fact that we are down a [turn-of-the-century] alleyway, and consider that a part of our being, on purpose, a bit off the radar. I suppose you could say that a disadvantage is that it is hard for people to find us—though, when they do find us, they often become regulars and tell their friends. So, we have a big following.”

543 Union Street, Gowanus,


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