I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
What started as an attempt to earn rent money by New York Expressionists and Greenwich Village neighbors Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning has become a New York institution. With no less enthusiasm than those unknown painters had in 1931, hundreds of other local and nationally recognized artists will kick off the Washington Square Park Outdoor Art Exhibit on Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday May 29, with joie de vivre.
In its earliest days, the outdoor exhibit drew hundreds of artists like Alice Neel and Saul Berman and was a must-see show for every major New York curator. (The inset painting by artist George Grosz was from the 1934 show and was used again this year in promotional mailings.) And while today's painters or photographers may be most eager to secure gallery or museum representation, the exhibit remains a New York artist's rite-of-passage.
New York City has seen an increase in artists selling their works directly to the public of late, even in light of recent plans by city officials to limit the number of art vendors in parks, such as in Union Square.
Selling art on the street is beneficial in countless ways. It enables the creatively minded to expose their works to untold masses in a method that, when successful, reaches a unique audience, however niche. It also helps artists network with their peers, gain invaluable feedback, and hopefully, earn some greenbacks.
What is impressive about the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit, as opposed to the artists who sell their work on city streets under First Amendment free speech rights, is that it's a show juried by other professional artists. Visitors should expect a variety of works in oil, acrylic, and watercolor that are well executed and thematic. Unlike during past exhibits, photography and handcrafted items are also included. The show, now in its 80th year, runs for two consecutive weekends and can be visited again on June 5-6.