Buy a hammer and pick up some artwork
by LeAnne Matlach
Jun 16, 2009 | 16384 views | 0 0 comments | 479 479 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Crest Fest goers mill in front of the hardware store
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"There's a preconceived notion that the new kids don't care about the community, that all they care about is drinking PBR and buying condos," said Joe Franquinha, the manager of Crest Hardware in Williamsburg. "But there are people who really care about public development and public art."

Crest Hardware is a representation of the neighborhood's evolution. Originally a well-stocked hardware store, Crest has become a place for local artists to show pieces among the hammers and plumbing supplies.

Close to 200 artworks of varying sizes and price points are currently on display in the store and in the outdoor garden. Costs range from $100 all the way up to $18,000.

"There is art on so many different levels, from people who are new to the art world to people who are really established," Franquinha said. "A good amount of the artists are from Brooklyn and most of the others are living in the city."

Two pieces came from outside the city limits. An artist from Munich, Germany, sent two drawings to be shown.

Money from the show will go toward the refurbishment of Macri Park, which is located just down the block from the hardware store. Franquinha said he hopes to refurbish the bocce court and build a fence. He added that he would like to commission artists to beautify different panels of the fence for the park.

"I hope to raise a lot of money. The project will likely cost a couple thousand dollars, but the more we raise, the more we can do," Franquinha said. "Maybe next we'll take on another community effort."

The opening day of the Crest Hardware Art Show on Saturday brought both longtime residents of Williamsburg and newcomers to the impromptu gallery.

Serena Handley went to Crest to see her friend Laurie Benoil do a performance in front of the store. Handley attended the Crest Hardware Art Show last year and was a little taken aback by the uniqueness of the event, but has now come to appreciate it.

"It makes sense in the neighborhood to do something different and a little ironic," she said.

Benoil and her performance group said they were playing with possibilities as they twisted and contorted themselves outside the store with rope, a wooden "T," and a 180-pound bag of sand.

"What they have here and the sense of community is really great," she said. "It's a surprise unraveling in the aisles and seeing what's for sale in the store and what's the art."

Nunzio D'Alto, a longtime resident of Williamsburg and an artist showing at Crest, said it's great for the people of the neighborhood to have a place where they can come and meet and show their art.

"These kids can barely survive in this economy, but they are able to express themselves with their art," he said.

D'Alto's wife, Lena, said her family has been frequenting the hardware store for years, and she is proud to be raising her 17-year-old daughter in the neighborhood.

"Williamsburg has now become the center of art," D'Alto said. He added it is like night and day from the Williamsburg of the 1970s to the Williamsburg of today.

The change in Crest Hardware store from a neighborhood shop to an art gallery originated with artist Gene Pool. Franquinha's father, Manny, said Pool asked if he could use a little bit of the window space. A little bit of space eventually became the whole window.

Crest Hardware held its first art shows in the 1990s, but went on hiatus until Joe started the unique gallery up again last year.

"The concept is that art begins with hardware," Manny said. "It gives back to artists who are just coming into the field and gives them a chance to show because galleries won't take the chance."

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