An Inside Look Into Unruly Collective’s 'Art Burst'

BY SARAH LA'BERGE

On Saturday, November 11th, the Brooklyn-based art collective and gallery, Unruly Collective, hosted one of their monthly Art Bursts. The collective, founded by Hillary Megroz and Charlie Pastore, is inhabited inside one multi-story brownstone on Cooper St in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The home is not only used as a vessel to display art 24/7, 365 days a year, but to act as a hub for innovative creatives, fans, and viewers of all kinds to band together and support the arts community.

PHOTO: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

PHOTO: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

Art Burst are events featuring an abundance of dance, spoken word poetry, monologues, music, and of course, traditional art, which is on display at all times on the walls of the apartment. These bursts are usually day-long events, running from around 3 in the afternoon to sometimes capping off at 11 o’clock at night, but who’s complaining? Experiences like the Unruly Collective allow artistic individuals and artists alike to see a wide variety of creative forms up close and personal, network with others in their field, and talk to artists one-on-one in order to fully understand the work being produced.

In all honesty, what’s stated above is a textbook definition of what Unruly Collective is, and what their events can do for people. Accurate, yes, but it does not dive deep enough. What I experienced at Unruly Collective last Saturday is something I will never forget. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, I don’t think I’ll be able to fully transcribe the full experience into my writing, and my best advice to you is to just head out to one of Unruly’s events. Trust me, you will not be sorry. Anyways, let’s dive in.

On the day of the Art Burst, I arrived around 5:30 in the afternoon. Having already missed out on 2.5 hours of the experience, I was a bit on edge. I walked through the door and entered the living room-turned-art gallery. To say I was in awe of the art hanging up is an understatement, and just as I went to get lost in one of the brilliant pieces of work, I was greeted by its wonderful maker, Jessica Joyce, an artist with her work on display all throughout the Unruly Collective grounds. Following this wonderful encounter, Joyce offered to give me a tour of the house and a run-down of all of the art on display. I was shocked. This is not something that happens every time you go to a gallery, much less an event at a gallery.

The first room was compiled of paintings by Russian artist, Alex Aliume, who specializes in neon, psychedelic, 3D art. Upon entering the room, it felt as if it grabbed you and took you to another place, as the array of bright colors and transcendent images gave its viewers a sensory overload. Not long after standing in the room, Aliume made his way in, and started to explain his art to us, and how he got started. After learning that he was a fairly new artist (6 months into the game) he explained to the audience that his art expressed ideas of transpersonal psychology, and life beyond the physical, biological world.

PHOTO: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

PHOTO: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

We later walked around to explore the rest of the top floor of the house, seeing an array of art, including a moving performance in what is called the “Universe Room,” painted by Jessica Joyce. When speaking a little bit about the room and her mural before the acoustic performance by Miriam Elhajli, Joyce talked about how spiritually creating the room truly was for her.

She touched on rumors of spirits or ghosts being in the house, and said she could confirm that they were amongst her the whole time painting the room. While on the subject of those who had passed, she then revealed that Prince’s death helped her to finish up the mural. With one blank spot left, Joyce was stuck on where to go with the area, or how to tie it together. She explained that the day she went to tackle it, she heard news that Prince had passed, so she chose to literally tie up the universe with his presence, using purple and indigo tones to represent his influence on her and the arts community.

PHOTOS: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

PHOTOS: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

Mural by Jessica Joyce

Mural by Jessica Joyce

When it came to turning an idea she had in her head into a mural on the walls, Jessica Joyce said: 

It is very difficult to paint the universe. So I did a lot of research, and I figured out what colors different gases actually produce. I wanted to accurately depict what makes up the universe.

A powerful, moving, and even a bit sorrowful performance took place in the Universe Room by Miriam Elhajli. Her music raised awareness on sexual abuse and other issues in society. Elhajli hooked everyone in the room with her intense vocal control and admirable range, moving through the registers of her voice effortlessly.

PHOTO: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

PHOTO: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

Some of the later acts included a performance by Street Trash Panthers, a strong-willed collective group of young rap artists. Immediately following Street Trash Panthers energetic, fun performance was a hip-hop/rap set by Steve Jozef (writer, poet, rapper, and open mic curator at Brooklyn Kava).

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PHOTOS: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

PHOTOS: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

The end of the night started to creep up, and two acts remained. The second to last act was Insomnea, a Philly grown vocalist with a trained jazz background from UArts. When speaking with her, she brought a calming, light-hearted energy to the conversation, even while she talked about how nervous she was. When asked about making music, Insomnea said:

I’m such an advocate for music. If your goal is to just feel good and express yourself, then just do it and jam out!
PHOTOS: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

PHOTOS: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

The night came to a close with an outstanding and raw performance by singer and songwriter, Marcus Jade in the main downstairs room. He carried a bluesy sound, and sang of hard-hitting issues, with lyrics like, “You see another white boy shot the school up, and they wanna offer him help // and in the midst of all that, another cop gets away.” He wrapped up the song painfully singing, “I got the black life blues, and I’m afraid to leave my home.”

PHOTOS: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

PHOTOS: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED

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All in all, the Art Burst was eye-opening. We are told that New York is a hub for artists of all mediums, which is true, yet talented artists come here and somehow most of them are either forgotten about or underappreciated. What Unruly Collective does is help combat that, allowing artists to gain exposure, validation, and a sense of community through their space. At Unruly, artists want to talk about their art, people want to meet you, and they want to make sure you feel welcomed––that goes for artists and viewers alike.

Engagement and strong support is what helps keep art afloat in New York, so let’s authenticate, uplift, and uphold artists and art of all kinds in order to keep this wonderful part of our city alive.

Lead Image Credit: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED