Talk about Williamsburg long enough and someone will mention gentrification. Keep talking and someone else will mention hipsters, possibly with equal disdain. Thankfully, neither class seems to have won the Galapagos Art Space, a decidedly independent space whose tropical name befits an island of creativity.
The space used to be a mayonnaise factory, in simpler times. Whatever the building next door used to be, it’s now an art gallery currently featuring some sort of metal object that, on your correspondent’s last visit, was being animatedly explained by a Russian-accented fellow to two enterprising young filmmakers. This is the sort of thing people come to New York for. It’s a couple of blocks from the Bedford Avenue stop on the L train, the first stop outside of Manhattan. You can see the big scary city down the cross streets, across the water. You’re only that far from the beaten track.
Galapagos’ “front room” is a bar, among other things; there’s a little staging area, too, and a reflecting pool. Brooklyn is not the world’s most likely place to find a reflecting pool, but there you go. A rotating series of presumably well-protected visual art lives in the pool, and the water makes an interesting lens to view something through.
To get in, you have to walk a curious little metal platform over part of the pool; the effect is amusingly disconcerting, and you almost expect a ferry to come get you. Double the strangeness factor when the walls of candles are ablaze.
The back room has a bar too, in a quaint little cubbyhole of sorts. Look up from it and you might see lighting crew scuttling around to get ready for the evening’s entertainment. This varies by evening. Go one night, there’s a band. Hey, lots of bars have bands. Go another night, and a busty blonde is dangling by her feet from a fabric hammock in aerial stunts of the sort that are liable to break one’s neck one day. Hey, lots of bars have, etc.
It’s the art, not the bar, that makes Galapagos worth a visit. Lauded by arts critics and locals alike, the island on 6th Street makes a point of neither seeking nor accepting outside funding, and makes its own rules and its own fun. Independent plays written by locals are welcome. In the summertime, they’ll play movies on the rooftop. Improv. Karaoke. Circus acts and burlesque. Name your poison.
In a city where it’s hard for an artist to make it and easy to lose the artists amongst the scenesters, Galapagos may take its name from islands, but in truth it’s not land among sea, it’s an oasis in a desert. From the leftover space of an old mayonnaise factory comes a place to see something truly unique. Tourists sadly rarely leave Manhattan, but anyone creeping around Brooklyn would do well to hit up Galapagos and see what’s on the slate that night. Come to think of it, ignore the slate. Just go in and take a chance. With rents rising every year, bohemia may not have a place in Brooklyn forever.