Ridge-based Storefront Art Walk ready for year seven

It’s lucky number seven for Bay Ridge’s Fifth Avenue Storefront Art Walk (SAW).

In its seventh year, SAW — a month-long display of creativity brightening storefronts along Fifth Avenue to promote the arts in the area as well as local businesses — is returning, much to the delight of co-founder and Bay Ridge resident John Avelluto, a Xaverian High School and Brooklyn College alum.

“I was working at Long’s Wines and Liquors, had my first child and was a working artist,” said Avelluto, who was born in Gravesend. “There were no outlets for visual arts in the neighborhood. I was having conversations on how to change the way that the public, community and local businesses could benefit from the arts.”

With the help of partners, he presented the idea that became SAW to Bay Ridge’s Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, which was receptive to the idea and has funded it ever since, helping SAW’s annual growth and excitement within the Bay Ridge community.

“I didn’t really think that this would be possible and with how much it’s grown today and can grow, it feels great,” Avelluto said. “But I want to put my head down, keep working and making it better to serve the community and more artists. It’s something to engage the entire community.”

This year, the organization has grown into a 501c3.

“We’re excited at the opportunity to do more and to expand the board with community members and volunteers,” Avelluto said. “We can expand in funds and do more for the community. There are more possibilities on the horizon.”

As far as this year’s event, its organizers expect it to be the biggest yet.

“We are expecting a large turnout for our events,” Avelluto said. “People can come to view the work and ask questions.”

For 2016, the SAW event will consist of works by 15 artists previously chosen by a panel of seven community members, artists and arts professionals. “We have an open call, review them independently and ready to take on the project and tallied up,” Avelluto explained. “We received an over 50 percent increase in the number of applications compared to last year.”

Each artist collaborates with the store to match the business, he noted. “It becomes a collaborative project. Part of the mission in the project is to have artists engage in the specific site,” he went on, citing a cartoonist who once drew a pizza-related work for Rocco’s Pizzeria, 7818 Fifth Avenue. “They loved it so much that they didn’t remove the art all year.”

Since SAW made its debut seven years ago, community members have enjoyed checking out the art at their favorite shops.

“It feels fantastic. I’m really happy that the community is embracing it and we’re able to do this,” Avelluto said. “We should have arts every day rather than relegating it to just a museum.”

The diversity of the 15 artists is also a welcome addition. “We’ve seen quite a different group of arts applicants,” he said. “They’ve just started installing this week with light installations, sculptures, vinyl clings. There will be some video art this year. There is a wide range of artists.”

The seventh annual SAW will make its debut on Saturday, May 14 at 11 a.m. near the Community Board 10 office, 8119 Fifth Avenue. Artists will be stationed in front of storefronts along the avenue from 68th Street to 84th Street until 1:30 p.m.

The exhibition will run through Saturday, June 25. For more information and a list of participating artists and their installation sites, visit www.bayridgesaw.org.

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