The new art exhibit drew customers to a full stop, eyes feasting on the pieces displayed on the bare walls by local 13 artists at the Coop, 9504 Fourth Avenue. In the background, the sizzle of a waffle iron filled the room with what you would imagine the feeling of comfort to smell like, and laughter found its way from the children’s play area at the back to the small crowd of people waiting at the open-kitchen counter.
“It’s very New York oriented, and I like that the place supports local art. It’s one of my favorite places to go when I’m in the area,” said New York City Parks employee Matt Fischetti. The current exhibit, up through Labor Day, is one of the bigger shows put on at the café.
“New York is always changing,” said owner Nick Murphy, “and real estate prices being what they are, I wouldn’t want to bleach out the character of Brooklyn.”
To preserve it, Murphy has made it his mission to protect that character, premiering 14 consecutive monthly exhibits at the all-organic café since its spring grand opening. In addition, the eatery features musicians every weekend as well as visual art, and once had a book reading for a local writer.
“I am an immigrant who moved to Brooklyn 58 years ago. I love the Brooklyn landscape and find inspiration from Bay Ridge,” said featured artist Patricia O’Donnell, “I’m happy to see a flourishing art community rising up in Bay Ridge!”
According to curating artist Alicia Degener, the exhibitions are otherwise typically solo shows for selected artists. Hoping one will soon display her work is photographer Cait McCarthy, whose images from a road trip on Route 66 are selling to the public.
The picture purchased? A shot of the Great Smoky Mountains, which McCarthy said was an almost religious experience to take.
“If I have to go out and take a picture a day, it better be of a world that I can wake up in,” she said. Hoping her photos ultimately spread hope, she also said being able to capture a feeling and give it to somebody else is always a rewarding experience. Previously at the Coop, she had done that with pictures from the Lewis Oliver dairy farm.
“When you’ve grown up here, there’s a sense of freedom you get and you’re allowed to have ownership of the city,” said McCarthy. Originally from Bay Ridge, she credits her approach to the confidence she found in the area.
In an exclusive interview, Murphy said two more locations are in the works, meaning the restaurant will eventually have four different nests to call home. “Art is everywhere,” he said. “And here it’s very approachable, able to resonate with the local community.”
“Because of the style of the space we take almost anything, but nothing obscene or politically inclined. But it can be political,” said Murphy. Different from the Bushwick location which features international artists, most of the art at the Bay Ridge location is locally created.
The art featured also includes cascarones, which Rocco George said is a popular Mexican folk toy, an egg with confetti inside that George mounted on a stand. Designing his eggs to look like women such as Frida Kahlo and the Dreamgirls, a part of the opening night festivities included him cracking a cascaron of Donald Trump on Degener’s head.
“My humor is on the abstract side,” said George, “and I’d like to paint future cascarones more realistically.” A dabbler in all art, he also said his next step is to combine everything, and possibly make a film using the cascarones, puppets and impressions to fit the mold of the comedic horror genre.
“I’m a landscape artist,” said Degener, “and they’re super supportive at the Coop. People are very receptive — and there’s so much in Brooklyn.” It is her second time curating a show at the Coop.
Ultimately, the art is something Murphy said keeps the place a space where adults can feel comfortable bringing their little ones, breaking apart from competitors by providing tasty gourmet food and an atmosphere where adults can sit and take a break.