Places that Matter

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Skylight Gallery

Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Gallery featuring work by artists from Africa and the Diaspora
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Place Matters Profile

The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s Skylight Gallery was started in 1972 as a central component of the corporation's Center for Arts and Culture. With a mission of showcasing emerging and established artists from Africa and the Diaspora, the gallery is part of a larger initiative to build community pride and capacity through the arts.

At the time of the gallery's creation by the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, there were no institutions or community spaces for local artists to exhibit and gather in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Theodore Gunn, who was the gallery's first director and ran it for 20 years, explains that the gallery's founders wanted to provide such as a space, just as had been done with the creation of the Studio Museum in Harlem in the early 1960s (which Gunn also helped establish).

Located on the third floor of the Restoration Corporation's main building, the gallery is named for its "skylit" space. In the early years the gallery's exhibitions would often expand throughout the six-floor building, and to this day the whole building is filled with art. From the beginning, Skylight Gallery has reached out to many local artists, giving several, such as Oliver Johnson, their start. The gallery also often worked closely with incarcerated artists and at one time featured a "prison art" show.

Nykia Omphroy, Skylight’s current Exhibition Coordinator, says that the gallery is a crucial component of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation's "start to finish" philosophy of the arts. The gallery serves as a venue for exhibitions of work by youth taking part in the Restoration Corporation's visual art classes and as a performance space for poetry and music by local artists. The gallery also attracts an international audience to the Bedford-Stuyvesant community, drawing attention to its rich artistic traditions.

For more information about the Skylight Gallery and its exhibitions call 718-636-6949

Sources:

Gunn, Theodore. Interviewed by Jennifer Scott for Place Matters. April 2003.

New York Amsterdam News. "Brooklyn's Skylight Gallery Shines." December 14-December 20, 2000.

Williams, Jim. "Artists at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Cultural Center." New York Amsterdam News, November 13, 1982.