Speaking to Joseph Ficalora: Curator of Bushwick Five Points

October 8, 2012

"Bushwick Five Points street art"

Within the past year, the walls along Scott, Troutman and St. Nicholas in Bushwick, Brooklyn have evolved into a vibrantly intriguing outdoor gallery. We recently had the opportunity to pose some questions to its curator, Joe Ficalora.

What inspired you to transform this neighborhood into such a wonderful open-air gallery?

I’ve lived in this neighborhood all my life.  Growing up here, I was not even allowed to play outside. The delis were drug spots, and the surrounding blocks teemed with prostitutes and junkies. I was continually exposed to hookers and gangs. My dad was murdered right down the block as he was leaving the L train Jefferson Avenue station. As artists and creative types began moving into the neighborhood, things changed. And after my mother’s death, I was moved to transform the cold industrial aura of this area into something that would revive me and provide the artists with a space to showcase their talents.  I am trying to create an environment that I couldn’t get as a child.

"Icy and Sot street art"

Wow! You are certainly succeeding. Bushwick Five Points has become one of our favorite spots in NYC! How do you manage to have access to so many walls?

Some are family-owned and others I’ve negotiated with their owners. Once these building owners see a finished wall, it is not difficult for them to recognize that the artwork surfacing here is far more appealing than random tags and unspeakable words!

We’ve noticed and love just how varied the artwork is here – in terms of both artists’ backgrounds and styles.  Have you any favorites?

I love them all, and I love the mix! Each piece is special to me. I love watching everything from the progress of the artists to the reactions of the passersby.

"Never street art"

How do you decide which artists to feature on the walls here at Bushwick Five Points?

I look for passion and integrity. I always meet the artist first, and we walk through the neighborhood together.  I show them the walls, and I tell them a bit about the other artists who’ve painted here. If I like the artist’s work and feel right about the artist, it’s a go!

"The Yok and Sheryo street art"

How do you decide which walls go to which artists?

We discuss which spaces are available and the artist then chooses his or her canvas.

Any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

I admire the graffiti that has been surfacing in the vicinity of Morgan Avenue. But I love the varieties of expression that street art offers.

"Dan Witz street art"

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in all this?

I think it’s beautiful. We all get to see and appreciate what’s surfacing throughout the world.

"Hellbent street art"

What’s ahead?

I’m not looking long-term. I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. And I’d love to keep doing what I’m doing the rest of my life!

"OverUnder and LNY street art"

That sounds great! We are so glad you are doing what you are doing.

"Jim Avignon street art"

Special thanks to Bodega Wine Bar for the delicious complimentary snacks we were served while interviewing Joe.

Images beginning with top: Nick Walker, Danielle Mastrion and Concrete Jungle, photo by Dani Mozeson; Icy and Sot, photo by Lenny Collado; Priscila De Carvalho, Maria Berrio & Miriam Castillo, photo by Lois Stavsky; Never, photo by Lois Stavsky; The Yok and Sheryo, photo by Dani Mozeson; Rimx, photo by Dani Mozeson; Dan Witz, photo by Dani Mozeson; Hellbent, photo by Tara Murray; OverUnder and LNY, photo by Dani Mozeson; Jim Avignon, photo by Lois Stavsky

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Manny Santos October 9, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Joe Ficalora is a pillar of his community and a rare breed of person who actually gives BACK to his neighborhood. I applaud his efforts and wish him the best in his endeavors. We can all learn something about community activism from this gentleman.


marie March 7, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I command Joe for his work and dedication , artists need playground and walls to express themselves.
I just wish the name he picked for his venture , was different .


hank manfredo August 30, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I was amazed to see Joe’s commitment to this project. I am a product of Bushswick, living there in the 40’s and 50’s. I was to the old neighborhood last year and my living space was still there (55 Morgan Ave.). I wish I had known of the Bushwick Collective. I will be back next year and definitely will be by to see it.


Marilyn July 15, 2014 at 8:17 am

Hi there,

We are visiting New York next month and we are very keen to visit the Brooklyn Bushwick Collective. We originally thought we would just catch the L train and visit on our own (we are both aged 60 + but spritely), but have read reports of crime in the area that have bothered us. Would you consider it safe for us to explore Bushwick Collective on our own ? We are seasoned travellers and providing it was considered safe, we would be happy to explore this area. I would appreciate your view please.
Marilyn, Hamilton, New Zealand


lois July 15, 2014 at 2:06 pm

We’ve always felt safe there!


Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: