5 Pointz Aerosol Arts Center
Long Island City in New York has become noteworthy for its towering new skyscrapers, 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center and new bars, but there’s also an offbeat art scene thriving in the neighborhood. Spend a day taking a walk around the boundary-pushing galleries and enjoying the Manhattan skyline.
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Start your stroll in Court Square, a neighborhood hub that’s visually defined by two very different pieces of architecture: the sleek, blank One Court Square, the tallest building in Queens; and 5 Pointz, a 200,000-square-foot former factory complex whose outer walls are coated with a bright patina of graffiti. It’s impossible to miss this massive outdoor gallery, monolithic and intricate, as you walk down the paint-splattered block of sidewalk on Jackson Avenue. Presided over by street artist Meres One, the facade is always changing, featuring the works of notables like Cope2, Tats Cru and many more. Keep an eye out for the edifice’s oldest piece (from 2000): artist Child’s name spelled out in lilac-colored bubble letters, visible above the loading bay. Free.
SPACE Womb Gallery
On the same block as 5 Pointz, you’ll find this quirky little gallery, whose amoeba-like pink-and-black facade literally spills out onto the sidewalk (and, weirdly, gives us a craving for a strawberry milkshake). Founded in 2009, the space is designed to be small and cozy (not a total surprise, given its namesake body part). Curator Minjie Yoo oversees exhibitions by emerging artists from Queens and beyond. Multimedia group exhibitions are based around themes such as “Capturing Time” and “Nostalgia for the Future”; solo exhibitors have included Korean painter Jongwang Lee and Japanese paper artist Tetsu Yamashita. 917-444-2667, spacewomb.com. Free.
A former manufacturing hub, LIC is full of ex-industrial spaces refurbished to stunning effect. A prime example is this arts institution, housed inside a monumental building that was erected as a trolley-repair warehouse in 1907, then used to build industrial equipment in the ’40s. SculptureCenter set up shop in 2001, relocating from the Upper East Side, and the space got a revamp from renowned architectural designer Maya Lin, who created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The two-story, 6,000-square-foot venue hosts temporary exhibitions by on-the-cusp artists working in a variety of mediums and styles. Exhibitors make artful use of the space, incorporating the catacomb-like lower levels into immersive works and building larger pieces on the wide-open main floor. Suggested donation $5.
If the weather’s on your side, you can walk the 0.6 miles from SculptureCenter to your next destination. If it’s sucky out, take the N or Q train one stop from Queensboro Plaza to 39th Ave. Either way, you’ll arrive at Flux Factory, a space that, as the name suggests, is in a constant state of change. An artists collective originally founded in Williamsburg in 1994, FF set up shop in this onetime greeting-card factory in 2002. In addition to exhibition room, the three-story locale provides studio space for artists and hosts a kaleidoscopic array of events. Depending on when you go, you could encounter anything from participatory performance art and film screenings to a miniature city built for kittens (yes, seriously). FF doesn’t keep regular hours, so check the website before you go for happening-specific times. Free.
Dutch Kills and Blissville
Now that your art cup runneth over, bid the galleries adieu and settle in for a drink and a nosh at this comfy, classy cocktail joint. Once you’ve found the place (the only exterior marker is a small neon “Bar” sign), take a seat at the long mahogany bar or grab a booth. Weigh the ups and downs of contemporary Expressionism over—what else?—the Artist’s Special, a mix of bourbon, sherry, fresh lemon juice and house-made grenadine ($11). Cushion it with food from restaurant-within-the-bar Blissville’s hearty menu. We recommend the Italian pork sandwich—pulled pork shoulder and stewed tomatoes ($8.50)—with a side of Southern-style macaroni and cheddar cheese ($6). Dutch Kills: 718-383-2724, dutchkillsbar.com; Blissville: 718-954-4318, blissvillelic.com