The Bishops of BedStuy
Stevenson (left) and Erwin (right) do not fit the stereotype of your typical snobby art aficionado......they break it, in fact. These two Brooklyn natives were fed up with an art “scene” that wasn’t inclusive of everyday people in their neighborhood, BedStuy, and saw the need for a space that would harness the rich culture and history of the neighborhood to build connections within the community.
In 2012, Stevenson and Erwin launched The Bishop, a contemporary art gallery in Bedford Stuyvesant. The owners note that they started The Bishop “to provide emerging and established artists with an intimate space to connect with their audience and the expanding Brooklyn art scene.”
The coolest part about The Bishop Gallery?All artists have the opportunity to have their work displayed, regardless of their financial status or how known they are.
According to Stevenson, “Art can be a catalyst for bringing together communities and inciting conversations of change and development. We want to be the venue, where the ideas that bring about change are born.”
True to this belief, Erwin and Stevenson furthered their vision of a space that brings together community members by hosting a pop-up café at the gallery. After hosting the café for a month, the owners noticed not only an increase in sales, but also better community engagement as the café provided patrons with a place to gather and relax. Erwin and Stevenson decided to continue the success of the pop-up by making the café permanent and making some improvements throughout the space.
Bishops, meet KivaIn seeking financing to make their desired improvements to The Bishop, Stevenson and Erwin came across Kiva at the recommendation of NYC Business Solutions. After learning more about Kiva, Stevenson said “...we realized [Kiva’s] micro-lending platform allowed us to leverage the equity we have built in our community in a way a traditional bank or lending institution does not. It’s this ability to leverage our ‘community credit score’ that makes Kiva the perfect fit for the The Bishop Gallery.”
The Bishop’s owners raised $10,000 on the Kiva platform in October of 2015 and went right to work making improvements to their business, particularly by adding and furnishing a new deck in the gallery’s back yard that creates more space for patrons to get together.
What's next for The Bishop?With improvements to The Bishop underway, Erwin and Stevenson are holding more and more events at the gallery. They opened a new exhibition titled “The Jazz In Art”, with support from Rise Up Sports, in early April, produced a live performance with jazz legends Dick Griffin and Tony Tixier as part of the exhibition on April 16th, and are hosting BK Doodles as part of that organization’s annual fundraiser on April 30th. Both Rise Sport LLC and BK Doodles are former Kiva borrowers.
Stevenson and Erwin hope to use the success of the gallery to expand The Bishop brand to new locations and increasing the positive impact that they bring to communities.
The Bishop Gallery is located at 916 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn and is open Thursday-Saturday from 12-7pm. For more information, visit www.bishoponbedford.com.