The first time I went to Proteus Gowanus, I couldn’t find it. I walked around and around the block, checking and re-checking the address, and getting more and more confused. Finally I peered down a dubious-looking alley just around the corner from where it should have been, and sure enough, there was light spilling from a doorway halfway down. So, word to the wise: Proteus Gowanus is a little bit hidden, but it’s there.
Housed in a box-making factory from the 1900s, Proteus Gowanus is a multipurpose art space with a lot going on. It includes an art gallery with rotating and permanent exhibits, a micro-museum, a library, a reading and study room, an event space, and a collaborative nonprofit boutique of unique publications and “protean objects.” Proteus Gowanus has a broad scope, but all of its disparate parts come together to make a varied, fascinating whole.
Among their exhibits and projects:
- The Observatory Room, an interdisciplinary event space that hosts discussions, film screenings, and lectures on a wide range of topics, from Parisian brothels to Italian medical museums to Haitian voodoo to American cartoons. (I’ve been to three Observatory events, and they’ve all been amazing.)
- Morbid Anatomy, an outgrowth of the blog by the same name, featuring a collection of books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts relating to anatomical art, cabinets of curiosity, the history of medicine, death and mortality, memorial practice, arcane media, and other topics.
- Hall of the Gowanus, a micro-museum of local curiosities, including old Gowanus maps, pressed flowers from the region, a Gowanus historical timeline, and much more.
- The Fixers Collective, an idea that grew out of an exhibit in the gallery, which encourages people to bring in something broken, which the collective members make a collaborative effort to restore, mend, repurpose, or enhance.
- The Reanimation Library, an almost whimsical permanent collection of outdated, worn, or discarded books.
- Proteotypes, which extends some of Proteus Gowanus’s shows and exhibitions into the field of printed matter.
- dedicated to assembling apparently incongruous ideas or forms to construct surprising yet meaningful compounds and dialogues.
- The Writhing Society, a weekly class/salon dedicated to constrained writing.
- A study hall and writers space in all galleries and reading rooms. (Membership only $50/mo!)
(photos from the Proteus Gowanus Facebook page)