Artist Opens Gallery in the Borough

People don’t normally associate the art world with the Bronx, yet one young artist is hoping to change that.

In August 2019, Mark West launched the Mark West Gallery at 347 Rider Avenue in Mott Haven. As one of New York City’s only black run galleries and one of the few in the borough, West is ready to make an impact.

“The art world is a white run world,” West explained. “You don’t have black men that go out and do stuff like this.”

West, 24, didn’t find his passion for art until late in life, as he only began painting a year or so ago. After graduating high school in Texas, he went to New York University Shanghai in China, where he studied history and culture. It was a life-changing experience and he also spent time in Africa and Paris, France.

Even after this time abroad, he still didn’t know what he wanted to do. He came to Brooklyn, where he found himself in a revolving door, trying one job after another and wasn’t happy.

He was about to return to China permanently when he suddenly got a finance job in the city. Upon moving into his small apartment, he decorated the walls with some of his own artwork. His friends were amazed and convinced him he had artistic talent.

About a week before he was set to start he new job, he encountered people selling paintings on 14th Street and he figured he would give that a shot. He sold two of his pieces the first weekend and another nine the following.

“It almost felt a bit creepy,” he recalled. “These were paintings that had previously hung in my bedroom.”

The one that drew the most attention was the renowned American Gothic painting, which he did in black face. West explained he enjoys painting in black face because it shows things in a different perspective.

He began painting on a regular basis and his talent was unleashed.

West began looking for a space in January 2019 and in April, settled in Long Island City. However, he only lasted a few months, as he dealt with racism there.

According to West, many of the people that came to the gallery were from the Bronx and Yonkers; so opening in Mott Haven was a logical fit.

“There’s a big need for arts and culture programs here,” he said. “I knew it couldn’t be about the money, it had to be about the people.”

At the Mark West Gallery everyone is greeted with a hug and there are couches so people feel at home. In addition to exhibitions, he also hosts open mics, film screenings, town halls and is filming a TV show there.

 

“When we came here I fell in love with this space,” he said.

West, who survived cancer when he was 9, hopes to bring art to the community. His goal is to expand to a larger place in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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