“We’ve got CDs and T-shirts for sale if you want,” grumbled the gargantuan front man of the metal band Wizardy as he stood splay-legged on a makeshift stage, his fellow band mates dressed like modern-day Vikings in the background. Clad in furs and leather and gripping an oversized goblet, his long stringy dark hair obscuring his face, addressed a crowd of onlookers at Williamsburg’s Macri Park, for which the band was giving a benefit performance. Then, he lightened up: “But really, we’d much rather you give money to the park, so the little dogs have somewhere nice to run around!”
Thanks to bands like Wizardry—and nearly 200 artists, countless volunteers and a seemingly endless supply of elbow grease—on Saturday afternoon Macri Park was the proud recipient of $3,000, earmarked for the refurbishment of its bache ball court. The genius behind the fundraiser? Williamsburg’s very own Crest Hardware, which dedicated its annual art show—easily one of the most anticipated North Brooklyn events of the summer, this year’s show being the biggest and most ambitious event yet—to fundraising for Macri.
The Crest Hardware Art Show—affectionately known as Crest Fest—featured 193 pieces of original art made almost exclusively from materials found in a hardware store. Each piece was sneakily installed in and around the aisles, intentionally near-camouflaging the works amidst the very materials used to create them—the hammers and nails, nuts and bolts, screws and boards, paint and spackle—as if to place equal emphasis on the grace and beauty of the materials themselves, and of the very process of artistic determination, textile creation and hard work: A hammer made exclusively of nails hung quietly above a rack of bolts in aisle 3, an embroidered flat-head screw, placed carefully in a wooden frame, hands above a shelf holding real ones while a colorful photograph of a warehouse covered in graffiti was perched atop a ledge holding several different kinds of caulk.
“Art begins with hardware,” said Crest Harware founder and owner Manny Franquinha. “Some people think about doing art but they don’t know where to start. This way, people can see their concepts truly come alive, in many ways.”
Joe Franquinha, Manny’s son who recently took over the store and revitalized Crest Fest—making this year’s celebration the biggest and best there has ever been—explained that the concept of hanging art alongside materials is absolutely intentional, and creates a full-circle effect that echoes the founding philosophy of Crest as much more than just a hardware store.
“Here everything comes full-circle in so many ways,” Joe Franquinha said. “First, our customers are just customers. At a hardware store, relationships can be cold and mechanical: customers come in, get what they need and walk out. But here—and this is a testament to he kind of store my dad has cultivated—we form relationships with them. They know they can come to us for anything. I always want to do the best for the community, whether its’ through art or hardware, and it’s about showcasing expression itself, and conviction, because the show is tangible and accessible—you can touch it, feel it, and by the same token there is a true heart and soul to it.”
In addition to giving a nod to the raw materials, creativity and manpower that make the creation art possible, Crest Fest is also a way to involve all the members of the Williamsburg community, both new and old, in a truly collaborative effort to make art accessible to everyone while maintaining the warmth, intimacy and tradition of an old Brooklyn neighborhood.
“This is such a wonderful fusion of two worlds,” said Doreen Godfrey, Manny Franquina’s daughter who stopped by the art show to lend her support and congratulate her brother Joe. “So many people are intimidated by galleries but people are bringing their children here, to see how art is made. How many people walk into a hardware store and expect to get culture from it? I’m also so proud that we are able to change with the community and merge the tradition and timeless intelligence of my father, and the young, creative energy of the newcomers. It represents the diversity of the community itself.”
Participating artists also seemed to view the Crest Fest as something different, and were excited to be a part of it.
Ciara McKeown, who makes jewelry out of hardware, expressed her enthusiasm about the openness and inclusive nature of the art show.
“The way Crest involves the community is amazing,” McKeown said. “The show isn’t closed off at all, instead it’s completely accessible to everyone. It’s incredible.”
Similarly, painter Mike Graves, who flew in from Denver, Colorado just for Crest Fest, didn’t know quite what to expect from the show and was pleasantly surprised by the level of commitment and involvement of the community.
“I’m so impressed with this community and this show,” Graves said, as he dragged a paint pen across a canvas bag. “It’s the perfect marriage of crafts and handiwork, raw materials and creative energy. It’s great!”
The set up of Crest Fest is also inherently unique: hanging an art show in a hardware store—fully stocked with products—presents an interesting challenge for the curators, but also provides a great deal of artistic freedom and opportunity, as the show and the hardware store that incorporates it become inextricable, and a work of art, in and of itself.
“Artists can express themselves here without worrying about whether or not they might fit into four white walls,” Franquinha said. “Sometimes we want to get down and dirty, roll up our sleeves and make some art that we care about. And that sentiment, that original tenacity and creativity, is as red as the blood of Crest Hardware.”