In Brookline, one community center has become a space to support artists

Brookline Arts Center (Photo courtesy of Brookline Arts Center)

By Ramsey Khalifeh
Boston University News Service

The Brookline Arts Center hosted a wearable art exhibit and auction on March 19 to raise money for a new fund in honor of Mika Hornyak, a board member who died last year.

The event featured artwork from a series of exhibiting artists and raised a total of $13,523 from auction bids and other donations, according to Jessica O’Hearn, the executive director of the Brookline Arts Center. Eight different exhibiting artists presented their work for sale that night, with 50 percent of the sale going directly to the artists. 

The BAC has been active since 1964, when its co-founders, Mim and Barney Berliner, set up shop in their home’s basement to offer art classes to students. The center became so popular that it eventually moved into Brookline’s original firehouse in 1968, which is the same building the center operates in today.

Hornyak had been on the board of the BAC for over 10 years before she died. Her friends approached the BAC about hosting this exhibit to build a fund in her honor. During her time with the BAC, she made it a priority to compensate artists for their time and efforts with the center during community events or shows.

“She [Hornyak] was really someone that could cut straight to the point, but we could also find ourselves laughing and enjoying our meetings,” said Emily Speicher, a friend and colleague of Hornyak. “I learned a lot from her and I’ll definitely miss that guidance.”

The BAC prides itself in supporting artists and the community of Brookline, according to O’Hearn. There are many outreach efforts that have grown throughout the year through a series of partnerships, including with the Brookline Housing Authority, the Brookline Early Education Program, and the Bridge Program at Brookline High.

Much of the efforts also revolve around funding artists. “Artists are often underpaid. I think a line that’s frequently used is ‘Well, an artist can do this for exposure’ right?” O’Hearn said. “Artists really need to be paid for their time and that’s something we really feel strongly about.”

Christian De Restrepo, an artist whose work was featured that night, emphasized the importance of supporting visual and performing arts. Restrepo did a residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner in 2017 and felt that the personal connections he made were essential to his growth as an artist.

“You don’t do anything alone. Everything is done together,” Restrepo said. “That’s just a good foundation I think to have in your practice and I love that places like the Gardner and the Brookline Arts Center [show] community is such a big component of that.”

“Being able to invite people to a free, open event to celebrate art with us. It’s sort of like all these different ways to connect to the community through the event,” O’Hearn said. “That’s what keeps us going.”

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