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What Happens When KATSU, Olek, And Other Artists Descend Upon A Brooklyn Street

The public was able to witness the creative process first-hand as more than 20 artists transformed a strip of North 6th Street in Brooklyn, New York, with their work as part of Absolut’s Open Canvas. San Francisco, you’re next.

All sorts of surfaces–from walls to flowerpots–along a stretch of North 6th Street in the Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood of Williamsburg were painted white in early June.

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Aside from a few teasers planted on the street that hinted “The Future is Yours to Create” on June 22, 2013, and images of bottle caps, there was no explanation, leaving passerby wondering what was to come.

The curious found out on June 22 when Absolut launched an outdoor art festival called Open Canvas that had more than 20 artists in varying disciplines converging on the scene to do their thing.


The event, a version of which will be staged in San Francisco in August, marks the launch of a new Transform Today-themed campaign from Absolut that will go global in September with television, print, digital, and out-of-home elements. “Open Canvas is the start of a movement. That’s what we really want to build,” Maxime Kouchnir, vice president, vodkas, for Pernod Ricard USA says. “As a brand, we believe the future is not a given, and it’s yours to create, so it’s really about giving inspiration to people in terms of taking matters into their own hands and really being part of the creative movement.”

Brooklyn’s Open Canvas talent roster included graffiti artist KATSU, famous for using fire extinguishers in his tagging sprees and creating fake ads featuring the likes of Jay-Z and Jon Hamm; crochet artist Olek, known for covering everything from people to cars with yarn; and performance artist Ryan McNamara, who once buried himself and another performer in wood chips outside the Watermill Center, leaving only their heads exposed as they serenaded onlookers with pop tunes like the Kenny Rogers-Dolly Parton duet “Islands in the Stream.”


“We wanted to showcase and partner with artists who really defy convention, who blur genre boundaries and really turn expectation on its head,” Kouchnir says. “It’s about giving them a platform for their expression and sharing that with a broader audience.”

Absolut has a long history of working with artists. It goes back to 1985 when the brand commissioned Andy Warhol to create what would be the first in a long series of ads celebrating the Absolut bottle.

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The public was also invited to participate in the Open Canvas creative process, taking part in a visual projection created by multimedia artist Aurora Halal and other activities.

The work that could be left behind will be on display for one week on North 6th Street in Brooklyn between Wythe Avenue and Kent Avenue.

[Images Courtesy of Pernod Ricard USA.]

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About the author

Christine Champagne is a New York City-based journalist best known for covering creativity in television and film, interviewing the talent in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes. She has written for outlets including Emmy, Variety, VanityFair.com, Redbook, Time Out New York and TVSquad.com

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