Mar 25, 2013
By Elyssa Goodman
Whenever Bryn Larson tells people about OXHEART, she gets breathless, like all of the hope she has for the organization gets caught in her throat and she can’t speak because of it. It’s actually one of my favorite things about her.
I met Bryn, then 37, in a tiny sliver of a bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood. A tall, pixie blonde of Midwestern/Scandinavian stock, she smiled at me brightly from behind thick-framed glasses. I heard her Wisconsin accent instantly and smiled too when a mutual friend introduced us. Bryn gave an almost disarmingly firm handshake. As she offered her hand, my eye was drawn to the capsleeve tattoo on her left arm, a black and grey collection of romantic but not cheesy swirls, flowers, and shadows centered with a heart. I would learn that it was perfectly Bryn, wearing her heart on her sleeve.
That night in the bar, Bryn told my friend and I that she had an idea. To make a party—no, better than a party—an event, a happening to bring artists and art lovers together. It would be called OXHEART, so named for the heart-shape of a cherry since, well, this organization would be “popping her event-making cherry” as she has since been known to say. One of Bryn’s favorite things, I found out, was that she loved not only bringing people together but connecting them so they could expand their artistic and even business opportunities. Some people can just do that, as if they are human Swiffers collecting only the best people that life has to offer and pooling them all together, so they then keep connecting and grouping and spinning off into new webs of human circuitry. A passionate art nerd myself, I was excited when, a few weeks later, she asked me to get involved on the media end.
Bryn and her husband of six years Mike Krenner, 38, moved from Minnesota to Park Slope, Brooklyn almost four years ago. She applied for infinite jobs in New York, many administrative assistant positions, but none were really a good fit for what she loved to do. She moved to New York to make things happen for herself and her husband, so now was the time. Starting her own venture, she took her passions and grouped them together into something she knew would make her happier than any administrative assistant position could. It wouldn’t be easy. And in mid-February 2012, art, music, and performance collaborative OXHEART was born.
Each event is curated around a different theme, be it dance, music, fashion, or what have you. As Bryn says on our website, “OXHEART’s sole axiom is artist appreciation, providing an exciting and experimental platform for emerging, established and all in-between artists of multiple mediums to showcase their talent gaining exposure to new and forever changing art-loving-filled audiences.”
Tons of musicians, painters, photographers, dancers, and more come to New York hoping to make it. Every venue is so competitive it can be hard on the spirit. But OXHEART gives artists a place to show their work when they’re just starting out or when they’re already established. With our ever-changing, innovative show formats, we’re putting art on display in a new, more exciting way than just some gallery with a wine and cheese reception upon its opening.
For example, our first show, in June 2012, featured 30 artists showing their work, coming from as far away as San Francisco and Pittsburgh, alongside bands, even firebreathers, aerialists, and fire aerialists swirling around during the show. Bryn hustled back and forth and back with every artist and musician and the venue owner making it all happen. She worked, and continues to work, with a fire that sometimes makes me nervous because she forgets to eat when she’s working really hard.
And while the staff has changed and shifted since then, the roles have remained similar—Bryn is at the helm, the founder and CEO, booking musicians and performers and even vendors for each show. She’s also responsible for bringing in artists, liaising with venue owners, and building our network. If there’s a handshake happening, Bryn is likely on one end of it.
Mike designs all of our show flyers, administers IT for us, and makes sure all the instruments are plugged into the correct sockets and sound awesome (or…he is our tech and sound engineer). Before each show starts, all the musicians come to Mike in almost a line of sorts and he takes care of all of them. If he’s breaking a sweat, you can never see it. I am the Media Liaison for OXHEART, so pretty much anything that gets written for the collaborative passes through my fingers first. All of us make sure nothing falls apart behind the scenes.
Now, almost a year later, I am still in awe of this living, breathing creature Bryn has created. It really does bring people together, it really does introduce art to people in a new and more exciting way. Whenever Bryn tells me about the next show that’s happening, I almost can’t believe my ears. We’re doing what? Where? With who? Often it’s so fantastical I worry for a split second it won’t actually happen. And then, every time, it does.
It’s not like we haven’t made mistakes along the way. Each of us is figuring out the best way to do our jobs, to bring in audiences, to operate in the splashy, colorful, arty construction OXHEART has become. Bryn is always there at the top, making magic happen. Well, hours of endless work and meetings and phone calls and emails that looks like magic once our events begin.
I like to think that Bryn is raising art exhibitions to a new form of, well, art itself. She’s assembling all of her materials in a way that’s never been seen before, just as any artist hopes to do. In exercising her own voice for how art can be shared, she’s also speaking the voices of all the artists involved. A curator and a connector, she and OXHEART may quite possibly be the future of the art exhibition in New York.