Fernicus (Fern) Andrew Frederick Jabaut (2002? -15) was the grand dame of the Brooklyn arts scene since 2006 – that’s 70 dog years.
Fern was adopted from the Elmore SPCA in Peru, NY by Jason Andrew and Norman Jabaut in 2004 when they lived in Rouses Point, NY. This was also when Andrew founded Norte Maar with London-based choreographer, Julia Gleich. In 2006 Andrew and Norte Maar relocated to Bushwick, but maintained a home upstate. Every year they would organize the Rouses Point International Fête de Danse including the renowned Walmart Ballet, held in the parking lot of the iconic superstore. A favorite of dancers and artists, Fern would enthusiastically welcome art guests at the Rouses Point Amtrak Station.
In Bushwick Andrew opened an art gallery in his Wyckoff Avenue apartment at which Fern became extremely popular with the streams of visitors. It was also in 2008 that he began BeatNite in which a variety of art galleries would stay open late. Attracting sponsorship from local bars and restaurants as well as arts magazine Hyperallergic, the nights became the focus of arts tours around Brooklyn. Fern would accompany the tours which brought in not just hard-core arts fans but also the more casual observer intrigued by the innovative format.
Fern became such a feature of both BeatNites and the apartment gallery that in 2013 Norte Maar hosted an exhibition Portraits of Fern in which 40 Brooklyn artists presented their own artistic take on this central figure in Brooklyn’s booming arts community. She was featured in many magazine and newspaper spreads about Norte Maar.
“Fern has been central to everything we’ve done in Bushwick,” explained Andrew. “We brought people to Bushwick from around the five boroughs. For some it was the first time they had visited Brooklyn from the long skinny borough to see art. Well, they also came to see Fern. She was popular with everyone and meant that even if I was stressed and rushing around crazily, they still got to see a friendly face”.
In addition to her regular appearances in art shows, and visits to Tribeca artist lofts, her travels took her to Commercial Street in Provincetown, the shores of Lake Champlain where she was an avid swimmer, and the mountains of Adirondacks. Fern also modeled dog leashes for Litey Leash and appeared in a TV pilot for Dog Makeovers. She liked to support Little Paws of Hope by participating in PuP Crawls across Brooklyn Bridge.
Fern’s death comes at a time of transition for Norte Maar. Just last week the arts organization announced its move from Bushwick to East New York. Fern has been training a new art dog, Jax, who will be very much part of the Norte Maar commitment to this underserved community.
Thoughts on Fern Dog from our artworld friends:
“Fern was gallery dog extraordinaire. Always greeting me with a big tail wag. She had a priceless eye and a beautiful presence. She lives on in the history Bushwick and the hearts of Brooklyn artists everywhere.” –Tamara Gonzales, artist
“Fern. A marvelous dog. Intelligent, loving, beautiful, adventurous. My most favorite memory: her wild, unfettered dash up the very steep bank of the Southwest Margaree River to disappear into the woods for what seemed liked forever! May you rest in peace Fern.” –Hermine Ford, artist
“She was a truly special and lovely dog and an integral part of the creativity and joy at Norte Maar.” – Oliver Ralli, poet, artist, musician
“Remember the porcupine!!!!! Also…I remember driving upstate with you Jason and we were switching lanes and Fern was in the back and she turned her head scanning the lane next to us, making sure it was ok to cross. That was her way, making sure it was always ok.” -Austin Thomas, artist / gallerist
“Fern was a loving mascot for a burgeoning Bushwick art scene that, like her, was able to embrace new faces while trying to never make anyone feel uncomfortable. She was the muse of an art show, she was understanding towards some of us who were allergic to her (nothing personal, Fern!), and she was overall a wonderful companion to anyone around her. She will be sorely missed.” -Hrag Vartanian, Founder/Editor, Hyperallergic
“Getting to catch up with Fern was always one of the highlights of my visits to Norte Maar. No matter how excited about or unfamiliar I was with the art on view, I always looked forward to being greeted by Fern and spending some time with her. She was one of my favorite people in the Brooklyn art community, human, canine, or otherwise, and I will miss our petting sessions greatly.” -Ben Sutton, critic, Hyperallergic
“Fern was the best contact improviser I ever worked with. She knew how to share weight and lived a dynamic life. She was a big part of Fête de Danse in Rouses Point, coming to the hockey rink and watching rehearsals, accompanying the dancers on their walks and providing a soft cuddle when needed after a hard day of dancing. Each year the community posted across the town large wooden cutouts of dancers to announce Fête and Fern was always a little uncertain about the wooden pink ballerina. Never one to be upstaged, Fern kept that tutu and tiara dancer in her place.” -Julia K. Gleich, choreographer, educator, co-founder Norte Maar
“My memories of her first time that she came to the farm, flying into the pool, flying out with us all laughing, running up to find a cat, any cat, and jumping al over us in glee. Then I would get a hug, slobber and a body on my feet to warm them. Next few years, a visit with her attempting to fling herself into the pool but it wasn’t to happen with the leash tethered to her. Again, coming into the house, scarfing the water and catfood from each bowl, and then flying upstairs looking for a cat. Then more years, and yes again, she knew the routine. Until one day she forgot about the food and the cats, and just wanted a hug; that gesture never stopped, even under encouragement at the end. She made me smile each visit. Oh, Fern.” -Jackie Sabourin, ceramic artist, teacher, arts community advocate
“Fern and I met in 2010 at Camp Pocket Utopia in Rouses Point, New York. I loved her calm energy, regal manner, pronounced eyebrows, soft brown gaze, her lovely kidney-like shape and elegant red coat. We saw each other in Bushwick frequently over the years, most recently in April, by which time Fern preferred to watch the activity from afar as she’d attended art world events for years. Her physical presence will be missed yet her spirit remains: I see her happy smile even now.”- Elisabeth Condon, artist and 2015 Norte Maar Artist-in-residence at The Jay House
“Fern Dog made the apartment gallery of Norte Maar a home. Her sweetness gave the nascent art of Bushwick its warmth. Just as Jason and Norman have now moved to Cypress Hills, Fern’s sad passing feels like the end of an era for the neighborhood.”-James Panero, art critic
“A couple of seconds after I met Jason in the fall of 2010, I met his happy, tail – wagging companion, Fern. Fern was a part of Bushwick art scene just like any artist or an onlooker. She saw probably more art during her dog life than most of humans will do in their much longer existence. Fern was simply sweet, a lovely creature to look forward to when going to Norte Maar, making us all breaking the ice when petting her and talking to her in goofy voice – no matter how “important” as humans we were. I will miss her and I hope that she’s happy smiling at us with her wise face.”-Katarina Kocses, Founder/Editor, Bushwick Daily
“Ferndog lived with and alongside so much art and so many artists that she did most truly live a life of creativity and beauty. May she rest similarly, and peacefully.” -Paul D’Agostino, artist / poet
“I’m so glad I got to do a lovely duet with her during a John Cage Event at Norte Maar, she will always be one of my favorite dance partners!” -Rachel Cohen, Choreographer / Founder Racoco Productions
“A muse is gone. Fern inspired me.” –Sarah Schmerler, artist / writer / critic