85,000 Sq. Ft. of Art Making
|Eighty-five thousand square feet of space in Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal (above) and on Governor’s Island will be transformed into hundreds of art studios available at below-market rates.|
Impact of Arts on the City
While only a small fraction make it big, artists’ contributions to the City are enormous. Arts and culture are responsible for:
- $20 billion in annual economic activity
- 160,000 jobs
- $8 billion in wages
- $900 million in City tax revenue
- Half of the City’s 50 million tourists
The City’s heartburn-inducing rents give our creative class double the agita because they also need extra space to make art. The market rate of $400 per month for a small art studio is a burden on many visual artists, one that keeps them at their day jobs for too much of the work week. Below-market artist studios have long waiting lists and art residency programs report thousands of applicants vying for a handful of slots.
New York City is an international destination for creative talent. But for decades, the cultural community has voiced concerns about the scarcity of affordable space to make art. If we want to maintain our bragging rights as a cultural capital of the world, we must work harder to help artists do what they do best. Thanks to an effort initiated by Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) commissioner Kate Levin, hundreds of affordable studios and rehearsal spaces for artists of all disciplines will be created from large vacant City-owned spaces. With a $216,000 grant from The Trust and support from the City and other foundations, Spaceworks, a new nonprofit hatched by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, will manage the rehabilitation, leasing, and management of new artist studios in the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park and on Governor’s Island. “We are excited to construct affordable spaces tailored to the needs of New York City’s creative community,” says Andrew Burmeister, assistant commissioner for capital projects at DCA. “This will change the way artists work in the City.”
Three hundred studios will be carved out of 85,000 sq. ft. of vacant space owned by the City, and will be rented to artists at half to three-quarters of market rate. In addition, Spaceworks plans to expand the program into other underused spaces in City libraries and public housing, and hopes that it will be replicated in other cities.
But before the art supplies come out, a lot has to be done. Trust support will help Spaceworks design management and IT systems, coordinate the renovations, develop tenant selection criteria, and market the space to the City’s artists. “The Trust has funded similar efforts, including Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Swing Space and Artspace’s conversion of P.S. 109 into an affordable live/work community for artists in East Harlem, but it’s thrilling to be part of something on this scale,” says Kerry McCarthy, program officer at the Trust. “There’s also something quite poignant and moving in seeing what was the largest military supply base in the U.S., the Brooklyn Army Terminal, become a home away from home for a large concentration of artists.”