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The Near Westside Initiative, comprised of neighborhood residents and local organizations, is restoring a vibrant urban neighborhood in Syracuse, New York dubbed: the SALT District (stemming from a long history of salt mining in the area). Within the SALT (Syracuse, Art, Literacy, Technology) District, a small neighborhood adjacent to downtown, they are testing the premise that art and culture can unite to create a revitalized community that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but true to the social and cultural values of its residents.

Most recently, in partnership with ArtPlace, they have started a new effort called SALTQuarters which will consist of a renovated, formerly abandoned restaurant in the heart of the district into four affordable living quarters for artists, along with three artist studios and a wonderful gallery. As part of the project, two artists in residence will be provided one of the apartments, one of the studio spaces, and a stipend to support their work. These artists, one local, and one national, will spend one year developing professionally and using their craft as a strategy for placemaking in the neighborhood.

ARTPLACE: Give us the latest updates on your SALTQuarters project.

JACOBS: Things now are really humming along. We are in the final weeks of the project. Construction is well underway with exterior and interior work happening around the clock. The building has already been completely transformed and community residents can’t believe their eyes as they see the building change right before their eyes.

As soon as construction started, artists quickly became interested and within a week, we had the entire space leased. Similarly, we’ve had a flood of inquiries both locally and nationally for the artist-in-residence program. Just recently the application deadline passed and we are now in the midst of sorting through the 40+ applications to ultimately select one local artist and one national artist to share an apartment and studio in the new building. We have been thrilled with the applications and the diversity in ideas and artist concepts that incorporate community-based artwork. A committee will be meeting on April 16th to make the final selection. We are hopefully to have the artists start their residency in June of 2013!

Lastly, with the announcement to our local arts community that SALTQuarters has a gallery on the first floor, we have already received enough requests to use the gallery for art exhibits to fill the first 9 months! We can’t wait to give artists locally a more regular chance to show their work in a professional and creative space.

On May 15th we will have the official unveiling of the building. More details to come then!

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