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 recently spoke with Maarten Jacobs, Director of the Near Westside Initiative, about their new project, SALTQuarters, and what is most critical to the success of the project.
ARTPLACE: What do you have to do really (really) well to achieve success with your initiative?
JACOBS: It will be critical to the success of SALTQuarters for it to be seen by the community as a cornerstone project in the larger context of a neighborhood-wide revitalization strategy. It will be vital that SALTQUARTERS not be seen as a separate initiative, happening in a vacuum, but rather as a project that will transform another blighted property into a space that will benefit not only a few artists but the entire neighborhood. The work created in SALTQuarters, and the energy produced there will be used to positively impact the neighborhood through the power that art and design uniquely has.
We want to make sure that our immediate Near Westside community, and the broader Syracuse community knows that SALTQuarters is not a private space for a few individual artists. Rather, it will be a bustling place intended for the entire community to experience by working alongside the artists in residence, checking out regular gallery shows, and by seeing the creativity energy formed in the building spilled out in the streets of the neighborhood by regular events taking place in and around the SALTQuarters space.
ARTPLACE: How do you expect the community to change as a result?
JACOBS: Through SALTQuarters, we will continue bringing more life and activity to our neighborhood.
SALTQuarters will be located on a busy corner, on a main thoroughfare in the neighborhood. By being in clear view, it will become another beacon of revitalization and vibrancy in the SALT District. By renovating this building, as part of a larger cluster including a recently renovated warehouse with ten live/work lofts and a recently renovated artist studio, which houses a well established Puerto Rican artist, SALTQuarters will further solidify the SALT District as a friendly central gathering spot for artists to gather and do their work. This creation of spaces for creative minds to do their craft will benefit the neighborhood in two main ways. First, these creative expressions will surely spill into the public spaces in our neighborhood, creating more beautiful and interesting spaces. Secondly, this cluster of art studios and artists will draw more people, from all over the Central New York area, to expereince our neighborhood and all it has to offer. It will bring to light that the Near Westside of Syracuse is quickly becoming the ideal place for people to live, work, and participate in a unique urban setting.