SPACEWORKS_SEPT

In New York City, an emerging entity called Spaceworks is working to develop long-term affordable rehearsal and studio space.

This month, Paul Parkhill, Executive Director of Spaceworks, took the time to answer some questions for ArtPlace about creative placemaking.

ARTPLACE: How do Spaceworks goals intersect with creative placemaking efforts?

PARKHILL: Spaceworks faces an interesting and exciting challenge on the creative placemaking front, in that we are working on a giant canvas – our projects cover the entirety of New York City. Creative placemaking on Governors Island has different implications than it does on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx or at a public library in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We’re trying to tailor our approach to the specific sites and neighborhoods where we plan to develop space, which I think is the only responsible way to go about it.

As an organization that has strong ties to the cultural sector and a fundamental grounding in community development, our process starts with building connections to local organizations and representatives, including but not limited to arts-related groups. One of the core objectives of Spaceworks is to integrate artists into neighborhoods on a long-term basis. Given the opportunity, artists can become a strong stabilizing force in neighborhoods, rather than just a transitional or interim aspect between development cycles. We want to create permanent arts spaces that are integral not only to artists but to the entire surrounding community.

ARTPLACE: What skills and expertise does Spaceworks bring to the field that will help in implementing creative placemaking efforts?

PARKHILL: Most groups that create or manage space for artists do so as a secondary activity that grows out of their cultural mission, and can at times distract from it. Spaceworks represents the reverse: our mission is creating and managing space first and foremost. Since many of our projects involve the use of public funds and public buildings with multiple public and private partners, these are pretty complicated and varied real estate transactions without obvious precedents. Spaceworks was created to bring real estate development, planning, management and operations expertise to the field to address the workspace needs of artists.

Personally, I’ve spent about 20 years in the nonprofit community development field, first developing homeless housing and subsequently building work space for light industrial and artisanal businesses, so I basically thrive on this kind of multi-layered complexity. About 15 years ago I also started a nonprofit public art project called Place in History, so I’ve had a longstanding interest in how art intersects with urban planning and development. As we build up staff and capacity, we’re hoping to assemble a team of people who similarly bridge the fields of real estate and art, who can navigate the complexities of these projects without losing sight of the artists we’re trying to help and the communities we work within.

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