Since 1983, Broadway Housing Communities has developed permanent, affordable housing for some of New York’s poorest individuals and families in West Harlem and Washington Heights; created an award-winning early childhood center; provided mentoring and support services for adults, children and families; and strengthened entire communities through engagement with the cultural arts.

With 124 units of affordable housing, an expansive early childhood education center, green initiatives and a focus on culture and the arts, Broadway Housing’s newest endeavor, situated in Harlem’s historic Sugar Hill district, is a model of urban community revitalization.  The Sugar Hill Project is also home to ArtPlace’s 2012 top-ranked award recipient, the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling.

The Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling is the cultural capstone of Broadway Housing Communities’ newest project, a multi-use development located at the crossroads of Harlem and Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan.

ArtPlace caught up with Susan Delvalle, Executive Director of the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, a project of Broadway Housing Communities, to talk with her about the Miami Summit.

ARTPLACE:  What did you learn in Miami?

Delvalle:  When I flew to Miami to represent the Museum and Broadway Housing Communities at the ArtPlace Summit, I had been in my position for just three weeks so the answer is, I learned everything in Miami!  It was fascinating, and gratifying, to see all the different approaches being taken, all over the country, to what we’re calling “creative placemaking.”

ARTPLACE: Where does this movement go next?

Delvalle: Giving the movement—creative placemaking—a name is the starting point; next comes implementation.

Because as we discussed in Miami, the idea that art can be a powerful force for revitalization—of neighborhoods, of economies, of lives—isn’t new. What’s new, and what gave the conference such resonance, was the intentionality with which we’re using our resources to pursue our goals. Sometimes all it takes to create intentionality is giving something a name. And the honor of a name can elevate a concept to a level that increases its impact exponentially.  The neighborhoods of Harlem and Washington Heights, where the Museum will be located, are blessed with abundant “natural” resources: not only is the cultural history of Sugar Hill and the Harlem Renaissance legendary but there are so many artists, writers and musicians living and working in the area today; the same is true for the Latino communities of Washington Heights. Nevertheless, these are communities where more than 70% of children are born into poverty and too many families are living below the federal poverty level.

In Upper Manhattan, all that’s missing is infrastructure, a platform for all this amazing work to be supported, seen and shared. That’s what the Museum will do for the communities it serves.

The fact that it’s a children’s museum is vitally important: our hope is that the children who grow up with us will be infused with the expectation that the arts are an essential part of a healthy community, a healthy education, a healthy life.

If we succeed, “creative placemaking” will be like zoning laws or traffic rules: an expected part of living together happily, safely and productively!