Growth by collaboration
As Artspace’s first project in New York City, El Barrio's Artspace (PS109) will transform East Harlem’s historic and long-vacant P.S. 109 into a mixed-use facility containing 90 affordable live/work units for artists and their families, plus 10,000 square feet for arts and culture organizations.
The project is a partnership with El Barrio’s Operation Fightback (EBOF), an organization that provides the East Harlem neighborhood with vital housing and social services. When completed, the project will contribute to many local community development goals, including historic preservation, affordable housing, economic development, green design and food equity - further underscoring El Barrio's reputation as a Latino cultural capital.
Of the $52 million project’s development budget, 6 percent came from charitable gifts, and ArtPlace’s generous $1 million grant allowed Artspace to close the gap and move the project forward.
Shawn McLearen, director of properties for Artspace, is working closely with community leaders on the El Barrio’s Artspace project. Here, he talks about the importance of strong partnerships and the rewards and challenges that come along with such collaborations.
ARTPLACE: Who are your partners on the project?
SHAWN: We have many partners on the project, ranging from our development partner (El Barrio's Operation Fightback) with whom we will develop, own and operate PS109; to philanthropic, lending, investment, and agency partners who will underwrite the project's predevelopment, construction, lease-up and conversion to operations. Perhaps most importantly, we have community partners who are essentially leading our collective efforts to create a sustainable, replicable model for permanently affordable space in which artists, their families and cultural organizations can live, work and contribute to the community around them.
ARTPLACE: What is the toughest thing about collaboration?
SHAWN: Weaving together multiple goals into a comprehensive, sustainable facility for community development.
ARTPLACE: What is the most rewarding thing about collaboration?
SHAWN: The most rewarding thing is the same as the toughest: weaving together multiple goals into a comprehensive, sustainable facility for community development.
ARTPLACE: What advice would you give to those having trouble making a collaboration work?
SHAWN: Patience. The sprint to accomplish urgent tasks are often merely signs of a much longer marathon that partners will inevitably contribute to in their own important ways. Learning from one another along the way is an irreplaceable opportunity for both personal and professional growth.