Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City

Funding Received: 2011
New York, NY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
May 16, 2013

In New York City, an entity called Spaceworks is working to develop long-term affordable rehearsal and studio space. This month, Paul Parkhill, Executive Director of Spaceworks, talks to ArtPlace and reflects on some recent successes.

1. What has been your best event or the most rewarding experience you’ve had so far with Spaceworks? Describe how this came about and why it was special.

Two experiences come to mind.

First, we did a series of focus groups last summer and fall, and one of the conversations we had in the Bronx in particular really blew me away. These were visual artists from all over the Borough, and their commitment to the Bronx, to their own art, to other artists, and to their individual communities made a huge impression on me.

Second, since this is a project about creating space, there’s really nothing that compares to the start of construction. Our first project, a pilot initiative in Long Island City, Queens, broke ground earlier this spring and we expect it to be up and running by July. Transforming a plan on paper into physical form is indescribably satisfying.

2. What’s your takeaway from this success?

In part as a result of the focus group in the Bronx, Spaceworks is currently in the planning stages of a new project in Mott Haven that we hope will become the largest collection of visual art studios in the Borough. We’ve made a point of circling back with those artists as we begin the process of developing program partnerships and coming up with an overall plan for the site, not least because we want to ensure that the project has a significant number of Bronx-based artists once it comes online.

Regarding the LIC site, I think the lesson is that it’s important, especially for a start-up, to make things happen that demonstrate tangible progress. Piloting projects on a small scale allows us to develop new systems for intake and management, explore different leasing and project financing mechanisms, and serve different segments of the arts community. This empirical experience will be enormously useful as we move onto larger, more complex projects in the months and years ahead.