There’s good news this summer for local artists and the mamas and papas of Williamsburg! The Brooklyn Public Library and Spaceworks, a nonprofit that develops affordable rehearsal and visual arts studios throughout New York City, have partnered to bring a community arts space to the newly renovated second floor of the Williamsburg Public Library, located at 240 Division Avenue.
Harking back to the history of Williamsburg’s creative community, the center will offer low-cost rental spaces for visual and performance artists, along with a variety of free arts programming for children and adults hosted by local arts organizations like El Puente and 826NYC.
As Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol puts it:
“Williamsburg, as it is known today, was built on the creative economy. Artists helped make North Brooklyn what it is today, but unfortunately they have been priced out… Spaceworks and the Brooklyn Public Library have realized this need and stepped to the plate. Through the creation of affordable rehearsal space for musicians and other artists they have shown their commitment to Williamsburg’s roots.”
The renovation project was made possible thanks to $650,000 of public funding provided by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and managed by NYC Economic Development Corporation. The partnership between BPL and Spaceworks is seen as a “contemporary milestone” for the Williamsburg Library, says BPL’s President and CEO Linda Johnson. The Williamsburg branch was Brooklyn’s first Carnegie library and has been a part of the community for over 110 years.
The 4,400 square-foot space includes:
- Three studios for residential visual artists to rent for $350 to $400 per month with a year’s lease
- One classroom studio for the local arts education provider
- One rehearsal space/multi-purpose room for BPL programs and dance/theater artists to rent
- One rehearsal space/multi-purpose room designed for music activities and rehearsal, outfitted with a piano, drum kit, microphones, guitar/keyboard amps, and digital mixing console
- Renovated common area, kitchen facilities and restrooms for artists and library staff.
As of now, the three visual artists occupying the studios for a one-year residency include Alison Hall (above), Vincent Romaniello and Esther Ruiz. These folks were carefully selected amidst the 200-plus artists vetted for the lottery process which opened last summer. Hall works in drawing and painting; Romaniello in installation and painting, and Ruiz is a sculpture. All three artists have had national and international exhibits and are current NYC residents.
The classroom studio will be inhabited by L’cole des Beaux Arts (LBDA), a Williamsburg-based arts education provider and carefully-curated shop with high-quality, one-of-a-kind products ranging from clothing, to knives, to crystals, to original card sets. They provide free visual arts workshops to children, including bookmaking and printing, and will offer 100 hours per year of free programing for all ages.
Other organizations will shack up in the multi-purpose studios for their free programs. El Puente, long-time Williamsburg-based organization, will host meetings and programs for CADRE, a network of mostly Latino artists, artisans and cultural workers hailing from North Brooklyn. IDEAS Creative Drama will host its youth theatre and improvisational drama workshops, and 826NYC, a non-profit that helps children and teens develop writing skills, offers workshops throughout the year. 826NYC’s free 7-week workshop for teens titled “Shake on the Block,” which is aimed to “help young writers shed their fear of Shakespeare,” according to BPL’s website, will culminate in a free public performance in one of the new multi-purpose studios.
As for all you performance artists and musicians in Williamsburg and throughout NYC, rehearsal spaces will be available for ongoing hourly bookings. Interested? You can book space online at www.spaceworksnyc.org or through a kiosk at the library.
You can also look forward to more from Spaceworks in Governors Island, where they are in pre-development to gut renovate a 20,000 square-foot former school building. When all said and done, the building will host 43 private visual art studios, one multipurpose performance/rehearsal space, and a community area/gallery space.
Thanks for all the work space, Spaceworks!