Williamsburg

New community arts space opens at historic Williamsburgh Library

June 29, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Participating artist Courtney Giannone. Photos by Deneka Peniston, courtesy of BPL

The fully renovated second floor of the Williamsburgh Library will now offer affordable studio and rehearsal space to artists and a range of free arts programming in collaboration with local community organizations.

This innovative new multi-arts space in one of Brooklyn’s most historic library branches is a partnership between Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and Spaceworks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the supply of long-term, low-cost artist workspace in New York City.

The renovation project was made possible by $650,000 of public funding, provided by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and managed by the NYC Economic Development Corporation. The 4,400-square foot space features three studios for individual visual artists, one classroom studio for a local arts education provider, one rehearsal space/multi-purpose room designed for BPL programs and dance/theater artists, one rehearsal space/multi-purpose room designed for music activities and rehearsal and renovated common areas, kitchen facilities and restrooms for artists and library staff. 

“Our collaboration is a contemporary milestone for Brooklyn’s first Carnegie library, which has served its community for more than 110 years,” said BPL President and CEO Linda Johnson.

BPL will use the multi-purpose space to expand the free programming currently offered at the Williamsburgh branch, including music classes, writing workshops and more. Long-time Williamsburg community-based organization El Puente will also provide weekly free programming in the multi-purpose space, including meetings and programs for CADRE, a network of mostly Latino artists, artisans and cultural workers rooted in North Brooklyn. IDEAS Creative Drama will bring its youth theater and improvisational drama workshops to the library, while 826NYC, a non-profit that helps children and teens develop writing skills, will host a day-long children’s art festival in the summer, with other offerings throughout the year.

“We are thrilled to launch this remarkable new partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library to provide affordable, stable work space for artists at the Williamsburgh branch,” said Paul Parkhill, executive director of Spaceworks. “We are also excited to partner with local groups like El Puente and LDBA Brooklyn, which will provide ongoing community-based programming within the space.”

L’Ecole des Beaux Arts (LBDA), a Williamsburg-based arts education provider for children and adults, will provide programming in the classroom studio. LDBA has already begun providing free visual arts workshops for children at the branch, and will continue to provide 100 hours per year of free programming to patrons of all ages, including bookmaking and printing.

“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,” said Assemblymember Joseph R. Lentol. “Space is limited and expensive, making it very difficult for artists to thrive here. 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.”  

Artists Alison Hall, Vincent Romaniello and Esther Ruiz were selected by lottery from a pool of over 200 qualified artists who were pre-vetted by a panel of community leaders, including Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna, artist Xaviera Simmons, Neighborhood Library Supervisor Catherine Skrzypek and former Director of El Puente’s Green Light District Anusha Venkataraman. Eligibility requirements included New York City residency, active artistic practice and commitment to the program. The artists will occupy the studios for one year, with an option to renew. Library patrons will be able to view the studios for special programs, open studios and artist demonstrations. 

The multi-purpose and music rehearsal spaces will be available for ongoing hourly bookings by performing artists from Williamsburg and across New York City. Renters can book space online at www.spaceworksnyc.org or through a kiosk at the library. Spaceworks expects the rehearsal spaces to accommodate hundreds of musicians, dancers and theater companies each year.

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