“Libraries are just extraordinary places at every level,” said Paul Parkhill, executive direcetor of Spaceworks, a nonprofit group committed to creating affordable, high-quality, long-term workspaces for New York artists.
Spaceworks is working directly with the Brooklyn Public Library to repurpose the second floor of the Carnegie-era building located at 240 Division Ave.venu. The project will invest approximately $6,000 to develop a rehearsal space and four visual arts studios in the library.
“We think that this is a really exciting opportunity to take some space in that branch and repurpose underused space in the building,” said John Nachowitz, vice president for government and community relations at the Brooklyn Public Library, during a presentation at last week's Community Board 1 meeting.
The team at Spaceworks has been working to ensure that the new uses not only benefit the arts community, but also provide new resources to the Williamsburg community as a whole.
“We expect to bring a lot of artists into the library who hadn’t previously set foot in the building,” said Parkhill, who hopes this “will be good for both the artists and the library.”
As part of the project, Spaceworks will open the new spaces everyday for free public programming, and will also provide 100 hours per year of community programming.
In addition to opening up the new rehearsal spaces for library activities, Spaceworks is working with the Williamsburg-based group L’Ecole des Beaux Arts to provide 100 hours of free arts-related programming to library patrons, local kids and the community as a whole.
“We think the library is in many ways the ideal location to bridge the diverse communities and needs of the neighborhood, and we’re excited to see it in practice,” Parkhill said.
The rehearsal spaces will be booked on an hourly basis and people will be able to apply online. In order to apply for the art studios, which are longer-term spaces, artists will have to go through an online application process followed by a lottery.
Although the library hours are relatively short, Spaceworks is looking to have their new space open during non-library hours and weekends.
“It’s really prioritizing active practice and not a curated model,” said Parkhill of the artist selection process.
The company met with Brooklyn and Bronx-based artists in focus groups to understand what affordability means. For this particular project, Spaceworks is looking at rates between $10 and $16 an hour for rehearsal spaces in general, and for visual arts spaces $300 to $400 a month.
“We hope this resource, among the others we are building around the city, will help artists continue to see New York City as a place where they can make work, not just exhibit or perform,” he said.
The concept for this partnership is a few years old, but Spaceworks hopes to break ground on the project this spring and plans to open the repurposed part of the branch sometime in the fall of 2014.
“Participating in a project that helps expand upon the definition of how communities use and perceive libraries in the 21st century is a huge privilege,” Parkhill said.