THE BRONX — A New York City art nonprofit is unveiling a plan to offer 20 local artists discounted rents and studio space in exchange for community service — as part of a sweeping plan to boost The Bronx's growing art scene.
Over the next two years, the nonprofit arts group chashama and the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council intend to offer artists a one-year renewable lease at apartments in Concourse and Morrisania for a rate of $700 to $900 a month — on condition that the artists give least 20 hours of community service per month, according to chashama spokesman John Infante.
Artists will be chosen based on their past experiences working with youths, seniors or other community programs, and the groups will give priority to artists who are from The Bronx, according to Infante. Chashama already has three artists participating in the program.
Selected artists get a one-year renewable lease at a rate of $700 to $900 per month, and their community service will consist of leading beautification projects or art classes for local youths and seniors, according to the the New York Community Trust, which recently awarded chashama a $100,000 grant to help with its efforts.
Most studios and one-bedroom apartments in the neighborhood go for between $1000 and $1500, according to online listings.
Michele Brody, a current participant in the program, said she does art projects over tea with people in the senior center at 900 Grand Concourse. She said she had never considered living in The Bronx before joining about a year ago but was very happy with her choice.
"It’s been a really great decision to make," she said. "It provides me with an instant community, which I never had when I was in Manhattan."
In addition, Spaceworks, a nonprofit focused on increasing the amount of rehearsal and studio space for city artists, is working to develop a visual art studio in Mott Haven and an arts center in Fordham.
The projects would provide artists with 35,000 square feet of space and include visual art studios, offices and classrooms for cultural groups, and areas for music rehearsal, performances and video and film production, according to the Trust, which recently awarded the group a $100,000 grant to help plan the projects.
Spaceworks does not have a timeline established for the projects yet but plans to reach out to local artists and residents for input on the design of the new buildings, according to a spokeswoman for the organization. The nonprofit plans to use existing Bronx buildings for the arts studio and arts center rather than construct new ones.
Jamie Jones, an artist who lives in Mott Haven, said she was very excited about the possibility of a new studio opening in the neighborhood. She described the area as a great location for artists but one whose arts scene is still building and just starting to get recognized.
"It’s easy to get to. It’s easy to leave there to go to Manhattan to get whatever supplies you may need, so for artists to be able to travel easily is always a good thing," she said. "So yeah, I think it’s perfect."
J. "SinXero" Beltran, a Bronx-based artist, agreed that a studio in Mott Haven would be great for the neighborhood, noting that trying to find a place to show their work is one of the biggest problems artists face.
"I have a lot of artists that are coming up to me saying, 'Where do I find a place to paint?'" he said. "Why not Mott Haven? It’s in a good zone; transportation is easy to get to; it’s a good spot. It looks like the area is just beckoning for art."