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Artist Studios to Open Inside Washington Heights Church

 Cornerstone Studios on Bennett Avenue will offer work space for up to eight visual artists.
Artist Studios to Open on Bennett Avenue
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Artists wanted.

A long-dreamed-of plan to offer Uptown studio space to artists is finally coming to fruition thanks to the efforts of local artist Jeff Hoppa and Our Savior’s Atonement Church.

The church, which already provides space for many classes and community events inside its building at 178 Bennett Ave., has agreed to set aside four rooms to create studio space for up to eight artists.

The idea for the spaces, called Cornerstone Studios, grew out of Hoppa’s own challenges with balancing time for work, family and his art.

“I was at the Elizabeth Foundation [for the Arts] at 39th Street and had studio space there for seven-and-a-half years,” said Hoppa who does administrative work in Midtown. “When I left there, I needed to be somewhere closer to home because I have two young children. It doesn’t work for me to go to Bushwick after regular work hours.”

Hoppa kept an ear to the ground for studio space Uptown, noting that two proposals to bring artists studios to Inwood — one in the old Time Warner Cable building on 219th Street and another in an old factory on Dyckman Street — never made it past the planning stages.

When he learned that the church had rooms available on the third floor of its 1928 building, he reached out with the idea of securing his own studio space. The pastor there then invited him to create a proposal to transform the space into a center for working artists, and Cornerstone was born. 

Each studio, which benefits from natural light, will have access to a kitchen, storage and free Wi-Fi. Prices range from $270 a month for a share in one of the smaller spaces to $650 a month for a larger private studio.

While the costs may sound high, Hoppa said that in comparison, he paid about $700 per month for a small, windowless studio at the Elizabeth Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing affordable space for artists.

He plans to put out a call for applications this week. The application, which asks for work samples and professional and personal references, is due the first week of April. The studios will open in May.

Artists can elect to have a private studio, but Hoppa said preference will be given to artists who are willing to share one in order to maximize the space.

“We’d like to offer space to as many artists as possible,” he said. “We’ll try to pair up one artist who works primarily during the day with one who works mostly at night so everyone gets time to themselves in the studio.”

Hoppa also hopes to hold a few events each year, such as open studio nights in which community members can come in and view artists’ works.

More than 40 artists have expressed interest in the studios so far, he said, reflecting the real need for more artistic space in the community.

“People are excited. They ask me, ‘What’s the square footage? Is there light? Can I see the space?’” Hoppa said. “People say, ‘It’s about time,’ and that’s how I feel about it too.”