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New Group Wants to Help Artists Buy Property by Banding Together

By Eddie Small | May 27, 2015 12:33pm
 Mott Haven is already home to a vibrant arts scene and could soon be getting more new space for artists.
Mott Haven is already home to a vibrant arts scene and could soon be getting more new space for artists.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

MOTT HAVEN — A network of Brooklyn artists wants to bring affordable art studios to the South Bronx.

A group of a dozen artists have teamed up with ArtCondo — a new organization that aims to help artists who are being priced out of their neighborhoods — to purchase property and turn it into art studios and a gallery.

They have their sights set on a 30,000-square-foot space in an industrial part of Mott Haven, close to Hostos Community College, according to ArtCondo founder Michele Gambetta, a real estate agent who also has an MFA from the School of Visual Arts.

The art space is meant to help end the cycle of artists moving to a community, bringing in culture and subsequently getting pushed out, Gambetta said. 

"You have to be able to afford to buy it, which is its own hurdle," she said, "but once you get it, you’re no longer beholden to someone who is making money off of you."

Gambetta declined to disclose the exact address out of fear that it might motivate another buyer to snatch up the space, but she hopes to close a deal within the next two months, she said.

They'll use the space to create a 1,000-square-foot gallery and possibly a green roof, in addition to the studios, Gambetta said.

Pauline Galiana, an artist involved with the effort who described her current windowless workspace on the Upper West Side as "basically a closet," said she was excited about working in Mott Haven and getting the chance to create in a collaborative environment.

"We just don’t want to isolate ourselves," Galiana said. "We want to show our work, and we want to do work with other people as well."

Gambetta said she had not seen a particular surge of artists moving into Mott Haven recently, but said it's a draw because it's still a creative neighborhood that's relatively affordable.

"Brooklyn, the cultural cachet or the cultural value which has been built there now may be kind of peaking," she said. "I mean, it probably has a lot more room to go up, but it’s making it so expensive for artists to be able to move in and to afford being there."

ArtCondo originally looked for a space in Brooklyn, but couldn't find anything within its price range, Gambetta said.

But the differences between The Bronx and Brooklyn ended up being an advantage, she said.

"It’s not Williamsburg. It’s not Bushwick," Gambetta said. "It’s a place where you can go and work. You can concentrate. It’s quiet."

Although this would be ArtCondo's first purchase, the group hopes to add more properties from all over the city to its portfolio.

Gambetta also hopes to help fund the cause by creating an ArtCondo foundation, made up of money raised through grants and crowdsourcing. The funds will help provide space for artists at below market rent.

The 12 artists of ArtCondo work as set designers, photographers and musicians.

"There’s no way to afford everything," she said, "and so this is a way to, hopefully, be able to help people stay, help New York retain its creative people."