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Gowanus Artists Win Lottery With Studio Space For Less Than $800

By Leslie Albrecht | May 12, 2016 8:46am | Updated on May 23, 2016 1:45pm
 Crys Yin, one of the visual artists renting one of the new affordable art studios developed by Spaceworks NYC at 540 President St. in Gowanus.
Crys Yin, one of the visual artists renting one of the new affordable art studios developed by Spaceworks NYC at 540 President St. in Gowanus.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

GOWANUS — Artists in rapidly gentrifying Gowanus have a new option for workspace, and the price won't break the bank.

The nonprofit Spaceworks NYC recently opened 27 art studios with rents up to $800 on the ground floor of 540 President St., the former bakery building that's also home to the Brooklyn Creative League co-working space.

Artists entered a lottery to win the spaces after a screening committee verified that applicants were actively producing art and attempting to show it publicly, said Spaceworks NYC executive director Paul Parkhill. The lottery had 143 applicants.

The winners included painter Crys Yin, who previously rented a studio at Brooklyn Art Space on Third Avenue and Sixth Street. Her old space was half the size but cost the same as her new spot inside 540 President St. She also has a door she can close, unlike her previous studio, which was part of a shared workspace.

"I'm definitely making larger works now," Yin said. "Before I couldn't even step back and look at my work."

After this story was originally published, Yin contacted DNAinfo to say she also had access to a larger communal space at her old studio: "I did in fact have access to the 2,000 sq ft communal space which I had completely forgot about during our interview."

Artist Valerie Gladstone, who makes art dolls, said she pays a "very reasonable" $395 for roughly 150 square feet, a price that's "very workable" for her.

"It's the first space I found in my price range in my neighborhood that wasn't a complete dump," said Gladstone, who previously worked out of her Park Slope apartment. "You can't produce good work when you're limited in your space and your time."

Spaceworks NYC launched in 2012 with the goal of creating affordable and stable spaces for visual and performing artists. The nonprofit is funded by a mix of public money, foundation grants and earned revenue in the form of rents paid by artists. The group first tested its model by building two visual art studios and four co-working spaces for creative organizations inside its office on the second floor of 540 President St.

When Film Biz Recycling closed and left a vacant space on the ground floor of 540 President St., Spaceworks NYC took over 6,500 square feet to create the 27 studios.

Spaceworks NYC has built rehearsal spaces in Long Island City and three visual art studios inside the Williamsburgh Library, where 218 artists applied for the admissions lottery.

The group eventually wants to serve artists in all five boroughs. Its next project is to create 20,000 square feet of art studios and rehearsal space on Governors Island.

The new Spaceworks NYC studios in Gowanus opened in February, a few months after dozens of artists lost their workspaces on Ninth Street and Second Avenue and the new owner of a South Slope building told artists renting workspace there to leave.

At the new Gowanus studios, leases will be for one year and are then renewable for as long as the space exists (as long as the artist continues to produce work), Parkhill said.

"We really want to be in a position to let them keep the space ad infinitum, or at least as long as we have it," Parkhill said. "Because stability is the other issue that plagues artists in addition to affordability."

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