Artist Collective Wants to Turn Home of Langston Hughes Into Harlem Non-Profit

The group has already received over 1,000 donations.

Langston Hughes. Courtesy of Getty Images.

“For the past ten years, I’ve walked past the brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and wondered why it was empty. How could it be that his home wasn’t preserved as a space for poets, a space to honor his legacy?” Harlem organizer Renee Watson writes in a statement on a crowdfunding site for her latest project. The inspired organizer decided to take the matter of reclaiming the late poet’s space into her own hands, and she’s enlisted the help of other organizers to make it happen.

Hughes lived on the third floor of the house on 20 East 127th Street in Manhattan’s East Harlem neighborhood during his twilight years, before he passed away in 1967. The National Register of Historic Places listed the brownstone in its registry in 1982.

Spearheaded by Watson, “I, Too, Arts Collective,” which takes its name after the famous poem by Hughes, envisions transforming the brownstone into a living space where artists of color can convene and showcase their work. To do this, the collective started a crowdfunding campaign with a target goal of $150,000 to fund their plans of leasing the property and revamping its interior spaces. Currently, the group has raised nearly 50 percent of the amount from over one thousand donations.

According to the Guardian, this isn’t the first time that artists have tried to revamp and re-purpose the privately-owned property. In 2008, three local artists tried to accomplish a similar feat that the “I, Too, Arts Collective” is attempting now, but without success.

The asking price for this historic brownstone was $1.2 million in 2009, and now it may be worth $3 million, according to the Real Deal.

The collective’s impetus for preservation and community organization comes at a time when blue-chip galleries like Elizabeth Dee and Gavin Brown are setting up shop uptown. Meanwhile, the Studio Museum in Harlem is constructing a $122 million David Adjaye-designed expansion on West 125th Street.

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