Are You an Artist Struggling to Pay for Your Studio? New York City Is Enlisting Nonprofits to Help You Out

The new initiative is part of CreateNYC, the city's first-ever cultural plan.

Photo by Brian Boucher. Courtesy Dannielle Tegeder studio.
Photo by Brian Boucher. Courtesy Dannielle Tegeder studio.

New York City wants artists to have more affordable studios—and it believes nonprofits might just be the answer.

The city has unveiled a new initiative to recruit nonprofit organizations to provide long-term affordable studio spaces for artists on city-owned sites. The new program, called Affordable Real Estate for Artists, or AREA, aims to create 500 cultural workspaces in all five boroughs over the next 10 years.

Organized by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York City Economic Development Corporation, the project is part of the city’s first-ever cultural plan, CreateNYC. The plan was released last July with the overarching goal of making arts in the city more accessible.

The city’s cultural affairs department will fund the AREA project to the tune of $30 million, which will go toward fitting out artist workspaces as well as converting “underutilized” city-owned property over the next decade.

Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Photo Henri Neuendorf.

Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Photo Henri Neuendorf.

“Generations of artists living and working in New York have made our city the cultural capital of the world,” said cultural affairs commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “We need to take immediate steps toward cultivating more affordable workspaces to ensure that artists continue to generate creative energy in communities across all five boroughs. With today’s announcement, we’re looking for partners who share the same goals and are ready to join us in securing a vibrant future for artists in NYC.”

Spaceworks Williamsburgh. Photo Gregg Richards.

Spaceworks Williamsburgh. Photo Gregg Richards.

Kenneth Pietrobono, a New York artist who has been a member of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for CreateNYC as well as an activist sympathetic to the activist community’s People’s Cultural Plan, expressed some skepticism toward the AREA plan. “NYCEDC is predominantly an advocate for the business community, and the new AREA tenant survey is directed solely at organizations,” he wrote in an email to artnet News. “So we have yet to see how issues of affordability for individuals are being addressed and, most importantly, the role the arts play in the development-positive plans of this administration and this city.”

“Affordable” can be a relative term, especially when applied to New York real estate. A small, 145-square-foot artist studio in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood could cost $695 per month—or $4.79 per square foot—according to a recent report by Artsy. The AREA program defines affordable as $1.50 or less per square foot. At that rate, the same 145-foot studio would rent for about $218, less than a third of the market rate.

Those numbers are encouraging to New York artist William Powhida. In an email, he told artnet News that it’s “one of the first times I’ve seen a city definition match what is actually affordable for artists and many small manufacturing businesses.”

According to the DLCA, workspaces comprising some 150,000 square feet are already complete or in progress in places like the Bronx and the Brooklyn Army Terminal. The AREA program will allow nonprofits to have a chance at finding spaces in similar developments.

Arts organizations looking to find such a space can sign on to the AREA tenant survey. The survey invites potential participants to specify preferred neighborhoods, the type of facility needed—visual art studios, dance spaces, theaters, etc.—and what they can afford to pay.

Interested nonprofits can sign up on the AREA website to apply to either develop or operate such workspaces. And an information session on the program will be held on February 27 at 4:30 p.m. at Gibney Dance, 280 Broadway, Studio Y, entrance at 53A Chambers Street.

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