BronxArtSpace during a 2018 exhibition.

BronxArtSpace is moving from Mott Haven

BronxArtSpace, a non-profit art gallery based in Mott Haven that has showcased the work of more than 1,200 NYC artists, is moving to a new location in Hunts Point.

The gallery will reopen on March 10 at 700 Manida Street, a new mixed-use building that is part of The Peninsula complex. which will include retail and community space along with more than 700 new apartments. BronxArtSpace’s first show in the new location, “Where Do We All Come From?” will feature several New York City artists.

When Linda Cunningham and Mitsu Hadeishi founded BronxArtSpace in 2010, they wanted to create a space where artists could showcase their art without worrying about money. For the past 12 years, BronxArtSpace has been a hub for artists and creatives not only based in the Bronx, but all over New York City as well. When the gallery’s lease expired in May 2021, Cunningham decided it was time to look for an alternative space.

“It was just pure coincidence,” said Sabine Schumacher, the director of BronxArtSpace. “We were looking for a new space exactly at the time when they came in with the offer.”

The commercial space at 700 Manida Street was originally supposed to be rented to The Laundromat Project, a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization that supports artists and community-centered projects across New York City. When The Laundromat Project decided to move to a space in Brooklyn instead, they recommended BronxArtSpace as a potential renter for the space.

Schumacher is glad that BronxArtSpace will be able to stay in the South Bronx.

“We are happy to be still existing,” said Schumacher. “The Mott Haven area is getting so expensive that we couldn’t have done it without this offer.”

She added that many Mott Haven artists have left Mott Haven due to increasing rent prices,  gentrification and because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The people who were our community beforehand are not there anymore,” she said. “I think a lot of art and artists have moved further north from here.”

The move to Hunts Point is not the only coincidence in BronxArtSpace’s history. The gallery’s founding in 2010 was also one of serendipity: before Cunningham and Hadeishi were co-founders, they were neighbors in the very building in Mott Haven where BronxArtSpace was launched.

When Cunningham found a studio on the ground floor of her building, she also learned that the other half of the ground floor was vacant. She and Hadeishi decided that they wanted to showcase art, with no intention of profit, by artists living in the neighborhoods.

They’ve held true to their word for the past 12 years, and hope to continue doing so in Hunts Point. Maria Scarpini, the legal owner of BronxArtSpace and an artist herself, plans to restore the original space and use it for her own business.

In addition to the first show, BronxArtSpace has other goals for 2022. In 2021, five NYC-based artists were selected for the Artist Residency program on Governors Island. Artists-in-residence are given their own studio space in a historic building, where they can create and showcase their work. BronxArtSpace will be continuing the Artist Residency program in the summer of 2022 as well.

“In our space, we can’t have artists in residency very easily,” said Schumacher. “On Governors Island, we get a whole house. This year, we’ll bring in six to seven artists on Governors Island again.”

Lizzy Alejandro is a Bronx-based artist who has been working with BronxArtSpace for the past decade, initially as an intern before working up to managing the gallery with Cunningham. Alejandro is optimistic about the transition to Hunts Point.

“As an artist myself, I’ve had so many opportunities and made wonderful connections because of BronxArtSpace,” said Alejandro. “BronxArtSpace has been one of the few art galleries that’s become a haven of opportunity and resources for its community and Bronx artists. I know they will continue to make an impact in their new location.”

The new gallery space will be about the same in size and price as the Mott Haven location, Schumacher said. However, the relocation to Hunts Point will put BronxArtSpace in proximity to schools and The Point, a non-profit community development center. The gallery will also be near The Peninsula, a former juvenile detention facility that will be replaced by affordable housing units.

BronxArtSpace has a history of being a community meeting space, a site for showcasing art but also where book readings have taken place and organizations like the Literary Freedom Project have hosted meetings. Ron Kavanaugh, executive director of the Literary Freedom Project, said that working with BronxArtSpace allowed the project to grow its audience at a critical point in its development.

Kavanaugh believes that the presence of BronxArtSpace will only benefit the Hunts Point community.

“Access to art is essential,” he said. “To open a gallery space (and they’re so much more) that allows open access while presenting art and artists from the community connects the ways in which people in the South Bronx can both see and reimagine themselves.”

Although BronxArtSpace will be the “new kids on the block,” Schumacher said she thinks that they will have a positive impact in Hunts Point.

“It [BronxArtSpace] was so needed as a meeting space and that’s what we hope to be in the future in Hunts Point,” said Schumacher. “To show art is one thing but we really want to reach out to the community that surrounds us.”

https://www.motthavenherald.com/2017/02/20/0426/ https://motthavenherald.com/2017/10/23/20210408/