Rising rents frequently force artists out of communities, but a new co-op is looking to buck that trend with an alternative: ownership.
Artists cooperative, ArtCondo, purchased a 6,400 square foot vacant lot in Melrose in January with plans of developing an artist’s residence and workspace. They are looking for fellow collaborators.
One of ArtCondo’s founders, Michele Gambetta, who formed it with Matthew Fletcher, said it took years to find the right property, which turned out to be a parcel at 368 E. 152nd Street.
The cooperative plans to develop a 20,000-square foot building for 15 to 16 owner artists.
The concept is to have artists pool their money and purchase real estate collectively, she said.
“When people pool their energy and resources, they can access things that they couldn’t otherwise own on their own,” said Gambetta, describing the idea as something that would anchor participants into a live/work spaces in the community.
Gambetta, who is also a licensed real estate agent, believes that if artists are owners instead of renters, rising rents will be less of an issue.
Plans call for roughly 1,500 square feet of community non-profit space, with very simple live/work spaces that the artists themselves retrofit for their specific needs.
“Artists don’t need luxury, they just need space to work,” said Gambetta, who feels the overall project has potential for Social Practice Art, where creators work with communities to develop art.
The building will be environmentally friendly, and Gambetta said she hopes to have it certified as being energy efficient.
Currently, with at least seven artists on board, the project is nearing the halfway point in terms of financing the new construction.
The absolute minimal investment for interested artists is at least $70,000, said Gambetta.
All creative crafters are welcome to apply.
She extolled the benefits of living in a community with fellow artists, saying it could enhance the overall work of individual members.
“I think this is the essence of democracy,” said Gambetta. “In our own way, we are trying to talk to people and build something from the bottom up.”
Painter and public artist Amy Cheng, one of the participants, answered questions via email for the Bronx Times regarding ArtCondo.
Cheng stated that she wanted to retire from teaching in the Hudson Valley, and dreamed of moving back to the city.
“The collective idea made sense to me practically and financially,” stated Cheng. “Real estate investors pool their monies together to purchase property, why shouldn’t artists?
Cheng stated she believes that “buildings full of artists, like retailers congregating in the same area, have an advantage” and that an entire building holding an open exhibition is more likely to draw an audience than a single artist working alone.