The Bronx River Art Center broke ground on its building renovation on Thurs. June 26.
The ceremony, well attended by elected officials and community leaders, marked the start of a $10-million project that has been years in the making.
The BRAC executive director said she’s been imagining the renovations to the East Tremont building since she took the job in 1999, but it took a long time to get the plans and funding in place to start the project.
The center vacated the building in 2010, Gail Nathan said, and in the interim, it has continued to offer all its educational and arts programing at space provided by other organizations.
When renovated, the center will have new artist work spaces that will be offered at below market value, in addition to a coworking space for creative or environmental entrepreneurs, and a multipurpose room for performance art or community rental, Nathan said.
Those spaces will help bring in some income for the center to help reduce the reliance on grants and government, she added.
“So we’re more self sufficient,” she said.
The center’s core mission is still education, and the youth programing that touches upon all types of art will be enhanced by these other offerings.
“Our education is expanding and integrating into all these functions,” Nathan said. “So the students learn there are career prospects through the arts.”
The educational mission also extends into environmentalism, which is also core pillar of the organization, and the center has an educational garden where kids can learn about local plants, wildlife, and environmental restoration.
“They learn about environmental issues relevant to the Bronx River,” said Nathan.
The building itself is environmentally friendly, and will include a green roof, along with more energy efficient systems.
The plans for the building have been designated with LEED Silver certification, deputy commissioner for Public Buildings David Resnick at the ground breaking.
“This will be a model of environmentally sustainable design,” he said.
The building’s new design is also visually unique, said Nathan, and it uses “super-graphics” to transform the existing structure’s exterior into something striking.
It was important for the design to have a bold street presence to make people aware of the center and draw them in, said Resnick.
“People will know it’s here,” he said. “The outreach is performed physically by the building.”
The center has a commitment to serving and helping to revitalize the community, Nathan said, and she feels they increase awareness of how important the arts are in terms of quality of life.
“Art makes everybody’s life better,” she said. “In terms of experiencing it, participating in it, and learning from it.”