Today marks the highly anticipated groundbreaking of El Barrio’s Artspace P.S. 109, a project the Ford Foundation has supported since its early planning stages. When construction is complete, the former public school building—located in the East Harlem community of El Barrio in Manhattan—will offer affordable housing for artists and their families, and creative spaces for community and arts groups like the Hip Hop Theater Festival.

El Barrio’s Artspace P.S. 109 will include 90 units of affordable live/work housing and an additional 15,000 square feet of space for arts and cultural activities. Construction is expected to take approximately two years.

The project is a collaboration between Artspace and El Barrio’s Operation Fightback, both grantees of Ford’s Supporting Diverse Arts Spaces initiative. El Barrio’s Operation Fightback is an East Harlem community development organization, while the Minneapolis-based Artspace builds affordable living and work space for artists across the United States. P.S. 109 is the organization’s 34th project, and its first in New York City.
This video looks at the original P.S. 109 building, exploring the site’s potential as a space for artists and a hub of activity for the neighboring community.

“As an organization dedicated to creating and preserving affordable space for artists, we’re thrilled to start work on our first project in New York City, where artists and cultural organizations face tremendous pressure to balance the creative inspiration of New York with the high cost of housing and studio space,” said Kelley Lindquist, president of Artspace.

Lindquist is attending the groundbreaking celebration alongside Ford Foundation President Luis Ubiñas and city officials including: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer; National Endowment for the Arts Chair Rocco Landesman; and Gustavo Rosado, executive director of El Barrio’s Operation Fightback.

“This project is a testament to what can happen when nonprofits, foundations and government agencies join forces to improve communities,” said Rosado. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Artspace on this important project and proud to bring it to the artists and residents of El Barrio.”

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The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.