Libraries invite artists and musicians to move in upstairs

Libraries invite artists and musicians to move in upstairs

Bands and painters will soon be able to get their artistic groove on above the stacks at libraries in Williamsburg and Red Hook.

Spaceworks, an organization tasked with using taxpayer money to create art spaces around the city, plans to build practice and studio spaces in the Williamsburg and Red Hook branches of the Brooklyn Public Library. Taking over the public space for private use is the perfect way to provide much-needed cheap digs to creative types, an organizer said.

“We were created to address the issue of affordability for artists,” said Spaceworks executive director Paul Parkhill. “We are looking to do projects that are 15 or 20 years at least to make sure they are stabilizing forces in the community.”

The organization plans to replace office space in the branches, bringing four visual arts studios and two rehearsal spaces to Williamsburg’s Division Avenue location and two rehearsal spaces to Red Hook’s on Wolcott Street.

In Williamsburg, Spaceworks will partner with L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts, a group that sells art supplies and runs classes. In Red Hook, it will partner with Cora Dance, a neighborhood dance company. Spaceworks will require both of those groups to provide 100 hours of free programming to the library each year.

The initiative addresses the artistic void left by rising rents while preserving the library structures, a collaborator said.

“When I was a kid, I always heard that there was cheap studio spaces in New York and we need that again. To invite artists back into the communities is vital,” said Sara Moffat, founder of L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts. “And keeping the buildings intact and creating studio spaces is super smart.”

In addition to the two partner groups, Spaceworks will accept applications and run lotteries for artists interested in renting rooms. Those tenants will not be required to host library programming. Instead, they will pay Spaceworks between $12 and $16 an hour for rehearsal time and $300-$450 per month for studio room.

Bookworms worried about rock bands disrupting their literary reveries should not rest easily just yet.

“We are considering whether we want amplified music at all,” said Parkhill. “Given the fact that it is a library, we might go a quieter route.”

Spaceworks will handle the renovation of the second floor of the Williamsburg studios on its own. It will collaborate with Brooklyn Public Library on building the studios in the Red Hook location, since the library is still redoing that branch, which was closed for several months after Hurricane Sandy.

Spaceworks expects to spend $650,000 on the Williamsburg studios. The Red Hook project is still in the design phase, so the organization and the library have not yet come up with a price tag for it. Parkkill said he expects to open the Williamsburg studios this spring and the Red Hook studios sometime in 2015.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.