Fort Greene’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts will relocate to bigger digs in 2018 — and not a moment too soon, says the museum’s chief.
“We are already kind of bursting at the seams,” said executive director James Bartlett.
The museum, which features contemporary works by artists with African heritage, will move into the nearby BAM South building — named for but not owned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music — that is currently under construction at Lafayette Street and Flatbush Avenue. The new space will be more than three times the size of its current home at Hanson Place and S. Portland Avenue, allowing the institution to make its art accessible to more Brooklynites by adding staff, classrooms, and gallery space so it can show multiple exhibitions at once, Bartlett said.
“This is really going to give us a space that will allow us to take art into the community and not be an ivory tower elite by any means,” he said.
The art repository will share the lower levels of the 32-story tower with African diaspora performing arts organization 651 Arts, a new branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and a new Brooklyn Academy of Music cinema.
The new building is only five blocks from the museum’s current home, but the move will bring it into the heart of the so-called Brooklyn Cultural District — a nebulous zone of arts organizations and theaters anchored by the Brooklyn Academy of Music at Lafayette Avenue and Ashland Place. Bartlett said he is excited for the institution to get to know its future neighbors in what he hopes will become the new centerpiece of the area.
“We are really looking forward to growing partnerships but also collectively being part of the whole area,” he said. “The building will be a central hub and focal point of this growing cultural district.”
Now-Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Fort Greene) founded the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in a Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone in 1999, and moved it to its current Fort Greene location in 2006. She handed the reins of the institution over to Bartlett in 2012 when she decided to run for office.
Last year, Cumbo gave $1.4 million of her $5.8 million capital fund — her largest single allocation — to the museum to help pay for its move and expansion, according to Capital New York. The city also allocated another $1.4 million to the reported $9-million project.