Community Board Asks, Who Will Prop Up Pop-Up Art Galleries?

cb3Carolyn Sun Left to right: Paul Cramer (founder of Petit Versailles public garden), Jan Hanvik of CB3, and Ralph Lewis of the Peculiar Works Project.

Last night at the dramatically lit Theater for the New City, Community Board 3’s Arts and Cultural Committee met to discuss the future of Art In Empty Spaces (A.I.E.S.), an initiative to feature the work of local artists in empty storefronts. Last May, CB3 and No Longer Empty, a non-profit for public art, teamed up with Tamara Greenfield, executive director of Fourth Arts Block, to bring art to 200 Avenue A (the former Superdive space) as well as to 215 Houston. Last night, the creators of the program struggled with the question of how to sustain it.

Ms. Greenfield worried that without proper partnership and funding, it would be difficult to find artwork for the spaces, as well as brokers willing to volunteer their services. In addition, there is the question of conflict of interest: Will brokers who work with the community board on the project receive unfair treatment when their clients go before the board while applying for a liquor license?

“The CB3 isn’t equipped to run programs,” said Ms. Greenfield. “It’s fine for the first year, but we have to find a more sustainable practice.”

At a hearing on Monday, No Longer Empty plans to appeal to the City Council’s Committee of Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations for funding. The non-profit will present a report of best practices documenting attendance, and recommending changes to the program.

Though it remains to be seen how involved Community Board 3 will be in the future, Jan Hanvik, chair of the Arts and Cultural committee, voiced his support for the project in an e-mail: “The point of having art in empty storefronts is that more attention is drawn to an empty space if something artistically intriguing occupies it, hopefully enhancing the possibility of its rental.”