By Bill Parry
Local Project is staying locally.
The Long Island City nonprofit artists collective was in danger of losing its new space, at 11-27 44th Road, unless it raised $6,000 to pay the rent. A fund-raising campaign on Kickstarter drew in more than 100 donors plus some added benefits.
“The campaign opened a lot of doors for the future,” group Director Carolina Penafiel said. “It’s led us to a whole new set of supporters and many other artists as well.”
Local Project has been helping young artists get established since 2003. The group calls the space they provide “a creative harbor” where they offer year-round exhibitions, art residencies, mentoring and classes while building bridges to other art institutions.
Local Project was based in the 5Pointz building, at 45-10 Davis St., so they were forced to leave along with the graffiti artists in January. 5Pointz owner Jerry Wolkoff is in the process of preparing the block-long warehouse complex for demolition so he can build two residential towers.
“When we got kicked out of 5Pointz, it was like we were thrown into the real world where rent was ridiculously higher,” Penafiel said. “At 5Pointz the rent and expenses were always low and sometimes it didn’t get paid at all. We went from $500 a month to $2,600 a month and we needed help.”
The Wolkoff name has been maligned by the aerosol artists who were evicted last winter, but Local Project was part of a colony of less visible studio artists who practiced their craft inside the building at cheap rents.
“I keep telling anyone that will listen that I’m an art lover through and through,” Wolkoff said. “I always gave space to struggling artists, I loved every single one of them. All I needed was the money to pay for the heat and the taxes. If you started to sell your pieces for the big money, like $15,000, it was either pay up or clear out and make way for the next struggling artist. That was always my goal: to help struggling artists.”
Penafiel found the new space on 44th Road after an exhaustive search, desperate to stay in Long Island City where rents have soared over the last decade.
“We have a great landlord and a 10-year lease, but we’re going to have to find creative ways to fund-raise in the future,” she said. “It’s important that we keep it open because it’s become a bigger part of the community. The campaign showed us that.”
They called it the “Buy a Brick” campaign. In lieu of a tax-deductible donation, donors got their name on an LP’s supporters wall and a limited edition “I Brought a Brick” vintage T-shirt.
Other benefits included one month of co-working space in their creative office, a two-week show in the new space that came with an opening night, and each received a one-of-a-kind, handmade lamp by the artist Cristian Daniel Torres as well as original artwork by Annalisa Ladicicco.
“Now we get to stay in the new building,” Penafiel said. “By the way, it’s an infamous building. Five people were arrested for growing 1,000 pot plants inside. Now the only thing we grow are artists.”
Meanwhile, Wolkoff said the protective fencing will go up around the 5Pointz building within a week as the demolition gets underway.
“Were going to start bringing it down piece by piece and make way for my buildings,” he said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.