Friday, October 5, 2007
State Assemblyman Joe Lentol Secures Grant Aimed at Helping Local Artists-October 5, 2007 (Greenpoint Gazette)
Rising housing costs are causing artists to be priced out of Greenpoint and Williamsburg. One popular way to fight for your cause in North Brooklyn is ally yourself with a community organization or non-for-profit and if you're lucky, a local politician. Such is the thinking of the thousands of local artists who are members of Fractured Atlas, a national non-for-profit organization that provides services and support to artists and arts organizations, who recently received a grant from the state government championed by Assemblyman Joe Lentol.
Greenpoint and Williamsburg are home to some of the best artists in the country. Museums, concert halls, art instillations, and film shoots are all commonplace on almost any corner. With housing costs escalating, however, Greenpoint and Williamsburg are becoming less and less of a destination for artists. What attracted artists to the area to begin with, cheap housing, has been replaced by some of the highest rent in all of Brooklyn.
That's exactly the consensus that was reached last October at a community outreach meeting held at Galapagos Art Space. Assemblyman Lentol and Fractured Atlas co-sponsored the event along with Robert Elms of Galapagos. Adam Forest Huttler, the executive director of Fractured Atlas, described the event that set things in motion, "We began modestly, we co-hosted the event at Galapagos. We expected 20-30 people to show up for a panel discussion on economic development in the area. The place was packed, wall-to-wall, with angry artists waiting to be heard. It was a great event."
Both Lentol and Huttler acknowledge the event as the catalyst for the action. Huttler elaborated, "It became pretty clear that night that the community was desperate for someone to get everybody organized and provide a vehicle for success. We also know we had a very sympathetic ear in Joe Lentol who's a great guy, a powerful state assemblyman who's represented the district for decades, and comes from strong ties to old Williamsburg but has also developed strong relationship with new residents."
Lentol had this to say on the artists' role in the community, “The artists have been in Williamsburg for a long time now. They have become an essential part of our community, and by helping Fractured Atlas, we can help the artists.”
What does Fractured Atlas plan to do with the money? They are using it as a kick-start to their fundraising campaign for a massive outreach and organization project they are currently undertaking. They are in the words of Huttler, "going door to door" mapping out all artists and art-organizations on a publicly accessible map, and asking what their biggest issues are. They are also simultaneously conducting a sweeping voter registration drive to force more politicians to pay attention to them.
They are in effect setting out to organize the artists of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, "We have seen a lot of cases in the past where certain groups have hit a wall of much more organized and focused opposition from other groups who have been there for a long time. We're trying to work with as many local groups as possible who have our common goal in mind to form a unified powerful voice for the artists."
In a community with as many community organizations and non-for-profits dedicated to letting their voices be heard and seeing their interests met, local artists need Fractured Atlas to act as their loudspeaker. Not only will Fractured Atlas speak for the artists, they will help them network, give them a forum for discussion, help promote and market them, help them find health insurance, etc. etc.
If you've never heard of Fractured Atlas before, their website (fracturedatlas.org) has a ton of easily accessible information about donating or becoming a member. They have a benefit coming up November 8th, but they are always accepting donations and new memberships. If you love art and want to see it stay in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, do what Assemblyman Joe Lentol did, give to Fractured Atlas.