Renew Lots, ARTs East New York

In an effort to recognize and provide funding for artistic causes, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) provides financial awards to worthy projects.  In May of this year, one of the 64 merit based awards went to the ARTs East New York and its “Renew Lots” project, which is centered at 175 New Lots Ave in Brooklyn.  This unique project took two vacant lots and converted them into a market that houses low-rent store fronts and an artist incubator where creators can work on their craft in a professional atmosphere.

“We are overjoyed and honored to be recipients of the Our Town Creative Placemaking Grant to support phase two of our Renew Lots project as we evolve as the leading organization in East New York, Brooklyn focused on economic development,” said Catherine Green, Executive Director of AENY. “The funds will provide the necessary support to foster entrepreneurship and community engagement for local artists and small business owners in Brooklyn.”

The exciting grant will provide nearly $100,000 worth of funding to support the second phase of the Renew Lots Market and Artist Incubator that is planned to begin in 2017.  This phase will include that addition of another 20,000 square foot vacant lot in the East New York area.  For inner-city locals who are all too familiar with ugly, unkempt, empty lots, these newly re-purposed areas are a breath of fresh air.   

The vacant lots were thoroughly cleared out to make way for four 10 x 8 shipping containers for visual art studios and two 40 x 9 shipping containers for art exhibitions and events.  From artists who sell actual paintings to those that craft every day essentials, each individual space has an energy of its own.  In an interview with local shoppers who frequent the lots, shoppers explained their new found loyalty to artists who may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
“To me and my friends, it feels like this marketplace was transported.  It’s like each store has developed an inventory that mirrors the artist behind it.  I’m from Ghana and this is how we shop.  It’s not about brands, it’s about quality and ties to the culture.” explained Priscilla Ogunsanwo of East New York who shops in the market every week.
The most unique facet of this marketplace is the commitment to Brooklyn-based entrepreneurs.  Unlike other large, multi-business locations, Renew Lots provides extremely affordable artist studio spaces and small business fronts that serve to nurture artistic development.
In a city where renting a store front can require extreme capital, this option gives artists a fighting chance at turning their creations into a working business model.  If the creative vendor list wasn’t enough to inspire fandom, shoppers can even visit the Renew Lots website under their vendor/artist page to learn more about each store front.

Chanel Alli

Chanel is a dynamic standup comic and writer based out of Brooklyn, NY. Her commanding writing style and story-teller style allow her to cover a plethora of topics with a unique flare.

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