New York Daily News, 06/29/14
Bronx River Art Center Renovation, New City Budget Signs of Life for Arts Education

By Pete Barrett | web link

A gleaming new center for the arts is in the works in West Farms, and it looks like there could be more where that came from, according to one Bronx lawmaker.

“I’m proud to report that we have passed a budget that includes a historic commitment to bringing arts education to underserved neighborhoods throughout the city,” Councilman Ritchie Torres said Thursday during a ceremony to kick off the $10 million renovation of the Bronx River Art Center.

The new budget passed by the Council early Thursday included $23 million in funds for expanded arts instruction, said Torres (D-Fordham).

Torres said that he secured a $600,000 allocation from Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to go toward the renovation of the Bronx River Art Center.

It is important to have a place for the community to come to for safe, creative experiences that they can grow with.

The non-profit organization, founded in 1987, offers studio space, art classes for teens and adults and exhibition space, and organizers say the updated building will be a beacon of the city’s push for art resources.

The center’s programs have been conducted at alternate sites since the aging century-old building was closed, in 2010.

“It is important to have a place for the community to come to for safe, creative experiences that they can grow with,” said Gail Nathan, the center’s executive director.

The renovation will create classrooms, studio spaces, a room for digital photography and design, a performance space and an art gallery, and it is expected to be finished by fall 2016.

“The arts really need to touch every community,” Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Tom Finkelpearl told the Daily News. “The arts are not just for well-heeled communities. That is the message of (the project). The users of the BRAC are going to be the people of the neighborhood.”

Christine DeFazio, an art teacher at the South Bronx Academy for Applied Media said the renovation would give residents more affordable access to arts programming. “I think this is going to create a community for parents to come see art, and bring our students,” she said.

An April report by the Center for Arts Education found that cuts in funding for arts education had disproportionately affected schools in the Bronx.

“Nearly half of the schools that lack both a certified arts teacher and an arts or cultural partnership are located in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn,” the non-profit reported.

Since October 2010, the center has been renting space for its offices from Community Life at 2064 Boston Road and space for classes in the Aquinas Housing Corp. on 871 E. 179th St.

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DIRECTIONS TO CENTER:  By Train: Take #2 or #5 to West Farms Square/East Tremont. Walk one block east to Bronx Street. By Bus: Take #'s B9, 21, 36, 40, 42, or Q44 to East Tremont and Boston Road. By Car: Take Bruckner Expressway to Sheridan Expressway, and exit at East Tremont Ave. Turn left at the traffic light one block down onto East Tremont. Turn left after one block onto Bronx St. (Cross Bronx Expressway) towards Rosedale Ave, then exit. Turn left onto Rosedale Ave, then take a left onto Tremont Ave. Drive four blocks to West Farms Square.

This program is made possible with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, including Council Members Eric Dinowitz, Althea Stevens, Kristy Marmorato and the Bronx Delegation. Additional support is from Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, the NYS Council on the Arts with support from Governor Kathy Hochul and the NYS Legislature. Foundation support is from Con Edison: The Power of Giving, The New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund, The Lincoln Fund, and private donors.

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