BxArts Factory and the Bronx Artist Resurgence

The Bronx still carries the burden of burning buildings, rubble, and decay. Of course Bronxites know different but also realize the reality that this image negatively impacts the opportunities and programs that are available within our borough. Because of this, more and more Bronx locals are working hard to create opportunities within the Bronx for the Bronx.

This is where the creation of artist incubator BxArts Factory comes in. Unknown to many people are the things that came from the Bronx like Lincoln’s statue and Batman (both Bob Kane and Bill Finger came up with the dark knight while sitting in Poe Park), to famous people like Calvin Klein and Neil deGrasse Tyson, to salsa and hip hop.

BxArts Factory is an incubator initiative that will encompass artists from multiple disciplines and work in underserved areas to bring art based programs that are easily accessible. “I believe that art means nothing without the community and the community means nothing without art.” said Laura Alvarez, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, at the BxArts Factory Launch Party. She continued, “It is proven that when public spaces are used for art, it engages individuals and makes them more involved in their communities.”

The night of BxArts Factory launch party was a small taste of what they have in store for the future. Ismael Checo didIMG_7318 a live painting while Yarisa Colon demonstrated how to make handmade books. Various live performances took place as party goers sipped on Morris Perk coffee (along with Cookie & Coffee Girl’s homemade cookies), local brews from The Bronx Beer Hall, wine from Luscious Vines, or rum from Don Reyes. Cynthia Sepulveda , founder of Flaco Coquito, was on hand with bottles of healthy coquito.

Art is always happening in the Bronx and it has never stopped but spaces for artists to exhibit their work has been a problem. As Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Alexis Mendoza explained, “I have met many other Bronx artists over the years, we all realized that there weren’t many outlets to present out work.” As part of the reason for the group forming, they will work to give local artists studio and exhibit spaces. Luckily, BxArts Factory already has a place they can call home due to them partnering up with South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation to secure space at Brook Avenue Gardens. Located at 148th Street and Brook Avenue, BxArts Factory will have 2,500 square feet of space to work with in the building’s cellar.

IMG_7308Along with providing space for local artists and working with the community, BxArts Factory also wants to open up dialogs that encompass the uniqueness of Bronx social communities. “It is wonderful to be part of an organization that will open up the dialog for immigrant communities, the difficult process of being in a foreign land with different social expectations, and the overall immigrant experience.” said Twahira Khan, Secretary of the Board.

After the launch party, Yolanda L. Rodriguez, President and Chief Executive Officer, was kind enough to answer some questions about the forming of BxArts Factory and their future plans.

Kathleen Canzoniero: What is the background of BxArtsFactory and how did it start up?

Yolanda L. Rodriguez: We were a group of citizens that at the time were working independently and creating art and cultural opportunities for the community. We are all motivated to create something that will help the community and that can provide space for artists and organizations in the Bronx. We wanted to create an incubator space to continue providing opportunities for the community to use art and culture as a vehicle of change.

Canzoniero: Were there any personal hardships that you faced that made you decide to start this group and what were they?

Rodriguez: It was increasingly hard to find spaces in the Bronx to plan and organize events. Spaces are really limited in the Bronx and many are over-scheduled at times. We also wanted to do something different in the Bronx and we felt that we needed a space where more artists and organizations can constructively collaborate, learn from each other and create.

Canzoniero: What was your inspiration for creating BxArts Factory?

Rodriguez: Our inspiration came from diverse places. We were inspired by our experiences organizing events in the Bronx and seeing what was needed. Much of our inspiration came from our own stories and how art helped each of us as we grew up outside the United States and how art help us make a home in the Bronx.

Canzoniero: Do you plan to expand out to the other boroughs?

Rodriguez: At the moment our plan is to serve the Bronx but we strive to become a destination landmark in the Bronx to people from all boroughs, other states and other countries.

Canzoniero: What is your long term vision for BxArts Factory?

Rodriguez: The BxArts Factory endeavors to become a preeminent Arts Institution in the Bronx, committed to supporting local artists and art projects focused on making art accessible to communities in the Bronx and using art to address social and economic inequities in the Bronx.

BxArts Factory first exhibition, Innuendos: The Voices of 10 Bronxite Women, will be opening on March 6th at the Andrew Freedman Home at 5:30 p.m.

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