A shuttered Inwood nightclub is getting a new lease on life as a pop-up community arts center in an otherwise “artistic desert.”
For the entire month of June, the nonprofit Inwood Art Works is setting up “Culture Hub” at the former club named Cliff at 202nd Street and 10th Avenue — a three-story building complete with a dance floor, a mezzanine and even a disco ball.
Inwood Art Works has packed the month with art viewings, dance performances, play readings, Metropolitan Opera singer concerts, jazz age jive nights, improv comedy and the first-ever Inwood Music Festival — all featuring Inwood and Washington Heights locals.
Artists who specialize in painting, drawing, collage, photography and more will have their own space on the mezzanine to show off their work in an exhibit called “Taking Charge of Change,” which will be up through June 30.
Culture Hub is also serving as an open community space when performances aren’t going on. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, anyone can work, craft, host meetings, rehearse and check out art during what is called “Hang Time.” Then at 3 p.m., the space switches to silence until 6 p.m., when visitors are welcome to meditate, read, write or get work done.
And, aside from performances, the community will be invited in for dance parties, crafting and photography classes, networking, and a pizza party where you’ll get to choose the best Inwood pie.
The dedicated space has been a long time coming, according to Aaron Simms, the executive producer and curator for Inwood Art Works.
“I’ve been here for 15 years and there’s never been anything like this in Inwood,” he told amNewYork. “Inwood is not included on subway maps . . . it’s an artistic desert.”
There are no galleries or performing arts spaces to speak of in the neighborhood, which forces locals to take a hike downtown for any kind of entertainment or cultural activities, he said.
There’s also a lack of spaces for LGBTQ residents, teens and for the Spanish-speaking community to hang out, show their work or just feel supported, he added.
And if money was a barrier, it needn’t be here. All of the performances are reasonably priced, ranging from free to $20.
“This is the perfect chance to give it a test and take some risks,” Simms said about Culture Hub. “We’re creating access in a place that doesn’t have it.”
Inwood Art Works, which grew out of Simms’ own “Back Porch Variety Show” literally held on the back porch of his apartment nine years ago, has been doing pop-ups out of necessity. The “small but mighty nonprofit” has had to get creative, jumping from space to space, including a Roman Catholic chapel, galleries, and even a pharmacy.
Now, with financial backing by the city’s Neighborhood 360 program, which launches revitalization projects with local stakeholders, Inwood Art Works can put a stake in the ground.
Having the club space for an entire month is giving artists not only a chance to show their work but to also initiate a conversation about the importance of having such a space in Inwood.
“If people like it we can make the argument for there being a real point to having something like this in the neighborhood,” he said.
To take a look at what’s slated through June, visit inwoodartworks.nyc.