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History

Initiated by the Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA) in 1981, Longwood Arts Project was founded in the former Public School 39 at 986 Longwood Avenue in the Bronx. The school was closed due to attrition of school-age children in the district at that time when the area was devastated physically and economically. Community leaders turned the unfortunate closure into an opportunity to help stabilize the neighborhood by developing it into a multi-service building for city agencies and non-profit organizations as its tenants. BCA was an integral part of the transition in the neighborhood from literally being the poster child for late '70s urban decay (Link to Longwood Cyber pix if available) to what is actually an inspiring story of the rebirth of a community. The many blocks of new and rehabilitated homes are on sites where old tenements were tore down or left to fall apart. This building located in a section of the South Bronx that has seen an incredible rise of new low-income housing to go with wonderful new parks and baseball fields.

Longwood Arts Project occupied 10 rooms on the second floor of the Longwood building from 1981 to 2002. From the onset, most of the rooms were turned into artist studios that were available as part of the Scholarship Studio Programs or at a subsidized rental fee. Past Resident Artists include Ernesto Pujol, MacArthur Award Winner Pepón Osorio, along with Tim Rollins & Kids of Survival (K.O.S.). In 1985 and under the direction of artist Fred Wilson, the Project established the Longwood Arts Gallery with a strong commitment to presenting works by contemporary local, national, and international artists in its thematic and solo exhibitions. In 1991, a second gallery was created to focus on Bronx-based artists. The exhibition program at the Gallery has addressed the urban condition, national and cultural identity, immigration, violence, racism, urban space, the environment, local Bronx history, street culture, and popular culture. In 1992, Betti-Sue Hertz was appointed director. Longwood Arts Journal was published in 1993 and 1994 to document the exhibitions with critical essays. In 1999, Eddie Torres was named Director, serving with distinction until 2002 when he moved on and Edwin Ramoran was appointed as Director and held the position until 2007. Juanita Lanzo, Edwin’s associate, was appointed to the position when he left.

With a view towards the future, the Longwood Cyber Residency and Exhibition Program was established in 1999 to provide artists with the opportunity to utilize new media and advanced technology in the development of their work on the Internet. The pioneering program was one of the first of its kind both on a national and global level. In addition, the original longwoodcyber website was created to showcase the projects produced by the Cyber Resident Artists as well as the exhibitions featured at our Longwood Art Gallery. This dual exposure gives our artists the unique opportunity to reveal their amazing artistic versatility. Michelle Echevarria served as our Program Coordinator for the Longwood Cyber Residency. In 2005, the Cyber Residency became the Digital Matrix Program providing funding to artists with a strong background and working practice in digital art. Using their technical expertise and artistic skills, they have the potential and vision to create innovative online and/or interactive projects. Annually, there is an open call for submissions, as well as group of artists who will be invited to submit project proposals. An independent panel comprised of the Longwood staff and outside artists and arts professionals select artists to receive a $5,000 honorarium and have up to six months to complete their projects. This new digital initiative serves as a catalyst for making the growing field of creative digital media an accessible resource to Bronx audiences.

In the autumn of 2002, the PS 39 building at 965 Longwood Avenue was converted back into a school administered by the NYC Board of Education. In advance of the likely expansion of educational services at our longtime home, BCA made a strategic decision to find a new space, and develop new alliances with some old friends. In January 2003, Longwood Arts Project relocated its office and Cyber Residency Program to La Casa Blanca at Pregones Theater, 571 Walton Avenue, in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx. In addition, just one block east of our new offices at Pregones Theater, we established a new exhibition program known as Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos in cooperation with the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture on the campus of Hostos Community College at 450 Grand Concourse. This location has since become home to the entire project including our staff of Program Coordinator Juanita Lanzo and Gallery Assistant Kim Vaquedano. We continue promoting the creative visions of our artists who work so hard to bring them to fruition within our communities.

 

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