Grand Street Community Arts was formed by concerned neighbors in the Mansion Neighborhood in 2003 as a way to bridge the cultural and economic divides in the neighborhood. The organization (originally named Mansion Community Arts) received its designation as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization from the IRS and negotiated the purchase of the former St. Anthony’s Church, a long-vacant cornerstone of the community and a link with its immigrant past.
Constructed in 1907, St. Anthony’s Church not only filled the spiritual needs of parishioners, but also helped immigrants adjust to new lives in America by offering English classes and hosting performances, weddings and operas. Thus, St. Anthony’s has always been a center for the arts! In 1972, following the construction of the Empire State Plaza and the demolition of many homes in the South End, St. Anthony’s had lost its congregation and closed its doors. In 2003, Grand Street Community Arts purchased St. Anthony’s from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, reopening its doors as a community center.
GSCA has offered programs for teens, especially the award-winning Youth FX film/video program and Youth Organics!, a summer urban agriculture program. GSCA has also offered classes, after-school programs for kids and has hosted fashion shows, exhibitions and artist’s projects, and performances by artists like Kimya Dawson, Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde, Climbing Poetree, and The Sierra Leone All Stars.
Following the economic downturn or Great Recession that began in 2009, GSCA like many non-profits found itself operating with ever diminishing resources. Long untended issues with St. Anthony’s Church worsened winter after winter. In Winter 2012, GSCA closed its doors to the public. In the Spring of 2013, the leadership of GSCA recommitted to saving St. Anthony’s Church and the Arts Center, and laid the groundwork for the GSCA Revitalization Campaign, which began in July 2013. Core programs YO! and YouthFX were moved offsite, non-essential programs were cancelled, and a new Executive Director, Edwards Grimes-Carrion was hired to steer the organization through its period of renovation and renewal.
Community arts centers across the country not only encourage the arts to flourish, but also serve as catalysts for neighborhood redevelopment. Grand Street Community Arts will soon reopen its doors and provide youth arts programs, performances, community events, skill shares, workshops, gatherings, and a resource center for all community residents!