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.
Community arts centers across the country not only encourage the arts to flourish, but also serve as catalysts for neighborhood redevelopment. We envision our arts center as a community space devoted to the arts. The center will provide arts-based programs, performances, community events, skill shares, workshops, gatherings, and a resource center for all community residents.
GSCA volunteers started our first summer program for neighborhood children, dubbed Youth Organics, in 2004, and every year since we have added to our community offerings. For our first three years our building was not habitable, but with many work parties and local ingenuity the main floor was cleared of debris, cleaned, and gradually new uses emerged. During much of that time we were tenants in the basement of the Howe Library, which enabled our programs to continue to grow. In 2007 and 2008 a grant obtained by Assemblyman John J McEneny financed new water and electrical service, bathrooms and safety features to enable us to use the building on a limited basis.
We are currently finishing off two rooms to be used an office and an all-purpose community space, and expect to have them ready for spring. We have just received word that we will be funded by the City of Albany for some needed roof repairs next spring. We are also completing plans for our heating system and rehabilitation of the basement as shared space with the Harriet Tubman Free School, the alternative high school that is affiliated with the Free School. Both of these projects will require substantial sums of money, and a capital campaign is our next step.
No matter what stage of repairs our building is in, GSCA has emerged as a vital presence in the South End of Albany and a force for community revitalization. Our board is active in designing and supporting our programs and supporting our staff. We have a large core of volunteers and welcome more every week. Our goals are to support our neighborhood through visual, graphic, theater and performing arts, dance, poetry and music, and we are starting to see those goals realized. We are developing a facility available to residents, particularly children, from all cultures, classes, and walks of life and to serve the community with activities, gatherings, and performances that will enhance and revitalize our diverse neighborhood.