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Turning Vacant Storefronts Into Art Spaces: Tribeca Film Institute’s “Star” Initiative

Photo courtesy Tribeca Film Institute

The Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) today announced the launch of STAR, the Storefront Arts Recovery Initiative – which will foster a collaboration between property owners and artists to allow storefronts left vacant due to the pandemic to transform through art activations.  

Building on New York’s continued economic recovery, TFI’s STAR initiative is partnering with local artists, property owners, and neighborhood stakeholders to activate vacant storefronts and repurpose them to showcase the resiliency of the city’s cultural and artistic communities. This unique initiative will highlight New York City’s creative community, and positions local artists as key partners in the city’s rebuilding, while communities and businesses will benefit from increased foot traffic and economic activity because of STAR’s activations.

Founded twenty years ago to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center, TFI has created opportunities to champion emerging storytellers, filmmakers and creators. With strong roots in independent film, the Institute and Festival have been a platform for creative expression, discovering diverse voices and curating innovative experiences with new technology and ideas through labs, mentorship, filmmaker development programs, premieres, exhibitions, immersive entertainment, talks, and live performances.  

After the onset COVID pandemic, TFI was temporarily placed on pause. But now, as the city continues to reemerge from 2020, this is the perfect time for TFI to resume its original mission and once again inspire community rebirth through creative and artistic endeavors.

“TFI’s mission since its early days has been to revitalize communities through the arts. Whether through the Tribeca Festival, or our STAR program, which we are thrilled to announce today, TFI remains steadfast in celebrating the arts while bringing people and communities together, especially during the most challenging times,” said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises, Tribeca Festival and co-chair of Tribeca Film Institute along with Robert De Niro and Scott Rechler.

This new initiative also follows the recent Tribeca Festival which celebrated its 20th anniversary by organizing 250-plus dynamic events and the free borough to borough screening series which together, brought the festival directly to neighborhoods across all five boroughs and to some of New York City’s most iconic open-air venues. The Tribeca was the first in-person arts festival to bring back live entertainment and proudly welcomed over 100,000-plus attendees.  

STAR was born after civic leaders Jane Rosenthal, Jamie Rubin, Scott Rechler, and Carl Weisbrod came together with the mission of rebuilding New York’s communities in a similar fashion to the revitalization of Lower Manhattan following the attacks of September 11, 2001. 

“As we begin to rebuild New York City’s economy, we need to come up with creative solutions that enliven our neighborhoods in the short-term as we plan for the long-term,” said STAR founder Jamie Rubin. “Offering vacant storefronts as a blank canvas for New York City artists will showcase our homegrown talent, while spurring economic activity in New York’s struggling neighborhoods. The Tribeca Film Festival proved that showcasing independent artists could help rebuild and revitalize Lower Manhattan after 9/11, and I wanted to replicate and expand on that mission citywide as we recover from covid-19.”

“Matching New York City’s deep and diverse pool of artists in temporarily vacant storefronts with its wide range of exciting, diverse neighborhoods provides a wonderful opportunity to show off the city’s rich cultural talent to residents and visitors alike,” said Carl Weisbrod, senior advisor at HR&A Advisors. “Pairing available real estate with the arts to create an outdoor museum will accelerate New York’s economic recovery.”

“We are very pleased to partner with TFI and the STAR program to provide a showcase for the city’s talented artists,” said Ehud Kupperman, head of New York City Retail at Madison International Realty.  “Madison International Realty has a strong tradition of supporting the arts at our properties. We believe the link between the real estate community and the arts is vital to New York City and the Times Square neighborhood.”

STAR is launching with four pilot projects in partnership with Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance. The initial projects on display as part of STAR’s launch include: “The Gang’s All Here” by Andrew Bannecker, creates a fantastical atmosphere filled with colorful creatures from all walks of imaginary life. Each line and cosmic being of this playful visual brings a curious joy to 42nd Street. His work can be found at 225 West 42nd Street near New 42 Studios, where Bannecker is an artist-in-residence. Bannecker is known for his use of vivid colors, patterns, and textures. From bubbly characters to sophisticated landscapes, his work is ever evolving and manages to imbue scenes with emotive power. His work has been recognized by American Illustration, Luerzers Archive, and Communication Arts. New 42 has generously offered this space for Bannecker’s activation.

“At A-Z of Times Square” by Frances Smith at 234 West 42nd Street, is an alphabet-themed artwork featuring iconic symbols representing New York City and Times Square. In celebration of the many classic experiences that make this city great, this artwork is designed to engage all generations of New Yorkers and the visiting tourist alike. Frances Smith is an Afro-Latinx illustrator based in New York City with a background in art direction, and design. Her bold use of colors and design aim to tell stories, amplify social justice issues and highlight underrepresented communities. Her artwork has been featured across the city through Art on Link and nationwide through editorial publications. Madison International Realty has generously sponsored the space for this activation.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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