Artists Join In Building a New Kind of Community in Braddock, PA

There is a rumor going around the arts community that the Mayor of Braddock, who himself lives in a warehouse space, will give free studio workspace to professional artists to bring them to his decaying town. Braddock, Pennsylvania may be the poorest, most rundown urban area in the United States, where you can buy an empty house–and there are plenty to choose from–for less than five thousand dollars. Braddock sits on a river’s edge and is about a twenty-minute highway drive from Pittsburgh.

I sent the mayor an email just yesterday, requesting details on opportunities for artists, and will post a follow-up here when I learn more.

Some Braddock projects:

Major public art projects and a Community Center.

The historic and first Carnegie Library in Braddock has a screen print shop program and Braddock ceramic studio program with a unique water filter project.

The Unsmoke Art Space in Braddock is an exhibition space with related projects, including independent Small Press publishing venture Braddock Avenue Books.

Braddock Redux, a project  to mobilize like-minded people of all ages from both within and outside the community for the betterment of the Braddock through training opportunities, art initiatives, green initiatives, employment opportunities, the creative re-use of existing structures, and through the flexibility to respond to other opportunities that arise. http://braddockredux.org/

Into the Furnace a writer-in-residence program in Braddock, PA. Into the Furnace offers an adventuresome creative person, whose work and work ethic can benefit from the energy Braddock has to offer, up to 9 months of creative work time at their urban residency. http://intothefurnace.wordpress.com/.

Unsmoke provides space for the local office of the Berkeley-based company Bibliopolis. Bibliopolis provides complete e-commerce website development, technical support, and hosting as well as database services for the used, out-of-print and antiquarian bookseller.

Next door to Unsmoke sits the Roadbourne custom furniture design warehouse where craftsmen and women work from reclaimed wood and other materials.

New Guild Studio in Braddock specializes in restoring and reimagining liturgical art. Check out what they do at www.newguildstudio.com

Braddock Farms grows organic produce on 10 acres of reclaimed urban land, supplying herbs and vegetables to regional restaurants.

Fossil Free Fuels has made and fueled biodiesel since 2005 for those who want your fuel from a deep fryer instead of deep in the Earth.

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6 thoughts on “Artists Join In Building a New Kind of Community in Braddock, PA

  1. erainbowd says:

    Was there a response from the mayor? I ended up here because I saw a rumor that he was giving away artist housing! Are any of these things true?

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    • Yes, I received responses from several art business people and arts orgs there. There is space available, but my impression is that one would need to travel there and get to know the people and existing programs to get this inside information.

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  2. I found your blog and I am a tad late with this response. After much searching on the Major of Braddock PA and his clarion call for ideas for rebuilding this city from artists and other creative/inventive types (I have both a background in arts and science) I find that it is very hard to contact him or get concrete information. I find a call for people to come then making it difficult to find organized information, disingenuous. And for those to go to enormous difficulty in going there and obtaining “inside” information only adds to my opinion of his efforts. (I had found a couple online that had sold everything and moved to B.PA to find basically dumps that would need them to re-hab.)

    One idea I had was for them to build “tiny houses” with all the resources (reclaim building materials) put people with certain skills to work. There was another run down industrial city (forget which now) that reclaimed an old building and used it to grow hydroponics – both vegetables to sell to high end outlets and as well fish – the fish waste was used for fertilizer for the plants.

    Braddock sounded rich with possibility.

    Any ideas as how to contact him directly would be appreciated as the emails I have for him go no where. Much thanks.

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    • Detroit is full of abandoned mansions, and much could be done there. There are also several other small towns in PA and other states that are assisting artists to move there offering artists special loans to buy homes. You can find them by searching online. As far as Braddock, I have received responses from the arts-business people there. Basically, they all seem to suggest that one purchase property there as an entre. Once you own a piece of Braddock you are in and can work with others there. If you are just asking questions then they do tend to be closed-mouthed. Why that is I can only speculate. There was a nice brick church for sale in Braddock and other sturdy structures. A two story brick house with slate roof and 5 fireplaces was going for $18K as is. The town has been run down for a long time and the cheaper buildings need renovation. Last I heard there was a new restaurant in process of opening in a newly renovated building. There is an organic vegetable company in Braddock that provides fresh veg to restaurants in Pittsburgh and surroundings. There was also a street artist who purchased a former school, I think, to renovate into some arts center. I think that they want people to invest in Braddock.

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  3. Thanks – I was in NYC early 80’s when one could (with a group only) but a building in the then “hells kitchen” and other run down neighborhoods, for one buck (Koch) and obtain 4% government loans to renovate. I was 21 and saw the opportunity but could not get theater friends to join in. Now Clinton and very desirable neighborhood.

    I will do some research on “artists” loans (background in City Government and research as well, but have not found any. There is also Rural loans/grants but this is greatly reduced under Obama and not sure B.PA is “rural” lol

    Well thanks greatly for responding. I think I saw the church on loopnet btw, near the old steel mill, but know full well the cost of such major renovations. (well beyond me). Clearly a town for the young and vigorous as I am no longer.

    It is sad that in America our architectural history can be left to “die”. There is so much that could be done with these buildings, and they will never be created again. I remember the only Woman’s YWCA in NYC was torn down and now has an ugly tower. I urged then Senator Hillary C. to get involved as Jacky Kennedy Onassis had in preserving Grand Central (slated to be torn down) and other historical buildings but no response even to my letter.

    Great helpful blog btw. My search for a church to place my sculptures will continue.

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    • The loans I mentioned are via the small towns that wish to attract artists. Basically there are some small towns in Pennsylvania with nothing going for them so have decided to become towns for artists to live, work and sell to attract tourists etc. So the loans are locally hosted. There have been a few articles about these places and if you search you should be able to find them. None of the names of these towns stand out in my memory to mention. Best Wishes

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