Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Laundromat Project

Some readers may recall my fondness for the Urban Rest Stop, a hygiene center in downtown Seattle providing free laundry, showers and restrooms to a mostly homeless clientele. In addition to the invaluable community benefit that comes from keeping poor people clean and healthy, the URS also performs a social function as a de facto forum and meeting house for the down-on-their-luck population of the city.

On the other edge of the country, the Laundromat Project has recognized a similar social function performed by the laundromats of New York city. The Brooklyn-based non-profit seeks to bring art into some of the most ordinary spaces in working class neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuvyesant and Harlem. The project provides resources to artists who create and exhibit work in laundromats, in the belief that they are places where people gather not only to wash clothes but also to interact with their neighbors and exchange ideas. In the communities the project serves, which generally have under-funded schools and high unemployment, the Laundromat Project also fills an educational void by reinvesting laundromat profits into community arts programming. From the perspective of social entrepreneurship, the business model is just brilliant.

In December, the organization received a prestigious Union Square Arts Award in recognition of their innovative work in the arts with youth and families in low-income communities.

The Laundromat Project is currently accepting proposals for a new round of six month residencies during which artists will produce site-specific, socially relevant installations at their local laundromat. Applications are due by February 20, 2009.

The above photo, of a Harlem laundromat, is courtesy of Juverna. Thanks!

No comments: