As we listened to ideas from many groups one thread seemed to run through them: The arts.
New Rochelle has an authentic arts identity: It was home to some of the leading artists of the early 20th century (Norman Rockwell, JC Lyendecker, Frederic Remington) and their influence is still felt today in the strong arts programs in our schools and the existence of a lively Arts Council and Artists Association.
But the arts are not merely artifacts that belong to the past: The arts are joyous and contribute to a positive feeling about a place. The arts can create communication between people and help build community; they can also serve as an engine for economic development.
We see all of these elements in a future New Rochelle built around the arts. We envision a downtown where adaptive reuse has preserved the charm and variety of existing architectural styles while adding more accessible outdoor space for public use. An important focal point for downtown would be a multi-faceted arts center – a “mini Lincoln Center” – that would offer studio space for artists (including retail space and exhibition/gallery space) as well as a performing arts space that is both flexible and sustainable.
One of the advantages for New Rochelle is its proximity to New York, but this can also be a disadvantage for local arts groups who must compete for audiences with New York City’s robust arts offerings. The Capitol Theater in Portchester and the Emelin in Mamaroneck must compete with bigger theaters (with bigger budgets) in New York City for the top talent as well as attendance. Thus we envision a performing arts space that is sustainable by being flexible: In other words, the space can be reconfigured so that it is large enough to accommodate (occasional) major events but can also be divided into smaller performance spaces that can be rented as meeting space by corporations or used to host non-profit events or used as classroom or lecture space for arts education, thus ensuring a steady income stream.
We see a variety of people attracted to this vital arts space – working artists and performers as well as audience members and arts lovers – and we envision a variety of restaurants and retail stores for them to enjoy. We envision the arts center as being adjacent to the pedestrian walkway so that it also offers attractive outdoor space and a lively culture of street performers (encouraged by a streamlined permitting system and designated spaces allocated for them).
Posted by NR Future meet-up Arts Culture group.