Does anyone enjoy going to the laundromat?  The Laundromat Project (LP), based in Brooklyn, is trying to reverse this trend. Founded by Risà « Wilson in 1999 and incorporated in 2005, LP seeks to make trips to the once dreaded laundromat bright spots in people’s lives. LP activates quotidian spaces like the laundromat by bringing public arts programs to communities around New York City. The organization aims to make the most difference by focusing its efforts on low-income communities, those that tend to be underserved by museums and cultural centers.

The LP brings its mission of building community by providing an outlet for creativity with two programs: Works in Progress (WiP) and the Create Change Public Artist Residency. These initiatives represent an amalgamation of art, social justice and community building. These multi-pronged efforts earned the LP an Echoing Green  fellowship in 2009, when they were recognized as a notable art-based social justice startup. Initiatives have included projects like archiving residents’ thoughts about the changes in their neighborhood as artist Karina Aguilera Skvirsky executed in her community.

The WiP program was initially designed for a Harlem neighborhood, providing free arts education workshops for the community at the local laundromat. WiP takes place every weekend afternoon from late summer to early fall at The Laundry Room at 116th street in Harlem [Map]. LP places folding tables outside the laundromat, filling the tables with supplies-paper, markers, feather, and glitter. WiP Teaching Artists and volunteers invite passersby to explore their creative side and make some art.   The volunteers of LP play an important role in engaging the public, as many of them are arts professionals and have a background in education, which allows participants to get the most out of their experience.

During the winter, the WiP program doesn’t lie dormant. Events like the Romare Bearden Collage and Portraiture Workshop held at The Studio Museum in Harlem on January 15th keep LP engaged with the community outside the Laundromat. This event honored Bearden as well as civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Attendees tried their hand at Bearden’s brightly colored, visually textured collage techniques to create a representation of the person they aspire to be.

LP’s second initiative, Create Change, is an annual program that gives artists an opportunity to create projects at Laundromats that engage their community and engender interest and participation in the arts. This program allows for seven New York and Philadelphia based artists to create works of art, but gives an additional fifteen artists access to professional development. These sessions give artists an opportunity to discuss their work with their peers, the LP staff, as well as professionals in the arts and social justice sectors in the hope of creating more socially engaged works of art. Applications for this year’s Create Change cycle will become available on the LP website in the coming weeks, with final proposals due on March 23.

In the future, the LP hopes to be able to expand their reach by offering in-school programs and expanding their current roster of drop-in workshops and courses. The major goal for LP is to one day purchase a laundromat that will function as the organization’s home and as a community arts center. To raise funds for the purchase of a laundromat that would serve as the organization’s home base, the LP has hosted benefit auctions for the past two years, featuring artist editions for sale by upcoming and established artists. With accessibility in mind, event tickets were priced at $25.  To learn more, or to support LP’s programs visit their website–and get out to the laundromat!

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