Langston Hughes's Harlem Brownstone to Become Arts Center

Wikimedia Commons//Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons//Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons//Public Domain

Langston Hughes was one of the Harlem Renaissance’s most influential leaders. But in the decades that followed the writer’s death in 1967, his New York City brownstone—located on East 127th Street—fell into disrepair. Now, thanks to an activist group of writers, the home will get a second life as an arts center, the New York Daily News reports.

Georgia Popplewellvia Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hughes lived in the three-story building for the last 20 years of his life, and it was later marked as a national landmark. Still, it remained empty and derelict for many years. It was briefly used as a performance space in 2007, but its tenants were evicted—and in 2010, The New York Times reports, its current owner tried to sell the house for $1 million, but nobody purchased it. Currently, the structure has 20 open Department of Building violations.

Concerned that developers would try to transform the historic building into an expensive co-op, members of the Harlem-based I, Too, Arts Collective—which describes itself as a “nonprofit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts”—have collected $130,000 through fundraising initiatives and donations. They aim to eventually reach $150,000, which is the estimated cost to renovate and run the center for one year.

The I, Too, Arts Collective plans to sign a lease in the next few weeks, and hopes to get the arts center up and running by Hughes’s birthday anniversary on February 1. Eventually, the organization plans to host children’s poetry events and visual arts programs.

"I think it's important for the young people who still live in Harlem to know that in their own neighborhood, blocks away from where they're playing basketball, ... that a literary giant lived there,” Renee Watson, executive director of I, Too, Arts Collective, told NPR. “And not just lived there but created there and was a part of the community."

[h/t New York Daily News]

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