City Chooses Jazz Museum As First Tenant For New Mart 125
While most of 125th Street is thriving, one building remains an empty eyesore. But that's about to change, with tenants like the Jazz Museum set to move in. NY1's Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
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For many years, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem has been hidden in a small space on East 126th Street. Live music, a rapt audience and a room lined with photos of jazz greats complete the space.
"There's nowhere that you could have jazz that would be better than Harlem," said Loren Schoenberg, the museum's executive director.
Schoenberg, a Grammy Award-winning musician and jazz historian who joined the museum in 2001, admits the space isn't ideal, but says they make the most of it.
"To us being a museum means interactivity: dancing, singing, having fun, and being part of interactive exhibits, in which you experience the whole thing," he said.
Now the city has chosen the Jazz Museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Museum, to be part of the proposed Mart 125 redevelopment project on Harlem's main commercial strip, provided a developer gets on board.
"This is a project that's going to have the involvement of many branches of government and, of course, the public is going to have to support it," said National Jazz Museum in Harlem Board Chairman Arthur Barnes.
The plan calls for the Jazz Museum to take 12,000 square feet of available space in the building. It will lease a portion of that to a not-for-profit arts organization called ImageNation.
Gregory Gates and Moikgantsi Kgamma are co-visionaries who manage ImageNation out of their Harlem apartment. They say they are excited about the potential move to 125th Street.
"This will allow us to grow and really serve our mission, which is to provide a permanent home for independent films by and about people of color," explained Kgamma.
Over the years, ImageNation has gotten grants from corporations, the City Council, and local businesses
Plans for its new space in Mart 125 include a 100-seat movie theater, showing two or three independent films a week:
"We hope to be to independent film what the Apollo Theater is to music artists," said Gates.
However, the space won't just be about movies. There will also be a stage for live music and spoken-word performances.
After 10 years of moving the business around the city, Kgamma says she cannot imagine a better spot for its permanent home:
"Being able to not only be on 125th Street, but to have a stake in 125th Street is important to us and we're really excited about that," she said.
There's still no move-in date. It could be at least a couple of years before the building can be occupied.