Aaron Simms, an Inwood resident for the past 15 years, had been up since 5 a.m. By 10 a.m., he had finished hosting a story time event for 40 local children and their guardians, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m, he facilitated a series of sit down interviews with ALL ARTS and seven local artists, many of whom had work showing in the gallery space around us. At 7 p.m. he wrapped his day by producing a drag show performance.
This mélange of artistic experiences took place in a vacant retail property on Broadway and W. 204th Street. Simms uses the space to host events and exhibitions through his nonprofit, Inwood Art Works. One Inwood resident entered with her two young children at her side. She pointed to a sculpture near the front wall and told Simms, “I know the artist who made that. He’s my neighbor.”
Inwood Art Works’ mission is to “create and curate professional performing and visual arts in Inwood and its surrounding community.” Finding space for artists to gather, perform and show work is central to this mission. The organization moved into the space at 4857 Broadway in October 2017, and since then has collaborated with more than 59 local artists and 23 volunteers to produce nine film screenings, 14 community events, 11 live performances and more.
“This neighborhood is an embarrassment of artists, and yet there are no spaces,” Simms said.
Painter Elissa Gore has lived in Inwood for 34 years. “There are some exhibition spaces but they are very limited. They don’t have the specific, sole objective to share art,” said Gore, whose work was shown in several Inwood Art Works pop-up exhibitions. “So I am eager to support this activity.”
“There’s a community of artists here and we all feel that we have something to contribute to the neighborhood,” said bassoonist Gil Dejean, who has played at various Inwood Art Works live performance events.
“I never knew my neighbors were so tangibly creative,” said Simms. “And at the end of the day, what I think we do really well and I don’t think it’s a genius statement but it’s just true — we use art as a platform to bring people together.”