NEW YORK — On a rundown stretch of 39th Street, far from the bohemian rhapsodies of the Lower East Side or Williamsburg, the Fashion Center Business Improvement District held a party Wednesday to promote its first arts festival, which kicks off on Oct. 17.
The weeklong event will include gallery exhibits, open studios, performance art, theater performances and presentations and panel discussions by designers including Isaac Mizrahi, Ralph Rucci, Yeohlee Teng and Bryan Bradley. The festival is hosted by the FCBID and is the brainchild of executive director Barbara Randall.
“It’s amazing to see how this neighborhood has changed,” said Guy Buckles, program director for the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, at the launch party.
The Elizabeth Foundation, a nonprofit headquartered in the heart of the fashion district, hosted the party for the festival in its low-rise property on West 39th Street. The former manufacturing building, which it acquired in 1998, is now a haven for artists.
The organization converted the entire building into more than 10 floors of studio space, a printmaking workshop, and a gallery, which is currently showing works by Robert Blackburn and Will Barnet.
The neighborhood is still resolutely textiles. From the gallery’s second-floor windows are views of several of the ubiquitous shops in the area, selling bolts of fabric and evening gowns. This, in addition to the cheap real estate, is a plus to the artists in the fashion district. According to Elaine Tin Nyo, program officer of the foundation, one of the sculptors in the building makes pieces out of huge spools of thread and found materials in the neighborhood.
The nonprofit Materials for the Arts, which collects leftover materials from local businesses to fund artists and educators, is also active in the area.
“I am delighted to celebrate this exchange between fashion and culture,” said Kate Levin, the commissioner of the city’s department of cultural affairs. “This is exactly the kind of initiative that Mayor Bloomberg finds so important.”