Public Space One increases art accessibility with purchase of the historic Close House

Public Space One announced its recent purchase of the historic Close House as the new home of the Media Arts Co-op, the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, and space for other nonprofit and art collective initiatives.


Jeff Sigmund

Historic Close House seen on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. Public Space One purchased the Close House which is located at 538 S. Gilbert St.

Arabia Parkey, News Reporter

Public Space One, a community art center, has found a new home for multiple programs and projects, in the historic Close House. Located at 538 S. Gilbert Street, the house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The artist-led and community-driven organization made its $1.25 million purchase of the new location on Oct. 5. The purchase was made possible by the sale of the 206 Lafayette St. property, previously home to Public Access Television, which merged with Public Space One in 2019.

“This building was sought after by a developer. We realized that we had two choices: we could either stay here and let the developer build this thing around us, which they were going to do anyway, or sell them our corner lot, and find the program elsewhere, move into a new space,” said John Engelbrecht, executive director of Public Space One.

Engelbrecht said Public Space One will now have three historic houses accommodating its artistic programs under their organization.

Dellyssa Edinboro, education coordinator for the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, said the move into the Close House allows for an expansion of the center’s reading library, which holds books on Afrofuturism and relates to the experiences of Black artists, giving artists the space to learn and engage with Black art.

“With the Close House, we have that space and we have an even bigger version of that space that would inspire a conversation, that would inspire comfort while reading and engaging with each other as well,” Edinboro said.

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The Close House also has space for an apartment to house artists in the Center for Afrofuturist Studies residency program, Engelbrecht said.

Public Space One’s Media Arts Co-op, a member-run community resource for video, audio, and media-making tools, is also in the process of transitioning from the Lafayette Street location to the Close House.

Media Arts Co-op Director Assistant Adam Bryant said the move puts the organization in a favorable location that will hopefully increase accessibility.

“It’s member-run, so we’re all together trying to figure out how we are going to organize it, how we are going to take all this wonderful equipment and build it into a movement — into a space that we get to sort of define,” Bryant said. “And I think it gives us the ability to think creatively about how we want to organize ourselves and how we want to use this new space.”

The gallery spaces within the Close House location will be large enough to host small performances, Engelbrecht said, though Public Space One will no longer be a performance venue.

Hopes for the Close House align with the democratization of art, increasing artistic accessibility for both artists and audiences, Engelbrecht said.

“We’re just really excited about the fact that we can turn it into a space where you can come into it regardless of what art you’re interested in or what kind of community interests you have, and enjoy the space, making it more of a public space,” Engelbrecht said.

Bryant said Public Space One hopes the accessibility of the Close House location will create a positive environment for artistic expression.

“There’s the hope that the house will be a real hive of activity with the CAS Reading Room, and anybody else, organizations or artists, otherwise that want to use the space — that it can be a dynamic environment and dynamic space for creative thought and expression,” Bryant said.