NY1 News Feature on Westbeth’s 50th Anniversary
April 13, 2021

Haven for artists celebrates 50 years with a look back at its history

PUBLISHED 6:00 AM ET Apr. 13, 2021
By Roger Clark Manhattan

Playwright, visual artist and landscape architect Christina Maile has lived in the same three-bedroom duplex apartment since 1970, when she first moved in with her then husband who is a painter. Their son was there, too, and another one on the way.
The apartment is within the Westbeth Artists’ Housing complex, developed in the late 1960s as affordable housing and studio units for artists and their families.

What You Need To Know

Westbeth Artists’ Housing was conceived in the 1960s to provide affordable housing and studios for artists and their families

It officially welcomed the first residents in 1970

It is named for the corner of West and Bethune Streets where it is located in the West Village

There is a waiting list to live in Westbeth, but the list is currently closed

It was named for West and Bethune Streets, which is just one corner of the complex that takes up a whole city block, originally made up of 13 buildings dating back to the 1860s and once home to Bell Laboratories. Maile says the neighborhood then was much different than the trendy area is has become today.
“No one knew where Westbeth was. We would have to explain to people exactly where this was located: it was dark, it was dirty, it was a lot of unconventional people and it was, in a way, kind of the perfect place to have artists’ housing,” said Maile.
Westbeth is looking back on its history in an exhibition called “Westbeth at 50,” which includes some of its notable residents and those who have shown or performed there. Among the highlights is a poster from a show of Artist Keith Haring’s work in 1981. There are also photos in the courtyard area by Frankie Alduino giving folks a glimpse of what it’s like to live and work here.
“People can come through and say, ‘I always wondered what it would be like to live at Westbeth, what does it look like?’” said Ellen Salpeter, president and CEO of Westbeth.
New residents do move into Westbeth, though the waiting list is long and currently closed. Christina Maile says it wasn’t always perfect harmony. All of these artists, musicians, and writers had to learn to live together. Looking back on her time here, she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
“Living in a community that’s vibrant and has creative people and even some of them can be maddening and can cause you a lot of irritation, but this kind of society of artists is really wonderful for someone who is an artist,” said Maile.
Westbeth says their goal is to continue this concept into the next half-century, and ensure that there remains a home for artists to create in an everchanging city.

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