Diaspora From Midtown: Caribbean Diaspora Museum Moves to East Harlem

firehouse1 Diaspora From Midtown: Caribbean Diaspora Museum Moves to East Harlem

The Institute’s final destination.

The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute is making a mass migration uptown, taking its art and its artifacts and its programming from the small brownstone at 408 West 58th Street that has housed the museum for decades to a temporary place on Park Avenue and 125th Street.

The transitional space at 1825 Park Avenue will put the institute much closer to its final destination—a 8,500-square-foot firehouse on 125th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues. Apparently the museum was just really, really eager to get out of Midtown, even if its new home wasn’t quite ready yet.

“We are where we need to be,” institute president Marta Moreno Vega said in a statement about the move. “In our location in Midtown Manhattan, gentrification changed the whole environment. El Barrio retains the feel of neighborhood and the cultural identities that speak to the diversity of the Diaspora, and we are proud to be located within our community.”

Indeed, gentrification is the primary factor pushing people to new corners of the borough and beyond these days.

The institute decided to make the move after netting a $5.2 million grant from the New York City Economic Development Corporation in 2008. It also won a $70,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Partners in Preservation Program. Denham Wolf is renovating the charming red-brick firehouse, which will offer ample exhibition and performance spaces, offices, meeting rooms, multipurpose areas, a cafe and a museum shop.

“Being physically located in the cultural arts corridor of 125th Street provides us with an even greater opportunity to bridge the experiences of the Diaspora from West to East,” Ms. Vega said.

This year, the Institute is releasing two new publications (a book on community arts organizations and a collection of essays and poems about Latina women of African descent), and is working on an upcoming exhibition about Dutch Caribbean art.

kvelsey@observer.com