An old industrial park on Route 31 in Macedon, New York isn’t the place you’d expect to see turned into an arts facility but that’s exactly what Alicia Keys, the Grammy-winning singer and songwriter, and her husband and producer Kasseem Dean, better known Swizz Beatz, thought when they saw the building. The power couple had been looking for the perfect location for their brainchild, a music and arts centre, and it came in small, upstate New York town.
According to the Democrat & Chronicle, the couple’s plan was introduced to the town during a board meeting on the evening of August 8th. Keys and Dean intend to transform three of the buildings on the former Jindal Films industrial campus creating a place for artists to work, create, and develop their art, whether it be music or the visual arts said Linda Shaw, the attorney representing the couple. Their search for the ideal location for what will become the Dean Collection Museum & Art Campus came to an end not long before Thursday’s meeting. ‘[Dean] flew in on a helicopter to Canandaigua about a month ago and took a limousine from Canandaigua to Macedon, got out, looked at the property and apparently said, “This is it; this is the property I want to buy,”’ Shaw told WXXI News. ‘It’s an amazing use for the street,’ she continued, ‘because that street was part of the Underground Railroad and their art collection is an African American art collection.’ Dean signed the contract for the site and a decision is expected within the next week.
The site boasts more than 100 acres of land and the town board reportedly received the proposal positively. If the project is signed off on, the buildings would be transformed to accommodate students with classroom space, studios, an area for art exhibits, a cafeteria, and eventually, dormitories for both staff and students. The centre would also become the permanent exhibition space for the couple’s art collection. Their personal collection, which includes works by KAWS, Deana Lawson, Kehinde Wiley, and Nina Chanel Abney, would be open to inspire students and the public alike.
The announcement comes after the Dean Collection saw two major exhibitions in the last year, one of which was held at the UTA Artist Space in Los Angeles coinciding with Frieze Los Angeles while the second was at the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African American Art at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center. The exhibitions emphasized the work of people of colour as the first featured works by over 20 contemporary African American artists and the second exhibited photographs by Gordon Parks of the Civil Rights movement.
The center will be a continuation of the philanthropic work Dean and Keys have done. In 2016, Dean created No Commission, a Miami-based art fair in which 100 percent of the sales go to the artists. The fair has since expanded to other places including London, the Bronx, and Shanghai. Last year, the Dean collection contributed a combined $100,000 to 20 artists through the Dean Collection 20 St(Art)ups programme to help aid the creation of their works.
‘We are very excited about our campus in Macedon,’ said Dean in a statement to artnet News ‘We are in the early stages of planning so we are not in a place to share details, but our intention is to continue to be mindful in building a global creative community.’