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Historical Note | A Finding Aid to the Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978 | Digitized Collection

Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978

Historical Note

The Artist Tenants Association was loosely formed in the early 1960s to petition the office of Robert Wagner, then mayor of New York, for permission to live in manufacturing districts not officially zoned for residence. The city eventually agreed to an Artist in Residence (A.I.R.) program, which led to a more formal movement to legalize artists' occupation of studio spaces in the neighborhood "South of Houston," shorted to SoHo.
On March 31, 1965, the Association acquired a formal certificate of unincorporation, although they had been operating in an unofficial capacity since the fall of 1961. In addition to negotiating with the city, the Artist Tenants Association served as a centralized information resource by disseminating information to artists, proposing boycotts and other actions early in the negotiation process, and raising funds to support artists and building projects. Between 1964 and 1968, the Association was central to the negotiation of the A.I.R. Agreement, which received approval in 1964 and officially passed as an amendment concerning Artists' Centers and Studios in March 1968.
Influential artists who supported the Association's first artist boycott in protest of the city's 1961 studio-loft evictions include Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt, and Richard Stankiewicz.