History & Building

History & Building

The Clemente Center in 1875

The Clemente was founded in 1993 thanks to the leadership of Puerto Rican poet Ed Vega “El Yunque’, Uruguayan actor/director Nelson Landrieu, and Dominican actor Mateo Gomez. The organization was named after the Puerto Rican poet Clemente Soto Vélez, whom for many years had been an inspiration for the Latino community of the Lower East Side.

The organization is based in a 1897 City owned building formerly known as P.S. 160 and designed by the architect Charles B. J. Snyder in the collegiate neo-gothic style. It is a representative example of the large number of school buildings that were erected in New York City in the late nineteenth century.

In the 1970s a fire caused the school to be vacated and it remained so until 1981, when Solidaridad Humana, a community based educational organization, began to use the building as a school for Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Since 1993 the administration of The Clemente has been managing a growing program of long term studios for artists, available at a subsidized license fee. In addition, The Clemente has developed an on-going performing arts and exhibition programming on its 4 theaters and 2 exhibition galleries and rehearsal studios.

With funding from New York City’ s Department of Cultural Affairs, The Clemente is currently undergoing an major renovation that will enable it to expand its programming and services for the local community and the city as whole.