Hidden by overgrown trees and flowering shrubs in need of a haircut, 70 Lefferts Place, in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill, can be hard to find amid its neighboring rowhouses of brick and brownstone.
But pass through a rusting iron gate and beneath an unruly canopy of greenery, and you find yourself gawking up at a kind of secret artistic treehouse, a sprawling antebellum Italianate villa painted a jaunty yellow. This is the primary home of the AllInOne Collective, a vibrant community of artists and activists in their late 20s that was founded last year in the teeth of the pandemic.
Litchfield Villa, just inside Prospect Park near Fifth Street. While the Litchfield house was designed by the celebrated architect Alexander Jackson Davis, 70 Lefferts was probably adapted from an architectural pattern book.
the artists collective that now rents the entire building, is the brain child of Audrey Banks, a soft-spoken, hard-driving 27-year-old painter and performance artist who has been nurturing creative communities since she herself was still a child.
At 16, while attending Bard High School Early College in Manhattan, Ms. Banks founded the Teen Art Gallery, for which she sifted through thousands of submissions from around the country to curate exhibitions of her peers’ paintings, sculptures and other works in Manhattan gallery spaces.
After graduation from Carnegie Mellon University and stints in Boston and London (where she lived in a closet under the staircase of a warehouse that had been converted into a shared artists’ space), she returned to New York City to discover that the sense of creative community she had known as a teenager was far harder to come by, due primarily to cripplingly high real estate prices.
“We’re spread out in Astoria, Bushwick, Williamsburg — and now we’re priced out of Williamsburg,” Ms. Banks said. “So the city has lost the kinds of artistic communities it had in the 1900s” in neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, SoHo, TriBeCa and the East Village, where Ms. Banks grew up.