New Uses for Old Vaults

More than 20 years ago, at the urging of my kids,  I rented a safe deposit box for safe keeping of some treasured items. I can’t remember what’s in the box, haven’t been there in 20 years, nor can I find the key.  The bank advised me that at my expense, they could break into the box.  I quickly let them know that I know a thing or two about breaking into bank vaults and hoarding safe deposit boxes.  At ArtsWestchester, we “broke’ into our vault turning it  into a cool gallery space, salvaging the hundreds of safety deposit boxes for a yet-to-be-thought-of use. We use our vault to exhibit artwork and as a backdrop for music, dance and theater performances.

I thought we were pretty unique until I read a recent article about repurposed bank vaults  in The Wall Street Journal. Writer Craig Karmin wrote about vaults being used for kid’s art classes, women’s boutiques, VIP bashes, birthday parties, intimate wedding ceremonies or as a place to age beer.  Cool as these ideas may be, we use our vault for ideas.  As an example, artist Judy Moonelis, filled the vault with  small porcelain human heads, miniature plastic animals and ceramic branches to create a “Memory Vault”, a safe haven of sorts to preserve treasure.

Meanwhile,  several artists have found a use for the boxes. Artist Chris Kaczmarek used them as building blocks stacking them into a tower with surveillance cameras as a metaphorical defense against ruthlessness economic practices.  Interesting how safety deposit boxes can be repurposed to comment on society.

Currently, portraits of famous  jazz icons hang in the vault as part of our photography exhibition Celebrities: We Remember Them Well.   In the vault, you can spend some intimate, up close time with Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillepsie and Ella Fitzgerald.  I suppose in a funny way, it all makes sense.  Art and artists are, after all, America’s treasures.  So the vault is a perfect place for them. The show will be up until January 2.  Check out details at

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