Laundromat turned classroom

August 2, 2011 2:49:00 PM PDT
Sometime during the wash cycle, as this load is drying and he is almost done sorting, there's a change going on here, subtle but significant.

Part classroom, part laundry, in the back corner of magic touch, is where you'll find the newly created "Inwood Laundromat Language Institute".

Hector Canonge came up with the idea after seeing people in his community, of which many are new Spanish speaking immigrants, struggle with even basic things.

"Having problems with, for example, the machines trying to understand the wash, rinse and details and sometimes just asking for change," Hector said.

And so Hector decided to hold free English classes here of which this is the first.

Martha Mendez didn't hesitate to sign up.

"I wanted to take the classes because i know it's the best way to get ahead in this country and prepare myself for the future," Mendez said.

Hector isn't an English professor, he's an artist, one of five taking part in the residency program at the Laundromat project, the community based public art nonprofit that is backing this effort.

"We as an organization believe art is transformational and with access to creativity, you are able to dream bigger, live bigger lives," said Patrushka Bazin of The Laundromat Project.

For now, however, it's baby steps.

Just the basics are rewarding for both student and teacher.

"It takes me out of the white box, of a gallery, takes me out of the museum environment and puts me right into a community space where language is a tool of learning," Hector said.

"Just by learning a new language, it's a way of empowering people to say, you know what, I can do it," Hector said. -----------------

3 Thayer Street
New York, NY 10040-1201
(212) 544-2220

The first session will start Tuesday, Aug. 2, and will run through Sept. 1.
Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays in two sessions: 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.