Former school is now an artists' community in East Harlem

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The former P.S. 109 in East Harlem, which for years was run down and unused, is now a coveted artists' community.

Rene Maynez is originally from northern Mexico. He uses mixed media. Since 1981, he has called New York City home. It is fitting that his show in September is called "Introspection." The work lines the walls. His creative outlet is the place where the magic happens, like everyone who lives here, is tied into where he lives.

Paint brushes, putty knives, Elmers glue, coffee and dyes used to distort -- really all used to make art

Outside his apartment, the hallways feature Rene's work as well and the people he lives with.

Gustavo Rosado, known by most as Gus, is the executive director of Operation Fight Back.

El Barrio Operation Fight Back is the local partner dedicated to community advocacy and Art Space Projects, a national organization teamed up.

Units were doled out in a lottery process. There were 53,000 applicants for 90 units: studios, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments.

Artists qualified based on income and then were put through artist panel interview. It follows the low-income housing guidelines.

The conversation started in 2005. More than 10 years and $30 million later, they are preserving culture, lifting up and honoring the artists -- what some might consider the fabric of the community.