“The preservation of this artist community was a direct result of the artists’ organization and advocacy for affordable artist workspace.”
In Boston these days, it can be hard to feel good about seemingly positive housing news, since the bigger picture is still so damn awful.
Still, a win is a win, and it’s more than worth recognizing how last week, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and the Mayor’s Offices of Arts and Culture, Housing, and Economic Opportunity and Inclusion announced that “following work to preserve the artist workspaces and an unprecedented financial investment from the City of Boston, Humphreys Street Studios (HSS) in Dorchester is now majority artist-owned and operated.”
Furthermore, “the vacant backlot of the studio property will become new below market, income-restricted housing.”
“The Arts and Culture sector has continued to struggle to re-emerge following the pandemic, but with this funding combined with support from our partners, our arts community will be able to continue working in Boston,” Wu said in a media release. “We are grateful for this partnership with BlueHub Capital and LISC, and for the opportunity we have to provide new, below market, income-restricted housing and secure workplaces for our artists and creative community.”
The deal “secures over three dozen artist workspaces that house over 45 artists and creative small businesses across 26,000 square feet, and in addition to “a $1.7 million investment from the City of Boston utilizing American Rescue Plan, Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP), and Housing Boston 2030 funds,” was made possible by private developers.
This is of course the kind of arrangement we are eternally cynical about, but no doubt that’s how things get done around here in 2022, and all parties appear to be happy and in agreement at this juncture. Here are some specifics as provided by the city:
Humphreys Street Studios and New Atlantic Development created a new nonprofit, HSS Artist Collective Inc., to operate the studios through a board of directors which will include a majority of HSS artist tenants. A parcel adjacent to the artist studios will be developed into homeownership units. New Atlantic will develop 10 income-restricted housing units. Four of the units will be sold to individuals earning less than 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), three units will be sold to individuals earning less than 100% AMI, and three units will be sold to individuals earning less than 120% AMI. The developer will engage in a community process to ensure that the residents of the neighborhood have a voice in the design, affordability levels and size of the homeownership development opportunities.
It’s also worth noting how “as part of their efforts to preserve their workspaces, the HSS artists created a campaign called #ARTWORKSHERE, #ARTSTAYSHERE that included an online petition and community letters of support.” “The campaign earned opportunities to expand into exhibitions, events, and connections with other buildings, artists, and advocates. From this work, the HSS artists recently launched the #ARTSTAYSHERE COALITION, whose mission is to help other Greater Boston artist communities fight displacement. The coalition is currently connecting with musicians, creative small businesses, and other artists across the Greater Boston region.”
“The preservation of this artist community was a direct result of the artists’ organization and advocacy for affordable artist workspace,” Kara Elliot-Ortega, Boston’s Chief of Arts and Culture, said in a statement. “This solution serves as one model for how the City can keep our creative community in Boston, contributing to the city for many years to come.”
“This project was a unique opportunity for partnership. We are thankful for the work of both our internal teams and external partners who helped make this project possible,” added Sheila Dillon, Boston’s Chief of Housing. “When looking at preserving artist workspaces, creating below market, income-restricted units and incorporating a vacant lot, New Atlantic was the right partner. They specialize both in building affordable housing and in supporting artist communities. With them, Uphams Corner gets to have both.”
“What we learned along the way is that many artist communities before us tried to preserve their spaces, too. Most lost,” said Jemuel Stephenson, owner of Fabwright Designs at HSS. “Even now, our fellow artists and creative small businesses at 119 Braintree Street (Allston) will soon be displaced due to development. But, this win is a big win. If we keep at the advocacy, insisting that #ARTSTAYSHERE, in Boston, long term, we could have more wins than losses.”
“We learned so much fighting for our studios—to organize, to advocate, to gather support, to speak up,” Josh Rose-Wood, Roxbury resident, architect, and HSS artist tenant said. “We continue fighting artist displacement by helping other artist communities to do the same kind of work. Our situation is unique – not every artist community will have the same opportunities or resources we did. But we can share our resources and experience. It’s hard enough just being an artist and to earn a living–never mind organizing a preservation campaign, during a pandemic, too.”
The artists at Humphreys Street Studios will hold a Winter Holiday Market on Saturday, Dec. 10 and Sunday, Dec. 11