“The marketing of this particular condo development represents a common tactic: erasure of reality and history.”
Jared Katsiane is a fourth-generation Bostonian who has spent the majority of his life living in and documenting the city. His new exhibition, “Live the Magic – a true story” centers around a luxury condominium development in Roxbury whose ad slogan boasts the same phrase and coins itself “a magical place to live.”
For Katsiane, who quotes Nina Simone in saying “an artist’s responsibility is to reflect the times,” that tagline is a problem.
“It’s striking how developers and realtors are shameless in their invention of new neighborhood boundaries to maximize profit,” Katsiane tells DigBoston. “The buildings are clearly in Roxbury, as noted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency, though the ads highlight the South End. … If our leaders are sincere about maintaining a truly diverse city, then much more needs to be done to create affordable housing. Otherwise, segregation and displacement will continue to accelerate.”
Katsiane suspects said misidentification was not an innocent mistake in geographical mapping, but rather a strategic one.
“The South End of today is associated with wealth and whiteness, while Roxbury is ‘poor and Black,’” the artist adds. “The marketing of this particular condo development represents a common tactic: erasure of reality and history.”
According to Katsiane, the developers in question have posted two versions of the same ad. The first depicted only white people; a short time later, another version appeared, this time featuring an Asian woman and Black man.
“The original ad, emblazoned on the outside of the building and in real estate listings, showed only white models enjoying the condo building’s roof deck, a building situated in a predominantly Black neighborhood,” he says. “The message is obvious: this building exists only for affluent white people.”
Katsiane’s exhibit, which utilizes photos, text, and music, runs from March 1 to April 29 at Boston Public Library’s Roxbury Branch, a strategic choice.
“Libraries are free and accessible,” the artist notes. “Galleries and museums, for some people, can feel intimidating. I believe for a show of this nature, a public building … is most appropriate.”
As part of the show, Katsiane has included the voice of Boston native superstar singer Donna Summer, whose first performance at the age of 10 was at the Grant A.M.E. Church, next to the where the condos with the questionable ad campaign were built years later. The piece features the singer alongside photos of the changing Roxbury block. As the artist explains, it’s a cautionary tale.
“I hope visitors gain an awareness and understanding of the changing landscape of Roxbury, which is swiftly transforming much like the South End decades ago,” he says.
Along with the exhibition, there will be a community forum on March 21, intended as an open space for a discussion on issues the exhibit raises. Katsiane says that elected officials responsible for policies surrounding housing in the area have been invited, in hopes that they can hear directly from constituents.