Articles from the Boston Compass, Boston Compass, News and Nods

THE LONG NOD November 2015


Earlier this month the Pru displayed “ART HUB,” which one of the city’s hardest-working drummers, TJ Horn, proclaimed a “big middle finger” to working artists. He asked the question: “Which part?”

Don’t listen when they talk about Boston becoming a world-class city: it isn’t. At least not right now. It has the potential, but until those doing the heavy lifting to make this city great can afford to live here, the “world-class” designation is out of reach.

The cost of living in Boston is too high; most young adults in the city will tell you this. We shouldn’t be surprised by stories of overcrowded apartment buildings when officials are unable or unwilling to provide some sort of viable alternative.

While the city has been working with colleges and universities in the area to plan towards the future, with on-campus housing as a key goal, it needs to be stressed that the main housing crisis in Boston isn’t about attracting new residents with higher-quality student housing, it’s the affordability of the housing that already exists. Working artists new to the area quickly figure out that the city hasn’t given them many options. Of course, the many artists with day jobs understand that even getting paid a decent wage is a struggle in this city.

How ironic that while baby boomers, with the kids out of the house, move into the city to be closer to culture and the arts, they’re pushing out the very people who would be enriching that experience.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority has created affordable artist spaces, but gaining access to one is easier said than done. A vetting process “to ensure that only artists occupy artist spaces” necessitates an application with samples of art the interested party has produced, “3 letters of recommendation from artists and/or arts professionals,” and proof that the applicant has had “formal training in the arts,” all of which are submitted to a review by committee. While there are artists out there who do take classes and obtain degrees, there are others who see the entire process as a financial gamble beyond their reach. To require “evidence that the artist has presented his/her work in exhibition, performance, readings or comparable public program” further limits the aspirations of those artists who are not already firmly established within “the industry”.

In addition to a lack of affordable housing for working artists, this city has also seen a decline in the number of spaces in which art can be experienced in all its various forms, including theater, music, and the visual arts. Without the general public’s support, the few artists that do have spaces in which to live and work won’t be able to afford rent anymore. It’s not enough anymore to say that neighborhoods need accessible all-ages venues. Now, more than ever, there must be a push to find those able to buy and operate units with the purpose of housing art and artists, or we risk losing some of the most vitally important resources Boston has.

Want to find out more and speak your mind on these issues? On November 19, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism will be hosting a community discussion, “The Crisis in the Creative Professions,” at the Community Church of Boston in Copley. The forum is open to the public.

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