(Boston, Ma) The artists at a Dorchester art collective are desperate to save their workspace from a potential sale.
Humphreys Street Studios, a multi-building property housing artist and creative small business workspaces in the Uphams Corner neighborhood, was scheduled to be sold on July 5 to Kendall Realty. The deadline has passed, but the artists have received no new information about the deal despite repeatedly reaching out to the property owners and the buyer.
“It would be such a devastating shame that after all the work everyone has done and all the support we’ve received from the City, Uphams Corner, elected officials, neighborhood community nonprofits, mayoral candidates, and the arts community, if we lose our space, along the same way of other lost artist spaces,” said architect and Roxbury resident Josh Rose-Wood.
The studios were founded in 2002 by artists Joe Wheelwright and Neal Widett who converted an abandoned dry cleaners into affordable studio space for Boston artists.
In recent years, both died and left their widows and two other ownership partners, who wanted to sell the property, in charge.
The artists hoped they could save the space and partnered with developers New Atlantic and Place Tailor. They planned to purchase the property and split it into two uses: turning the studios into an artist-run nonprofit that would keep the workspaces affordable and creating affordable housing in the adjacent back lot.
But in April when they submitted a formal offer, they found out the owners had accepted an offer from Mai Luo from Kendall Realty.
In response, New Atlantic and Place Tailor submitted a new more substantial offer and the artists launched the #ARTWORKSHERE, #ARTSTAYSHERE campaign to enlist the help of the surrounding community to sign an online petition and to write letters to Luo, requesting he to reconsider the offer.
“What began as trying to not lose our studios has turned into a collective act of community activism, something we didn’t expect,” said Humphreys Street Studios artist Cristina Todesco. “Through joining together, and months of outreach to neighbors in Uphams Corner and throughout Dorchester, we’ve become invested not only in staying, but in partnering, engaging, and sharing our resources with the community.”
Humphreys Street Studios was recently mentioned by Boston mayoral candidate John Barros in an op-ed for the Boston Globe, calling for a new independent entity called “The Boston Arts Development Agency” that would be “empowered to raise money, purchase property, and finance the acquisition and development of housing and commercial space.” The idea being that the city could work with the local communities interested in developing affordable artist housing and commercial spaces for art, so as to avoid displacement.
The Boston Preservation Alliance, a non-profit organization that aims to protect Boston’s historic buildings, landscapes, and communities, recently wrote a letter to the Mayor’s Office, City Councilors, and the Boston Art Commission urging all parties to work with the seller, the potential buyer, and the artists to find a mutually agreeable solution to preserve the Humphreys Street Studios.
NewsBreak reached out to Luo as well as James Cooper, one of the four owners and representative for the ownership group, for comment and did not receive a response.
Whether the collective efforts of many in the community is enough to save the studios remains to be seen.
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