The landmark African American Master Artists In Residence Program at Northeastern University may have more time before the Boston school makes it vacate a university building in Jamaica Plain after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh met school representatives this week.
“The mayor and Northeastern had a very productive meeting on Monday, and Northeastern is notifying the AAMARP artists that there will be a series of conversations between them and the artists, facilitated by the city aimed at strengthening the AAMARP program’s future at Northeastern,” Samantha Ormsby, a press secretary for Walsh, emails me. “The conversations will include identifying a new deadline for the artists to vacate the space for renovations.”
On June 28, Northeastern sent a letter to artists in the program, which is affiliated with the school’s Department of African American Studies, ordering them to move out of program studios at 76 Atherton St. by July 13 “because of hazardous conditions” in the building. (Previously: Northeastern Says Landmark Black Artists Residency Program ‘Must Vacate’ Jamaica Plain Building.)
Artists in the residency program say they did not have prior notice of Northeastern’s concerns and dispute its description of the building. They add that the school has not offered them any alternative space to use during the repairs. Some suspect that Northeastern is trying to drop the program altogether.
The African American Master Artists In Residence Program, which began in 1978, has been a landmark project in its recognition of black artists, in the amount of space offered, and in the length of the residencies (three years to start, but many allowed to stay much longer; some current resident artists have been there decades). And it has been “rent-free,” as organizers wrote in the late 1970s, “Thus enabling the artists to produce works at a level of intensity none has ever been able to attain.”
Following a July 6 meeting between Northeastern and representatives of the residency program, the school extended the deadline for program participants to vacate the building to July 31.
“We are more than willing to assist artists with the removal of their belonging to alternative locations,” Sonya Ross, director of Risk Services, and Jose Buscaglia, chair of the Department of Cultures, Societies and Global Studies, wrote in a July 9 letter to residency program director Gloretta Baynes. (Read the full July 9, 2018, letter from Northeastern to African American Master Artists In Residence Program.)
“The university remains committed to furthering our historic relationship in line with the mission and program of AAMARP,” Ross and Buscaglia wrote. “Once the space has been fully vacated, we will gladly continue our ongoing discussions geared toward strengthening, expanding and reimaginging our historic partnership.”
Pictured at top: Press conference African American Master Artists In Residence Program artists and their supporters held at the Atherton Street building on July 1. Photo by Randy H. Goodman/Blackwire.
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