Under pressure from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Northeastern University has again pushed back the deadline for when it says school’s landmark African American Master Artists In Residence Program must vacate a school building. But some of the artists are objecting to the negotiating ground rules.
The Boston school’s new deadline for the program to depart two floors of a Jamaica Plain building “is set for 10/31 to give the artists ample time and opportunity to vacate the space so we can begin extensive renovations in a timely fashion to eliminate the current hazardous conditions,” Northeastern spokesperson Renata Nyul writes me.
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. But artists in the program have disputed the school’s description of the building, saying conditions are not dangerous. 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.
Yesterday afternoon, about 40 people—program artists and their supporters—gathered in the program’s fourth floor gallery at the Atherton building at the invitation of the artists for a community meeting about the status of the program (pictured at top).
Program director Gloretta Baynes gave a brief overview of the history of the program and explained how negotiations with Northeastern are ongoing since officials from the Walsh administration got involved in late July. At yesterday’s meeting, program members aimed to reconnect with supporters in the community, have them see the condition of the building “and see that it’s safe,” program artist Jeff Chandler said, and plan strategy.
“One of the ground rules for negotiations” with Northeastern, said Chuck Turner, a former Boston city councilor who has been advising the group, is “there would be not be conversations with the press.”
So Turner asked the sole reporter in attendance (me) to depart—which I did. Some program supporters, though, say that Northeastern officials are sharing information with the press while they feel they are being muzzled. “The fact that they’re even instituting control over how we can have a meeting is crazy,” Chandler told me after he’d left the meeting.
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 initial deadline for program participants to vacate the building to July 31.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh got involved in late July and has arranged a “series of conversations between [Northeastern] and the artists, facilitated by the city aimed at strengthening the AAMARP program’s future at Northeastern,” Samantha Ormsby, a press secretary for Walsh, reported.
July 25, 2018: “Mayor Pushes Northeastern To Give Landmark Black Artists Residency Program More Time To Vacate Boston Building”
July 3, 3018: “Northeastern Says Landmark Black Artists Residency Program ‘Must Vacate’ Jamaica Plain Building”
Help Wonderland keep producing our great coverage of local arts, cultures and activisms (and our great festivals) by contributing to Wonderland on Patreon. And sign up for our free, weekly newsletter so that you don’t miss any of our reporting.