The Northeastern University’s Oct 31 deadline for the landmark African American Master Artists In Residence Program to vacate a school building came and went today without a resolution to the dispute. The Boston school has said artists must get out because of “hazardous conditions,” but artists have disputed the school’s descriptions of the facility.

“We continuing to have advanced discussions, but per a mutual agreement, neither side will be commenting on the state of negotiations,” Northeastern spokesperson Renata Nyul responded by email on Monday.

Artists remain in the building at 76 Atherton St. and the deadline now has been extended to Dec. 31, according to a person involved in the matter.

Officials from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s administration have been trying to broker some sort of compromise since getting involved in late July. “There are no updates on our end at this time,” a city spokesperson emailed today.

The confrontation began on June 28 when Northeastern sent a letter to artists in the African American Master Artists In Residence (AAMARP) program, which is affiliated with the school’s Department of African American Studies, ordering them to move out of studios occupying two floors 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.

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 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 then.

In August, Nyul wrote me that Northeastern had postponed the deadline, which was now “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.”

Aug. 13, 2018: Northeastern Delays Deadline For Landmark Black Arts Program To Vacate Boston Building, Some Artists Object To Negotiation Ground Rules
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”

Pictured at top: African American Master Artists In Residence Program artists and supporters meet in the fourth-floor gallery at the studios at 76 Atherton St., Boston, Aug. 12, 2018. (Greg Cook)

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Categories: Art