No Space. No Art.
Let’s talk, Roxbury. You’ve got a problem.
As you approach your 380th anniversary, you have us wondering…no, actually concerned, that you’re becoming less welcoming of innovation and creativity than you used to be. In Lower Roxbury, theater companies are being forced to scramble for space as their venue is being closed in favor of a fitness facility. Around Dudley Square, owners of commercial space are letting them stay vacant rather than lease them for use by local artists. And then there’s the Ferdinand, now Bolling, Municipal Building. Rumors abound about who will be acquiring space there. Unfortunately, none of the speculation favors the local creative community.
On the flip side, you’ve supported a recent increase in temporary and pop-up artwork around Dudley Square. But, are the artists benefiting? Are they being paid for their work? And what happens to that work once its finished? Who’s preserving and documenting it? Or, perhaps those are the wrong questions. Maybe the right question should be: Is the current focus on temporary and pop-up art a convenient cover for the gradual removal of your cultural community in the name of “progress?”
Simply put, the dwindling number of affordable and available permanent spaces for the creative community to gather, to network, and to create signals the impending end of you, Roxbury, as a home for the arts. Your voice is like that of the Lorax: you watch as the art venues are decimated and the environment changes. Yes, we imagine that Dr. Seuss, a Springfield, MA native, would have been dismayed by the similarities between his story and yours. But, Melnea, Elma, Donna, Vusumuzi, and many of your other sons and daughters would also be disappointed to see how the arts and artists are being treated today.
C’mon, Roxbury. Do you really want to become a community with no venues for your artists to thrive? Is the 21st century really going to be the one where you say “I’m out” and drop the mic? You’re a home for jazz, not the blues (no offence to Memphis or St. Louis, of course)! Draw upon your jazz roots and history of creativity to develop ideas that make the visual, theatrical, and performing arts a permanent part of an inclusive and accessible future, especially for those who will be passed the torch in a few year’s time. Your cultural legacy and livelihood depends on it. Otherwise, your arts community will go the way of the Stony Brook, buried and generally forgotten.
So, you ready to talk? Cool. Meet us during Roxbury Open Studios and bring some friends. Here's where we'll be:
Thursday, October 2, 2014 * 7pm-8pm
Haley House Bakery Cafe
12 Dade Street, Roxbury
Panel discussion: No Space. No Art.
Roxbury Open Studios: (Bitter)Sweet 16
*In collaboration with Art Is Life Itself
and Haley House Bakery Cafe.
Friday, October 3, 2014 * 6pm-8pm
Opening reception and networking session
National Center of Afro American Artists
300 Walnut Avenue, Roxbury
*In collaboration with the National Center of
Afro American Artists.
Sunday, October 5, 2014 * 2:30pm-4pm
First Church in Roxbury
10 Putnam Street, Roxbury
The Future of Art in Roxbury: Youth Edition
*A conversation for creative people ages 14-21,
in collaboration with the Bridges Foundation.