Allston Artist Community
Allston (“Rock City”) was once known as an affordable and desirable place for artists to live and was home to a robust artist community. There were ample small performance venues, rehearsal spaces and studio spaces in old lofts and industrial buildings. Most important, housing was affordable. In recent years, that has changed dramatically as artists of every discipline are feeling the pressures of the increased cost of living and rapidly rising housing costs. Our neighborhood artists have also lost access to many of the affordable art studios and rehearsal spaces, as industrial buildings are redeveloped and replaced by high-end (and high-priced) apartment developments.
Geographically removed from the rest of Boston, Allston-Brighton has suffered from being out-of-sight and out-of-mind, including growing challenges experienced by members of the artist community.
This community has lost so much in such a short time, and members of Boston city agencies and Allston-Brighton residents must work together to rebuild our vibrant artist community so that it will be an economic driver for the neighborhood. We need to establish Allston as an arts destination with more small music venues, studios and swing spaces that will serve visual artists, musicians, and poets/poetry slams, to name just a few. Allston earned its reputation as “Rock City” because its small venues served as an incubator for emerging bands and its affordable studio spaces and housing allowed artists to form a community. With massive developments and gentrification continuing unabated, small venues have closed and larger clubs are moving in, hosting more established out-of-town acts.
While the addition of a new 3,500 seat music venue on Guest Street and the anticipated move of Harvard’s American Repertory Theater from Cambridge to its Allston campus are very exciting developments for the Greater Boston arts community, they will do little to directly support young, emerging performance artists who want to remain in Allston-Brighton.
My proposals are designed to reverse these losses and support our vital and crucial artist community:
The Imagine Boston 2030 plan, initiated by Mayor Walsh and the Boston Planning and Development Agency, proposes three Arts Innovation Districts (to date only one has been named: Upham’s Corner). I would advocate for Allston to be established as one of the remaining two Arts Innovation Districts and be supported with the affordable housing, studios, and performance spaces our artists need to thrive.
Allston-Brighton artists must be considered for grants and other financial support to cultivate and sustain the neighborhood’s artist community. In consultation with the city, the Boston Foundation and the Barr Foundation give grants to artists and arts groups through Live Arts Boston. Out of this year’s 61 grants from these two foundations, not one went to an Allston artist. Financial support for our artist community and the designation of Allston as an Arts Innovation Districts will do many important things — fuel our arts economic engine, raise the standard of living for our artist community, enliven our main streets, and support our locally owned small businesses, all while making Allston an arts destination in our vibrant and growing city.
The cost of living continues to be a major challenge to Allston artists. The Boston Displacement Mapping Project shows its highest level of rent-burdened residents throughout Allston. We continue to see the construction of luxury rental housing that tends to be mostly studios and one-bedroom apartments, and almost all of these units are beyond the budget of most everyone in our artist community. I will advocate for the construction of more realistically affordable three-bedroom units and co-living style apartments with live-work spaces that will accommodate working artists and musicians. As your next city councilor, I will collaborate with my colleagues to support these programs and think creatively about how to fund them.
Performance Spaces for Emerging Talent
In a vibrant artist community like Allston, access to local performance venues is vitally important. Gentrification continues to impact the local music scene; small venues close due to rising commercial rents and larger clubs host more established (and usually out-of-town acts). We need to negotiate with developers and encourage them to create and preserve small, accessible cultural spaces in which to showcase emerging talent. As your city councilor, I will enlist the support of the Boston Art Commission and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture in negotiating for these important spaces.
Pocket Parks and Public Art
Allston Village has several beautiful murals that enliven the streetscape and create a sense of place. Expanding the range of street art and murals in conjunction with more artist-friendly green spaces, “pocket parks” can accommodate small open-air performances (buskers, mimes, and puppetry artists, for example) and will greatly enhance the experience and enjoyment of our urban neighborhood.
As your City Councilor representing Allston-Brighton, Liz works with members of the artist community and City of Boston agencies to identify innovative ways to support and build a thriving local arts scene. For our own artist community facing displacement, we can learn a great deal from successful strategies employed by other major cities struggling such as London and San Francisco.
Liz is your advocate and will help protect and promote our important artist community in the face of rampant development and gentrification.