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Black Arts Collective Allowed To Occupy Northeastern Building Through October

Artist-in-residence Marlon Forrester, left, shows photojournalist Don West and writer Askia Touré his set of keys which will no longer unlock the front door of the 76 Atherton St. warehouse where AAMARP is located. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Artist-in-residence Marlon Forrester, left, shows photojournalist Don West and writer Askia Touré his set of keys which will no longer unlock the front door of the 76 Atherton St. warehouse where AAMARP is located. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

After a meeting facilitated by the city of Boston, a black artists collective will stay in the studio space it occupies at Northeastern University through Oct. 31.

The African American Master Artists-in-Residence Program, or AAMARP, was ordered by the university on June 28 to vacate the warehouse at 76 Atherton St. in Jamaica Plain by July 13; that deadline was later extended to July 31. On July 23, Mayor Marty Walsh met with Northeastern officials and afterwards announced that his office would facilitate a series of meetings between the university and the artist collective with the goal of “strengthening the AAMARP program’s future at Northeastern” and possibly extending the deadline to vacate.

On Tuesday, Northeastern confirmed that the deadline for AAMARP to leave the space it occupies rent-free had been extended to Oct. 31. More talks are planned to determine the future of AAMARP’s relationship with Northeastern.

AAMARP was founded in the late ‘70s by artist and activist Dana Chandler, then an outspoken critic of Boston’s white-dominated art world. He envisioned AAMARP as a secure haven for black creatives in a city that had historically shut them out. The initial roster of artists, which included the painter Ellen Banks and the illustrator Calvin Burnett, were given three-year residencies with the opportunity to renew, and over the years some artists have maintained decades-long residencies with the program.

But Chandler’s relationship with Northeastern was contentious from the start, and many of his hopes for the program did not come to fruition. He served as director until 1993, when AAMARP’s budget was slashed and his position was eliminated. He remained in Boston as a professor of art and art history at Simmons College until he retired in 2004. He now resides in New Mexico.

In the years since, AAMARP has continued to exist under the auspices of Northeastern’s Department of African American Studies.

In a June 28 letter to AAMARP, Northeastern outlined a number of issues with the building, including “false walls” that create a fire hazard and what the university called evidence that people had been living in the space, which is not zoned for residential use. AAMARP has denied the charge that any of its current members live in the space and said that the building’s safety issues have been exacerbated by negligence on the part of the university.

It's unclear how many city-facilitated meetings between AAMARP and Northeastern will take place between now and Oct. 31.

Earlier Coverage:

Amelia Mason Twitter Music Reporter/Critic, The ARTery
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for The ARTery, WBUR's Arts and Culture team. She covers everything from indie rock to avant-garde to the inner workings of the Boston music scene.

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