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City Intervenes In Black Arts Collective Eviction Case With Northeastern

Members of the African-American Master Artists-in-Residence Program (AAMARP) gather at the beginning of July outside the 76 Atherton St. warehouse where the artist collective is located. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Members of the African-American Master Artists-in-Residence Program (AAMARP) gather at the beginning of July outside the 76 Atherton St. warehouse where the artist collective is located. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The city of Boston has offered to intervene in the eviction case of a black arts collective from a Northeastern University building.

Mayor Marty Walsh met with Northeastern officials on Monday after which the city announced it would be facilitating a series of conversations between the African-American Master Artists of Residency Program (AAMARP) and the university. A statement from Walsh's press secretary said the conversations facilitated by the city would be aimed at "strengthening the AAMARP program's future at Northeastern."

The conversations will also include identifying a new deadline, beyond July 31, for the artists to vacate the Northeastern-owned Jamaica Plain building for renovations. The city's intervention is the latest development in a sometimes tense eviction feud between a venerated arts group and the university.

AAMARP Director Glorietta Baynes said the artists were pleased that the city could serve as a bridge between them and Northeastern, but said the group was not ready to comment further because they were preparing a statement.

Northeastern sent the artists a letter on June 28 ordering them to vacate the rent-free building at 76 Atherton St. by July 13 because of hazardous conditions, some of which the university alleged had been "created/exacerbated by the occupants." After meeting with the artists on July 6, Northeastern agreed to extend the deadline to July 31, but stopped short of offering the artists a space after the renovations are completed.

"Once the space has been fully vacated we will gladly continue our ongoing discussion geared toward strengthening, expanding and reimagining our historic partnership," read the letter from José Buscaglia, the chair of the Department of Cultures, Societies and Global Studies and Sonya M. Ross, the university's director of Risk Services.

University officials have said they've notified the artists several times about the safety hazards, but AAMARP has said the university has not made a good faith effort over the years to work with them to improve the building and has instead intentionally distanced itself from the collective.

AAMARP, founded in 1977 by artist, activist and professor Dana Chandler, has been a hub for black artists who explore themes related to the African diaspora. For more than 40 years, the program has operated under the Department of African American Studies and hosted artists like Ellen Banks and James Reed.

Earlier:

Maria Garcia Twitter Senior Editor, The ARTery
Maria Garcia is the senior editor of The ARTery, WBUR's Arts and Culture Team.

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