The deadline has been extended for a black artists collective to vacate the Northeastern building it has occupied rent-free for nearly 30 years.
The African American Master Artists in Residence Program was originally given two weeks notice to vacate its studios at 76 Atherton St. in Jamaica Plain back in July, but that deadline was extended several times after the two parties entered negotiations mediated by the city of Boston. AAMARP will be permitted to stay beyond the most recent deadline of Dec. 31, according to a person with knowledge of the talks.
The future of the program, and whether it will be able to operate on a long-term basis on university property, is unclear. “We’re still negotiating on the matter but are optimistic that we’ll come to an agreement in the next few weeks,” university spokesperson Shannon Nargi wrote in an email to WBUR.
The African American Master Artists in Residence Program was founded in the late 1970s by the artist and activist Dana Chandler, who served as the program’s director until 1993. Chandler, an outspoken critic of racism in Boston’s art world, hoped AAMARP would provide reliable, affordable studio space for black artists working in the city. The original 40,000-square-foot space at 11 Leon St. in Roxbury was provided by the university free of charge; residencies for the initial roster of 13 artists were three years in length, with the opportunity to renew. Some artists maintained their residencies for decades.
The group moved to the Atherton warehouse in the early ‘90s, around the same time that Chandler’s position was eliminated and funding for the program was reduced. The program has continued to operate under the auspices of the Department of Cultures, Societies and Global Studies, which provides AAMARP with a “modest” operating budget, according to department chair José F. Buscaglia.
When Northeastern officials first issued the order to vacate, they said the building was not safe for use in its current condition, citing “false walls” that created a fire hazard, among other safety concerns. The university also cited evidence that people had been living in the studios, which are not zoned for residential use. AAMARP denied that any of its members were living in the space and blamed the university for the building’s derelict condition.