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Posts Tagged ‘artists’


Photo: Heidi Gumula/DBVW Architects
After the Mercantile Block in Providence, Rhode Island, was restored, it became a hub of activity once again.

Rhode Island in general is good at preserving historic sites, offering developers monetary assistance in the form of generous tax credits. Providence in particular has a history of successful efforts to renovate properties for new uses.

At the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Jared Foretek writes about one: “When the Providence, Rhode Island nonprofit AS220 set out to purchase its third downtown building, it knew the Mercantile Block had exactly what it was looking for. Its sheer size — 50,000 square feet, four stories, and a basement — made the 1901 structure perfect for the diverse uses the artist-run organization had in mind. There was storefront space for creative businesses, office space for local nonprofits, and room for 22 live/work studios for local artists.

“Built in 1901, the building was once the hub of a bustling commercial strip in downtown Providence [and] remained a destination until the middle of the 20th century, when the Mercantile and its surrounding neighborhood fell victim to the same economic and migratory forces that ravaged urban cores around the nation.

“The building was nearly vacant when AS220 — an organization dedicated to creating artist space in Providence since 1985 — undertook a $16.9 million rehabilitation in 2008. …

“A meticulous restoration of the building’s four-story facade by DBVW Architects has helped revitalize the entire streetscape and inspired building owners to take up rehabilitations nearby. The mixed-use redevelopment has benefited the broader community as well, with affordable storefronts for local small businesses, office space for Providence-based nonprofits, and subsidized live/work studios for artists. …

“The renovation also allowed locally owned small businesses — some long-time tenants — to lease newly desirable downtown storefronts at low cost. For a restaurant like Viva Mexico!, one of just a few Latino-owned businesses in the downtown area, affordable space with good real estate is hard to come by. …

“ ‘It’s a story that a lot of communities have. Artists live in places that are semi-legal or if they’re legal, they’re underdeveloped. And as soon as spaces become viable and interesting, artists get pushed out, and low-income people get pushed out,’ said Shauna Duffy, AS220’s Managing Director. ‘So our mission is to create these spaces and create this community. And that involves having a permanent place for artists to live affordably downtown in Providence.’ ”

More.

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Photo: Big Car Collaborative
The search for a housing model that benefits both artists and communities.

Low-income communities often benefit artists by providing cheap housing. And artists benefit low-income communities — at least until a tipping point comes and improved ambience spills over into gentrification. That’s when neighbors find that rents have gone too high, and the artists do, too.

Indianapolis is testing an approach to make artist and community interaction a long-term benefit for all.

Adele Peters writes at Fast Company, “For artists, the gentrification cycle in cities often goes something like this: struggling photographers or painters or writers move into an industrial neighborhood with cheaper rents and transform it. As new businesses spring up to serve these new residents, the neighborhood becomes more desirable to a wider swath of upper-middle class professionals. Eventually, rents increase so much that the artists have to move away.

“In Indianapolis, one block in the Garfield Park neighborhood south of the city’s downtown is experimenting with a different model. An arts nonprofit worked with other partners to buy and renovate vacant houses and is now offering to co-own them with artists.

“Artists will pay half the cost – one $80,000 home, for example, will sell for around $40,000. If they later move out, they’ll get their equity back, but no more; the house will be sold at the same cost to someone else, keeping the neighborhood accessible as the artists help make it more desirable.

” ‘Neither of the two sides can profit off of an inflated market value,’ says Jim Walker, executive director of Big Car Collaborative, the art and placemaking nonprofit leading the project along with the local Riley Area Development Corporation and local neighborhood associations. ‘That’s to keep us from pricing out future owners of the homes.’ …

“When Big Car bought an abandoned factory on a block in Garfield Park, converting it into a community art center that opened in 2016, the organization realized that there was a bigger opportunity in the area. The block, cut off from part of the neighborhood by a highway built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, had declined for years; roughly half of the houses were abandoned. …

“ ‘These homes were available to us below $20,000, on average, because they were owned by banks in Florida and other investors who just walked away,’ says Eric Strickland, executive director of Riley Area Development Corporation, which works on community development in and around downtown Indianapolis. …

“The Artist and Public Life Residency program is designed for artists who are particularly interested in community and placemaking. ‘What we’re really looking for, first and foremost, is leadership in trying to invest in the community, and use the talents and resources that you have to support your own neighborhood,’ says Walker. …

“The development corporation wants to encourage other developers to build new affordable housing for the area to help keep the most vulnerable people in place. …

“Big Car is working closely with neighbors, who they say have been supportive of the changes–particularly the potential for local commercial streets to gain new businesses and bringing life to vacant houses.”

More at Fast Company, here.

Photo: Big Car Collaborative

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Today the public radio program Studio 360 featured a shortened version of a wonderful WNYC documentary about the year 1913. That was the year Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was only one of many “shocking” arts events to usher in the modern age.

From the Studio 360 website: “What a year was 1913! In an exhibition in a New York Armory, American viewers confronted Cubism and abstraction for the first time. In Vienna, the audience at a concert of atonal music by Schoenberg and others broke out into a near-riot. And in Paris, Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s new ballet The Rite of Spring burst on stage with inflammatory results.

Culture Shock 1913 tells the stories behind these and other groundbreaking events that year, and goes back to consider what led to this mad, Modernist moment.

” ‘I think in a lot of ways it was just the beginning of a century just of absolute chaos and nightmare, and as so often, the artists heard it and reflected it first,’ notes the critic Tim Page.

“WNYC’s Sara Fishko speaks with thinkers, authors, musicians, art curators, and historians about this unsettling era of sweeping change — and the not-so-subtle ways in which it mirrors our own uncertain age.

“This Studio 360 episode is an abridged version of a one-hour documentary Sara Fishko produced for WNYC.” More here.

I liked how the documentary explains that the shock was derived from artists not wanting to master and perfect what was done in the past or to replicate nature but rather to be different and to focus on structure, taking things apart and putting back again differently. Artists themselves organized the Armory Show, not curators or galleries. They went to Europe, where change was erupting like crazy, and they brought back art never seen in conservative America.

A key takeaway was that when we see something really new we often think it is ugly, as people thought the Eiffel Tower ugly. But once they look and look some more, they begin to like it.

That helps me think about some of the art Asakiyume and I saw yesterday at the Worcester Museum of Art. It sure looked ugly to me, but it’s a good idea to keep an open mind. Asakiyume sets a good example in that department.

(My mother was born in 1913. Perhaps something was in the air that year that can explain her rebellious nature.)

Photograph taken by spDuchamp/flickr
Marcel Duchamp’s NudeDescending a Staircase, No. 2, was featured in the landmark Armory Show and outraged most visitors because she wasn’t reclining like traditional nudes and she was in motion and it was hard to see her.

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Michelle Aldredge runs an outstanding arts blog called Gwarlingo. Recently, she wrote about snowflake art by the identical twins who created the Big Bambú installation at the Met. (I wrote here about the second life of Big Bambú when it was done being art.)

Asks Aldredge on December 21. “What do photographs of snow have to teach us about artistic originality?

“Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and snowflakes have been on my mind, specifically the snowflakes of Doug and Mike Starn.

“Born in New Jersey in 1961, Mike and Doug Starn have worked collaboratively in photography since the age of thirteen. …

“The Starns’ approach [to snowflakes] is partly science, but mostly art. It took the brothers years to hammer out the logistics that would allow them to capture flakes during their fleeting existence — there were microscopic lenses, plasma-emitting lights, snowstorm photo sessions. But the results speak for themselves. There is a poetic quality about their flakes.” More.

The twins called Os Gemeos, whom I wrote about here are an artistic team, too. In fact, they say, they always know what the other twin is thinking as they work on giant murals like the one they did in Dewey Square, Boston.

After seeing the musical Sideshow, I became aware that even Siamese twins may have very different personalities, but it’s intriguing to think about the close communication many twins have.

 Art: Doug + Mike Starn, from the series alleverythingthatisyou, 2006-2007.

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Matadero was an old abandoned slaughterhouse in Madrid. Lately it has been “evolving into a cultural laboratory, where a new arts financing strategy is being tested.” So says Doreen Carvajal in the NY Times.

“Companies and institutions are providing financial support to supplement dwindling government arts subsidies, but with a twist: they don’t just send checks, they move in.

“Within the walled 59,000-square-foot center, there are public theaters and exhibition spaces that last year drew more than 500,000 visitors for music and art events and avant-garde plays. But five new residents are private institutions, including a designers’ association, a publishing house’s foundation and offices of Red Bull, the Austrian energy drink maker.

“They are in the compound rent-free for now, but have invested millions in the remodeling of pavilions there, as well as in programming, from art exhibitions to music festivals.

“These new partnerships are forged, out of necessity, here in Spain, where government support for culture has plunged by almost 50 percent over the last four years, a result of a lingering economic crisis that hit late in 2008.”

Some observers worry about the downsides of corporations having a big influence on what art gets shown, but haven’t the arts always had to have some help from patrons or companies?

Probably it pays just to be wary, to recognize when there is undue influence, and to push back. Certainly smaller, more experimental projects are unlikely to find a home under a Red Bull banner.

Read more at the Times, here.

Photo: Carlos Luján for The International Herald Tribune
Inside Matadero Madrid: A closer look at the arts complex.

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Cate McQuaid, my favorite Boston Globe art critic, who usually covers more esoteric subjects, explains some large artsy globes seen around Boston in recent days.

“Huge, colorful orbs line up in a row down the Tremont Street side of Boston Common. It looks like a giant might be marshaling his marbles. Get up close, and you’ll see that the spheres, each 5 feet in diameter, are globes, fancifully decorated and proffering solutions to climate change.

“ ‘Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet’ has landed in Boston. The public art project, for which artists designed globes with green strategies to contend with environmental issues, originated in Chicago in 2007 and has traveled the world.”

Environmental activist Wendy Abrams, says McQuaid, is the initiative’s founder.

“Abrams cites two inspirations for the project, the wrecked cars that Mothers Against Drunk Driving pointedly deploy in their Crash Car Program, and the painted cow sculptures that showed up in the streets of Chicago in 1999 — a public art project that prompted Boston to follow suit with painted cod.”

Read about individual artists’ Cool Globe themes, the outreach to students, and more, here.

The first two photos below are near the Park Street subway station. The third is in front of the aquarium, and I am not sure if it is part of the traveling series.

cool-globes-boston

globes-for-a-coller-planet

globe-at-aquarium

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I went out at lunch this week and took pictures of a public art project I had somehow overlooked: Boston Bricks. The bronze bricks are set among ordinary bricks in a narrow alley called Winthrop Lane, not far from Downtown Crossing and Macy’s. Although the styles look very different to me, the bricks are all by Kate Burke and Gregg Lefevre.

Here are eight of them. I include the artists’ credit brick, Boston in relation to the moon, a horseman who is either Paul Revere or George Washington, swans suitable for a Boston swan boat, tea bags suitable for a Boston tea party, directions to Provincetown, America’s first subway (1898), and the Great Molasses Flood.

If you are not from the area, that last one is no joke. The molasses flood was deadly. A book about it, The Dark Tide, is available at bookstores or online.

[8/14/13 new research showing that the type of molasses added to its destructiveness.]

Boston-Bricks

boston-to-moon

horseman

swanboat-swans

Boston-tea-party-brick

knots-to-provincetown

boston-had-first-subway=1898

molasses-flood

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