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$1.7 Million Invested to Preserve Affordable Artist Workspaces, Create New Housing at Humphreys Street Studios in Dorchester

The vacant backlot of the studio property will also become new below market, income-restricted housing.

Mayor Michelle Wu and the Mayor’s Offices of Arts and Culture, Housing, and Economic Opportunity and Inclusion today announced that following work to preserve the artist workspaces and an unprecedented financial investment from the City of Boston, Humphreys Street Studios (HSS) in Dorchester is now majority artist-owned and operated. They also announced that the vacant backlot of the studio property will become new below market, income-restricted housing. 

The acquisition, curated by Bill Madsen Hardy of New Atlantic Development, was made possible by funding from nonprofit funders BlueHub Capital and LISC, as well as a $1.7 million investment from the City of Boston utilizing American Rescue Plan, Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP), and Housing Boston 2030 funds. The deal secures over three dozen artist workspaces that house over 45 artists and creative small businesses across 26,000 square feet. 

“The Arts and Culture sector has continued to struggle to re-emerge following the pandemic, but with this funding combined with support from our partners, our arts community will be able to continue working in Boston,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “We are grateful for this partnership with BlueHub Capital and LISC, and for the opportunity we have to provide new, below market, income-restricted housing and secure workplaces for our artists and creative community.”

Humphreys Street Studios and New Atlantic Development created a new nonprofit, HSS Artist Collective Inc., to operate the studios through a board of directors which will include a majority of HSS artist tenants. A parcel adjacent to the artist studios will be developed into homeownership units. New Atlantic will develop 10 income-restricted housing units. Four of the units will be sold to individuals earning less than 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), three units will be sold to individuals earning less than 100% AMI, and three units will be sold to individuals earning less than 120% AMI. The developer will engage in a community process to ensure that the residents of the neighborhood have a voice in the design, affordability levels and size of the homeownership development opportunities.

“With our founding artists' recent passing, it seemed certain we would be displaced,” said Dorchester resident, HSS artist, and scenic designer Cristina Todesco. “But, with guidance, we organized, sought community support, and partnered with New Atlantic to find a creative solution.” 

As part of their efforts to preserve their workspaces, the HSS artists created a campaign called #ARTWORKSHERE, #ARTSTAYSHERE that included an online petition and community letters of support. The campaign earned opportunities to expand into exhibitions, events, and connections with other buildings, artists, and advocates. From this work, the HSS artists recently launched the #ARTSTAYSHERE COALITION, whose mission is to help other Greater Boston artist communities fight displacement. The coalition is currently connecting with musicians, creative small businesses, and other artists across the Greater Boston region.

“The preservation of this artist community was a direct result of the artists’ organization and advocacy for affordable artist workspace,” said Kara Elliot-Ortega, Boston’s Chief of Arts and Culture. “This solution serves as one model for how the City can keep our creative community in Boston, contributing to the city for many years to come.” 

Creative communities in Greater Boston, like in many other cities, face recurring displacement challenges and are rarely resourced with advocates or administrators to help preserve cultural spaces and secure ownership of their own spaces. The City partnered with the Humphreys Street Studios artists to find solutions to these challenges.  Following news of the building’s potential sale, the City connected Humphreys Street Studio artists with New Atlantic Development and supported the partnership through upfront consulting services. 

“We’ve worked with many artist communities,” said Bill Madsen Hardy of New Atlantic Development. “This project took commitment and help from many partners to preserve. The property is a unique one, once the Daloz family drycleaning facility, but became a thriving artist and creative small business community over the past 20 years. We are also grateful to the Mayor’s Office of Housing, and Chief Sheila Dillon for the amazing support and partnership.”

“This project was a unique opportunity for partnership. We are thankful for the work of both our internal teams and external partners who helped make this project possible,” said Chief of Housing Sheila Dillon. “When looking at preserving artist workspaces, creating below market, income-restricted units and incorporating a vacant lot, New Atlantic was the right partner. They specialize both in building affordable housing and in supporting artist communities. With them, Uphams Corner gets to have both.” 

“What we learned along the way is that many artist communities before us tried to preserve their spaces, too. Most lost,” said Jemuel Stephenson, owner of Fabwright Designs at HSS. “Even now, our fellow artists and creative small businesses at 119 Braintree Street (Allston) will soon be displaced due to development. But, this win is a big win. If we keep at the advocacy, insisting that #ARTSTAYSHERE, in Boston, long term, we could have more wins than losses.” 

“We learned so much fighting for our studios—to organize, to advocate, to gather support, to speak up,” said Josh Rose-Wood, Roxbury resident, architect, and HSS artist tenant. “We continue fighting artist displacement by helping other artist communities to do the same kind of work. Our situation is unique – not every artist community will have the same opportunities or resources we did. But we can share our resources and experience. It's hard enough just being an artist and to earn a living--never mind organizing a preservation campaign, during a pandemic, too.”

“This project serves as a step in the right direction as we work to preserve the arts and culture community in the City of Boston while simultaneously addressing the need for more affordable housing,” said Segun Idowu, Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion. “This important work could not be done without the collaboration of our City departments, as well as the tireless advocacy from the arts community.” 

The artists at Humphreys Street Studios will hold a Winter Holiday Market on Saturday, December 10 and Sunday, December 11 from 11 a.m.  to 5 p.m. Visitors will be able to visit artists at work in their studios and purchase holiday gifts directly from artists. Future plans include annual Open Studios events, fundraising to build a community space, and opportunities for the public to participate in workshops.

About Humphreys Street Studios

Humphreys Street Studios (HSS) is a dynamic and expansive property in the Uphams Corner neighborhood of Dorchester, MA, housing working artists and artisans since its beginnings in 2002. Developed in the long-shuttered Daloz Dry Cleaners buildings by artist Joseph Wheelwright and artisan Gneal Widette, the studio provides a workspace for a diverse community of up to 45+ tenants including fine artist painters, illustrators, sculptors, designers, furniture makers, photographers, carpenters, metal workers, fabricators, and more. HSS members have been valuable contributors to the beauty and cultural vitality of the Boston area; engaged in art, craft, design, and artisan production providing services, experiences, and public, private & commercial artwork. The property provides a unique space including a courtyard and a large back yard. The buildings house approximately 26,000 sq feet of rental space yielding a total of 40 workspaces. The variety of workspaces for artists include a three-story mill building, a two-story brick building, and a lofty cement block structure with rows of skylights.

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