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BOSTON NOW: THE STATE OF THE ARTS

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What can I say that has not already been said? I have played the role of arts advocate for the city of Boston. Loudly proclaiming that yes you can do it here. Every city has a creative core to it. The people that make up this core can do anything under the sun, moon, and stars... persistence, right? A couple of my friends and I started an alternative space some years back because we did not feel that there were enough venues in this city where challenging art and ideas could have a place to call home, grow, and be shared with the greater populace. As Julian Heynen explains:

"There are no models for these labs – what they produce is not market-oriented, they can launch the unpredictable- neither solid nor secure, they act as temporary stopovers for art on it’s flight into reality- this is what drives them, what they hope for"*

We wanted to make artistic dreams come to life. It was not easy and we learned the hard way. Eviction, relocation, eviction, relocation - now I find myself sitting in an empty loft waiting for an eviction notice to come to my door again. It may never come but…I still wait.

When we lost our first building we searched for a "why?" What was the bigger game that we were suddenly caught up in? Boston is the little city in the midst of an unprecedented and rapid transformation. It’s like a kid hitting puberty, growing fast and out of control. The "why" we found was history: who owned what, who was connected to whom, and that no matter what the laws were, if you have the money then you can change them to suit you. Neighborhood opposition, zoning laws, money can find or create loopholes in anything. The system is not set up for the average person to succeed. You have to know someone and have some sort of power behind you.

It is easy for people to talk about supporting the arts. It sounds great but really how many artists are in any position of power. Without any sort of power what are we reduced to? Who is going to listen? Artists are individuals. Outside of neighborhood groups, we are not organized as a whole. We don’t really go for the power structure that is inherent in organization. We have spent most of our lives rebelling against such systems. We don’t have that money. We don’t own property, and culture has no monetary value in this speculative society

The city’s transformation leaves its artistic community out in the cold. Where is an emerging artist supposed to live, work, show? We have seen the demise of nearly every single alternative space; rents have skyrocketed - pushing us out of any desirable area (for that matter even undesirable ones too) into the outskirts of the city - producing further alienation. Why stay in a place that appears to not care if we are here in the first place. Any other place would be a lot easier and probably cheaper.

But then again this is how it always has been. Culture is in a state of constant flux. Lack of change leads to stagnation. The art community is always on the move no matter where you are. Let’s take the great New York City as an example. How many artists live and work in SOHO, the art capital of 20 years ago? They have moved and created new places. With new places come new ideas. Artists do not stop creating because it is difficult. If anything, all the pressure that the community is going though now is forming some sort of diamond, which will shoot out though the new walls being imposed around us. There is all this energy with no creative outlet. Just as everyplace has a creative core there is also a spirit that cannot be killed.

Is it is time to leave this city behind, and shake the dust of its transformation off in some new place? For some yes I’m sure it is. For others, we could just see what happens or make something happen here. It won’t be easy.


*Portidus Frankfurt Am Main 1987-1997, Julian Heynen, pg. 52-56, published in 1997 Brigitte Kolle editor. 

 Oni Gallery


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About Author

Timothy Bailey was born in raised in the suburbs of Boston. He is a 2002 MFA graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine arts. Tim co founded the Oni Gallery in downtown Boston in 1998 where he was a director until 2003. He has been a guest lecturer at Mass Art, SMFA and MIT. And is working as a visiting lecturer at Bridgewater State College. He has exhibited locally at the Boston Center for the Arts,Tufts University, and Philip Exeter Academy and as far south at Atlanta's Eyedrum gallery. When he's not working on his own art he can be found drumming for "The Fire of Life" (a rock opera) and the local hard rock/ metal band "The Humanoids."

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