The Midway Fund: Help artists own their building

Forty years ago, artists began moving to the Fort Point Channel neighborhood, drawn by its affordable spaces that were large enough to double as studios. By 1980, these artists formed Fort Point Arts Community, an organization representing local artists and their interests, taking another step in establishing the area’s art identity. Not long after, however, the city began to redevelop Fort Point. Property values crept up and many of these pioneering tenants were priced out of the neighborhood. (In 2009, the now-defunct Boston Phoenix published an exhaustive take on the dynamic titled “Artists Get the Shaft.”)

In a game-changing move, a group of artists at Midway Studios are making the transition from tenants to owners of their creative space. With ownership of the building, they can maintain affordable housing and keep artists in the neighborhood. (Full disclosure: MASSCreative is business tenant of Midway Studios, sharing office space with Arts and Business Council, Stagesource, and MassPoetry.)

When Keen Development agreed to sell Midway Studios to its residents, the more than 100 artists who live and work in the space banded together to make a successful bid, pledging $517K of their own money. The Midway Artist Collective—the group organizing this effort—now needs to raise the remaining funds to secure the space. If they can convince prospective investors to contribute $1 million by February 5 and reach a total of $2.2 million by April 1, they can take true ownership. 

Before the New Year, the Boston Globe reported on the kick-off of the Midway Fund’s initiative, observing this resonant issue in the context of citywide development:

“A lot of people, not only in this neighborhood, but across the city, are behind this cause and this mission,” said Peter Roth, the president of New Atlantic, which has also helped develop the ArtBlock project in the South End and the Brookside Artist Lofts in Jamaica Plain.

For many of Boston’s artists, the idea of affordable space to live and work is not just a dream, but a necessary part of making a living. Nicole Aquillano shares her story about Midway Studios’ impact on her career:

I transitioned to life at Midway from a previous technical career path, while finishing my MFA in ceramics at Rhode Island School of Design.  Midway made my transition from graduate school to working professionally as a ceramic artist seamless.  Not to say it wasn’t a lot of work, which it was, but the opportunity that Midway Artist Studios presents—with room to both work and live—is an invaluable resource for any artist. 

To learn more about the Midway Fund and how you can help, visit their website. If you are interested in investing, learn more here.

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