Massachusetts' first artists' live-work limited equity co-operative
We are painters, makers of artists’ books, video artists, photographers, potters, sculptors, jewelers, and more. We are on the faculties of
fine art schools; we are lecturers and writers; we
exhibit in galleries and museums in Boston, nationwide and
worldwide, and have work in major museum and private collections. We
are a vertical community of people from many different backgrounds.
How did this building and this community come into being?
In 1976, artists discovered the warehouses of the Fort Point area,
which was once the center of a thriving wool industry. The presence of these
artists in this community helped spur the revitalization of the area.
In 1980, the artists formed the Fort Point Arts Community,Inc (FPAC)
of South Boston as a non-profit 501C(3) organization. FPAC was established in order to secure permanent spaces for artists in the midst of light
industry, businesses and residences. Over 300 artists now live and
work in Fort Point and FPAC has served as a national model for artists
organizations across the country.
But, this is also specifically the story of 249 A Street and our
In 1978, a group of artists gathered in the Fort Point District of Boston and began to map out a strategy for buying buildings. It was clear then, as it is now, that
buildings could be sold and artists would be forced to move on. We
had all seen this happen in SOHO in NYC and many other neighborhoods
across the country.
At that time there were 100 artists in the “neighborhood." These artists worked in studios from along Farnsworth, Congress and Stillings Streets and as far south as lower A Street.
A grant was written to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support the hiring of a city planner to investigate available building stock with the goal of
buying a building. This was to be the first limited equity artists’ cooperative in Massachusetts. Success would mean that those buying studios at 249 A Street would have long-term affordable live-work studio space. A formula was established whereby future sales would be to visual artists at below market-rate to ensure studios would remain affordable in the future. We knew that values in this area of Boston would be escalating and we wanted 249 A Street to always be an affordable artist-owned building.
It took 2 years before the move into 249 A Street could be
accomplished. The process included the writing of the NEA grant, an award of
$22, 000 from the NEA, hiring a city planner, finding the perfect building and designing individual studio spaces. We also worked with our neighbors in South Boston and City of Boston elected officials to obtain permitting for a live-work zoning variance.
The building was originally the Regal Lithograph Company. It had a freight elevator, weight-bearing floors, high ceilings and wonderful light - perfect for artists' studios. The building contains approximately 70,000 square feet and was available for purchase for under one million dollars. There were 36 Fort Point artists who signed on to participate. We have since developed more space in the building and there are
now 44 artists live-work studios.
FPAC has since developed additional buildings; Brickbottom Artist’s Cooperative in Somerville and 300 Summer Street in Fort Point and (as part of the Fort Point Cultural Coalition) Midway Studios, also in Fort Point. We are optimistic
that there will be more. The neighborhood is in a period of dramatic change and development, and we are trying to protect and retain the artists' community here.
We are very proud of 249 A Street and are proud to know it serves as a national model for artists’ cooperative live-work space.
photo above: Boston Public Library Archives