George Floyd by Shea Justice
George Floyd by Shea Justice. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hub artist calls for more arts spaces

For the first interview in this series asking people active in the Boston arts scene about their thoughts on how to rebuild it after the pandemic, I thought I’d talk to my friend and collaborator Shea Justice. A Boston native and member of the African-American Master Artists in Residence Program—the landmark four-decade-old community relations initiative now being jettisoned by one-time sponsor Northeastern University—he has far more to say on the topic at hand than this brief print excerpt can cover. So check out the full video of our conversation below.

On what has gone before

The arts scene before the pandemic was suffering from the effects of gentrification for the last several years. It was in a pretty bad state that many of us in the arts community knew and were observing firsthand. In order to answer how to return to what the arts community was before the pandemic and quarantine, the question perhaps should be revised as to where it goesonce the country returns to a semblance of normalcy.

There once was a time where in Open Studios in Jamaica Plain there were tons of artists that opened their homes to the public to display and sell their work all over Centre Street and elsewhere. But because rent control was gotten rid of, many had to move andwith the exception of First Church and local businessesthe Open Studios are not what they once were. The same with Roxbury Open Studios and other places. It’s difficult to afford living in Boston no matter what trade you’re in. 

On what is still to come

What can the arts scene in Boston become AFTER the pandemic? My hope is that eventually the local art colleges like MassArt, SMFA, and the MFA would help in establishing a building or space for local artists and up-and-comers. Space for artists to create work has pretty much been eroded in the city. From the artists at the Piano Factory to the AAMARP artists in Jamaica Plain, space has been taken away by either universities or private developers.

Full video of Jason Pramas’ interview with Shea Justice

Jason Pramas is executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston. He holds an MFA in visual arts.