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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Rosales

SomerVision2040 Forum for Local Artists

Published for The Somerville Times June 19 2019 Issue

Click here for newspaper copy.

Local painters, choreographers and other artists gathered together last Thursday, June 13, at 259 Lowell St. for the SomerVision2040 Forum for Local Artists. The goal of the forum is for local artists to express their concerns and ideas about how the city can better support its arts and creative economy. Greg Jenkins, head of the local Arts Council, Tom Galligani, City Economic Development Director and, Victor Nascimento, Forum Coordinator, were present to answer questions.

Nascimento also works for SomerVision2040, the city’s comprehensive plan that covers all aspects of the city including transportation, culture, and more. He said at this stage of SomerVision2040, they want to collect general feedback from individuals of every aspect of the community that they don’t necessarily hear from big community meetings.

“The forums are an attempt to say ‘We’re going to host a forum and talk to these folks because we think it’s important for us to hear what they have to say,” said Nascimento.

Local artist and musician Pauline Lim commended the Arts Council for being “one of the most powerful ones in the state” that she knows. She said the council is very engaged and even gives out individual grants.

“I think that it’s great we attract a lot of artists,” Lim said. However, she said that the city used to be really cheap and she believes young artists would never be able to afford to live Somerville now. Many other artists agreed that the inflated rents, commercialization, and luxury condominiums make it harder for artists to live in the city.

Resa Blatman said the empty spaces could be of better use for artist work spaces instead of another luxury condominium. The installation maker and painter said artists, especially visual artists and musicians, need an office.

“Artists who are less fortunate than I am aren’t going to think about moving here if they have nowhere to work,” Blatman said.

Nascimento replied with the city’s comprehensive plan for a Fabrication District. The goal of the zoning plan is to provide quality commercial spaces and employment opportunities for the arts and creative economy in appropriate multi-use buildings.

“It’s a mixed-use facility. I think it has 15 artist live-work units. There’s going to be some studios, commercial space, and aging in places,” Jenkins said. The coordinator recommended going to to learn more about the Fabrication District.

Local artists gave suggestions for new interactive spaces and events like Meow Wolf in New Mexico, and ArtPrize, the world’s largest art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize features over 1,400 artists and 166 venues where the public is encouraged to vote on which artist entry wins the top prize.

Arts program manager and choreographer, Jess Muise also made another suggestion. “I, as a resident, love going to ResiStat and I’d love to see a regular arts and cultural statistic or reporting around what’s going on,” she said. “Because I find that very valuable coming from planning, transportation, and police department in those meetings.”

Kate Kostopoulos, owner of Chase Young Gallery, believes investing in the arts also means going beyond by finding a way to have the arts “intrinsically valued” in every Somerville household. The gallery owner said she doesn’t have an answer to that but she believes that should be the direction to go in, how to collectively support artists by buying art, going to a show and more.

“I feel like Somerville has this unique opportunity to really inspire the average person, not artist, but the average person to invest in the arts within their own community,” she said.

To learn more about this forum and SomerVision2040 visit

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