Monday, July 23, 2007

The Man is Trying to Keep Me Down!

Every once in a while I feel the need to go on a little diatribe about something that effects (or adversely effects) my life… well, it’s about time for a new rant!

Oh where oh where do I start?

Sal is moving back to Boston. And to get him back here, we’re trying to get an apartment. We both like the idea of an artist live/work loft… so I started proceeding with all the searching and paperwork and things of that nature to find us a home! In Boston, a great deal of the artist housing is controlled by the BRA (the Boston Redevelopment Authority.) To get housing with them, you have to become a certified artist.

Side note, I inquired about this around 3 years ago when I moved back from Chicago. They flat out told me not to bother applying, because I am NOT an artist, I am a craftsperson. Well, I decided that I deserve a space… so I would show them the artist I am and not give them the opportunity to turn me down!!! I pulled together my artist resume, burned a cd of my 20 best images, list of public exhibitions, list of my commissions for the last 6 months, and a few KICK A$$ references (Thank you Thank you… you know who you are!) and I hand delivered it to the appropriate person at that Brutalistic structure that we in Boston know as City Hall.

Well, they (1) apologized about turning me down a few years ago (they have become more lenient about the artist/craftsperson thing) and (2) took one quick peek through all of my information and told me that I will have no problem being approved. YAY! It almost seemed something was going my way.

Now… how would you like to like in an old chocolate factory? I WOULD! And there was a 1000 s/f work/live studio at the Walter Baker Lofts! It’s on the Milton/Dorchester line… in the lower mills. AND IT WAS PERFECT (well, Sal didn’t like the floors… but whatever… he’s gone 4 days a week! Ha!) There were HUGE factory style windows, a nice kitchen, big closed, a bathtub… and even an extra big closet with a window that I could solder and polish in (to keep the really dirty stuff out of the living space.) I LOVED IT!

So, we went to the office to discuss renting it… I was all excited!!! And they said that I had to make a minimum of $41,000 if I wanted to rent it alone BUT cannot make more than $50,000. WAIT? WHAT! HOLD ON!!! What the hell do you mean that I cannot make over $50,000 (which is not a problem, because I’m poor… but WHAT?)


So, I decided to press on and discuss the parameters for the two of us to qualify (because Sal would be living with me.) Well, just as before, you must make at least $41,000 minimum… and $57,000 maximum. WAIT? WHAT? WHO CAME UP WITH THIS??? With TWO of us living there, we were only allowed to make 7k more than if an individual lived there? Now I was getting annoyed. Sal actually said that he never thought being employed would be a problem! But because I live in this wonderful place that I like to call Denial… I kept plugging along. She showed us the recent utility bills. You have to pay HEAT, HOT WATER, ELECTRICITY, AIR CONDITIONING, PHONE, CABLE, ETC. And during the winter the heat alone gets up to $250/mo!

Let’s do a little math…

Rent… $1,200.00/mo
Utilities… $600ish/mo

Total… $21,600/year

Now… if you only make $50k/year (the maximum) what does that leave after rent??? OH YES… $28,400!

Nearly 1/2 of you salary gone to this apartment! Do they want you to eat? Buy supplies (you do have to show that you are producing a recent body of work!)? Have any type of life what so ever? Better yet… DO THEY WANT YOU TO SUCCEED?

To get accepted into the housing you have to show at least 2 years worth of taxes. Then, you have to submit your taxes every year! So, if you have a good year… YOU’RE OUT! They kick you’re a$$ out on the street! So, if you want to stay there, and you’re doing well… I guess your only option is to lie on your taxes. Hey, back a starving artist into a corner and watch ‘em come out swinging (or cry… we cry… a lot!)

The property management suggested that I could hold the lease and Sal be the Guarantor (makes sense to me)… and after speaking with the woman from the BRA, they laughed and said that would never happen. Does the BRA (AKA, the Man) want to keep artists from succeeding? Honestly, you would have to remain stagnant for ever if you want a home to live in.

Here is another example of how they are causing the downfall of art in Boston…

They suggested I look at Midway Studios… it’s near my favorite bar, Lucky’s. They have an artist studio for rent… FOR NEARLY $2,300/mo PLUS UTILITIES! AND IT HAS THE SAME PRICE RESTRICTIONS!!! What person making 50k/year could afford much for living?

Well, the maximum for 5 people living together is $77,443. So… those people could each pay around $540/mo. I guess when each person only makes about 15k/year it would be feasible!


Now… I know this only affects a very small portion of people in Massachusetts… but it affects me! So, I’m really annoyed. And it’s not just because I can’t get the flipping cool loft… it’s more than that. I think I’m annoyed because I was trying to do things by the book. I didn’t want to just set up an illegal shop in the second bedroom of an apartment (like some meth-lab that may blow up the whole building!) I was trying to be responsible.

There are other artist studio only spaces for rent… but they are in less desirable areas. And working with rather expensive precious materials… well… I don’t want to be mugged or have my shop broken into. (My buddy D had a place in the Distillery in the So End, she was broken into 2 time in 3 months… and the management did NOTHING about it!) And as a ‘poor artist’ I cannot afford jewelers insurance (which covers theft.) But it’s not just the materials I’m working with… it’s my tools! AND MY TOOLS WERE INSANELY EXPENSIVE!!! It’s just a security thing! I could get a space in the jewelers building (jewelers are going under left and right, so they have all kinds of spaces) BUT I would probably be more likely to be mugged walking out of the building than I would in Mission Hill at midnight! Last summer, 3 different jewelers got hit for over 1 million each! Okay, okay, I know I don’t have a million dollars worth of anything… but it’s still the idea!!!

Now, the other part that annoys me… this is just a truly personal AND I know that art is subjective… BUT THE HALLS OF THE BAKER BUILDING HAD SOME OF THE WORST ART I HAVE EVER SEEN! I’m talking bad enough to be in the Museum of Bad Art bad! 8 Foot paintings of a Barbi Doll bad! And they have the live/work space! And I will say it again… I UNDERSTAND ART IS SUBJECTIVE… but I work my ass off, and people don’t have to like what I make but I think they could respect me as an artisan. I just don’t quite know what to say about what I saw!

So… here I am, stuck in this gray area. Too poor to get the proper insurance or a secure space… and with Sal, I’m too wealthy to qualify for the insanely small window that is Artist Housing in Massachusetts.

Now… the rant has come to a close. This was a great way to get some of my thoughts (however scattered they are) on paper so I can now take my time and compose the proper letter to the BRA and the Walter Baker Lofts. So if you actually read through this entire chunk of verbal diarrhea, I thank you! But I do want to leave you with one thought…

A professor at Mass Art once said to me…

‘You need four things to make art… space, time, money and ideas. You will never have all four at the same time.’

Well… apparently in Boston, space is what is the most lacking. I just hope artists can find a way to keep producing. Nothing worth having comes easy!

Nighty Night All!

1 comment:

Q said...

Hi Tracey!

You're probably wanting to stay in the Boston area, but there are similar artist deals in Rhode Island. Not sure what the specific restrictions are, but my BIL lives in one, in Pawtucket, and I'm willing to bet he's making way more than 50k.

Of course, he could be lying on his taxes...

Anyway...just a thought.

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