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Somerville Announces Latest Initiatives to Protect & Create Spaces for Local Art

Implementing Codified Space for Art in New Developments, Mayor’s Listening Tour & Artist Survey Continues City’s Commitment to Preserving Vibrant Arts Scene in Somerville

Mayor Katjana Ballantyne and the Somerville Arts Council are thrilled to share the latest City initiatives to protect existing artist studios and create new spaces for local artists.  

Mayor Ballantyne’s administration is currently taking proactive steps to engage with the Somerville arts and cultural community, including:

  • Embarking on a listening tour focusing on artist studio meetings. The tour is underway, with the next one scheduled for October 14. 
  • Actively hiring for an Arts Space planner position to manage and implement the 275,000 square feet of space that will be created by the landmark city zoning guaranteeing 5-10% of space in new developments in dense areas, such as Union Square, is earmarked for Arts and Creative Enterprise (ACE) use.  
  • Launching a Somerville Creative Space Data Survey, created by the Somerville Arts Council to assess what types of spaces artists and arts organizations need. The survey is currently open and can be completed here: somervilleartscouncil.org/spacesurvey

"Whether it is creating jobs and economic opportunities, discovering innovative ways to engage communities or help grow cultural awareness, the arts play a huge role in making Somerville the dynamic city that it is,” said Mayor Katjana Ballantyne. “We are an arts-forward, innovative community, and we will continue to find ways to keep our artist community here and ensure that it thrives. We bought the Armory building to preserve it as an arts and cultural center, and we have developed innovative zoning requirements ensuring that space is dedicated for the arts in new development. Now we're keenly focused on creating systems to match arts space needs with new spaces becoming available."  

The Somerville Zoning Ordinance (SZO) is one of the first in the country that earmarks new spaces for art and creative enterprises (ACE) uses within new developments. The SZO, which was enacted in 2019, recently helped find a new home for Parts and Crafts—a cherished maker program for youth—at Boynton Yards outside of Union Square. Over the next decade, the Somerville Zoning Ordinance (SZO) is expected to create 275,000 square feet of ACE space in Union Square, giving Somerville the exciting opportunity to preserve and propel its existing arts and cultural community.  

To hear directly from artists about their needs and challenges, Mayor Ballantyne started a “listening tour” at Vernon Street Studios. The focus groups will concentrate on rent increase concerns and the importance of large studio buildings as incubators and communities. The next meeting with Mayor Ballantyne will take place with artists at Brickbottom on October 14. 

"We believe that arts and cultural spaces enliven and revitalize urban developments and neighborhoods,” said Tom Galligani, Acting Executive Director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development. “Art is not an add-on; it creates a sense of place and vibrancy. Arts enhance daily life and are an integral part of this city’s economic engine."   

To better understand the current needs of local artists, the Somerville Arts Council is asking all artists—musicians, dancers, makers, cultural producers, and organizations of all kinds—to complete the Somerville Creative Space Data Survey. The results of the survey will be crucial for the City in assessing what types of spaces artists and arts organizations need. Artists and organizations can complete the survey here: somervilleartscouncil.org/spacesurvey

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