Moving on from Fort Point

The bridge where Summer Street crosses over A is literally the bowels of Fort Point, the shadowy bottom of a neighborhood where buildings reach different heights depending where they meet the grade of the street. In October, the underside of the bridge was covered in rainbow-colored, neon slinkys. Closer to the holiday season, it was bedecked in the brilliant illumination of hundreds of blue lights.

A block away, prints by Shepard Fairey — infamously arrested last year for promoting his show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, just a stone’s throw from Fort Point, with a guerilla street art installation — cover an abandoned diner, and ghostly photo portraits intermittently stare from walls.

This prevalence of open-air art — not even counting what’s in the neighborhood’s galleries and studio spaces — give one the impression that Fort Point’s art scene is thriving. But stroll just a few feet from the Summer Street bridge and a pair of homemade, laser-printed posters bearing the logo of the Fort Point Artist Community proclaim it an “endangered neighborhood”.

It’s true that the story of Fort Point — it’s a former warehouse district revitalized by artist squats now under pressure from gentrification — would be familiar anywhere. But despite a recession that might have otherwise slackened the intensity of the Boston real estate market, Fort Point’s dwindling arts community is still under stress.

Squeezed between Fort Point Channel, the murky waterway that separates it from downtown Boston, and the soulless superblocks of the ill-conceived South Boston Seaport District, a growing cluster of corporate hotels and office complexes catering to Boston’s cavernous new convention center, Fort Point has long been ripe for exploitation. In fact, many would say its halcyon days are not only over but long so, since glittering restaurants and a few avant-garde condo developments now populate Summer and Congress Streets, which cut wide and handsome swathes through the neighborhood’s old warehouses.

Despite the fact that the FPAC boasts dozens of members and puts on a popular open studio show once a year, Boston’s small artistic community, which flourished here in the late 1990s and early 2000s, has mostly moved on to the derivatively-named “SoWA” (South of Washington Street) district along Harrison Avenue on the fringes of the South End. If not for the evidence of art and artists still hiding in the shadows of its lower-level side streets, Fort Point would seem well on its way to what is probably an inevitable destiny — which, given its location, will probably be something akin to Tribeca, a former warehouse district that’s become New York’s most expensive neighborhood, the dormitory district for nearby Wall Street.

This entry was written by Christopher Szabla , posted on Thursday February 25 2010at 10:02 am , filed under Art and Design, Society and Culture, United States and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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