JP Observer: JP has dozens of ‘arts centers’

March 30, 2012
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Fifteen years ago, Jamaica Plain’s Multicultural Arts Center had to vacate its large, prominent Centre Street space because it was having trouble paying the rent, causing much upset in the community. But no one is complaining about space for the arts in JP now.

J.P. Licks later bought the former fire station and has occupied it since March 1999. Meanwhile, arts programming has spread across the neighborhood, finding homes in some beautiful, hospitable places, including back on the walls of 659 Centre St.

At a meeting in June 1997, as the neighborhood was reeling from the loss of the arts center that opened 10 years before to house classes, exhibits and performances, local arts activists accurately predicted and encouraged increased use of other buildings in JP for arts.

One place was an obvious successor: Spontaneous Celebrations at 45 Danforth St., near Stony Brook T Station. Founder Femke Rosenbaum volunteered the space that had opened a couple of years earlier. The furniture from the center was given to Spontaneous “on long-term loan.” Spontaneous still runs programs, sponsors special events like the Wake Up the Earth Festival, and serves as perhaps JP’s most “traditional” full-time arts venue.

The JP, Connolly and Egleston branch libraries all hold regular visual art exhibits as well as literary events and children’s activities.

First Thursday, sponsored by JP Centre/South Main Streets, has put visual art in that business district for the past eight years. Arts openings and performances take place on the first Thursdays of every month, but visual art is often on display in businesses all the time. During Jamaica Plain Open Studios, the whole neighborhood becomes a gallery for a weekend.

Two hubs of intense arts action have evolved here over the years.

One arts area suggested in 1997 is historic Monument Square, home of the JP library, the Loring-Greenough House, First Church, the Footlight Club and the Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts. Recently, small commercial galleries—the hallway, UFORGE and Aviary—joined Art Market nearby.

The second hub, The Brewery in the Brookside neighborhood, rents to a large dance center, a silkscreen studio, woodworkers and children’s and teens’ art programs. Also, there is Bella Luna/Milky Way, which has performances, and next door is Stonybrook Fine Arts Studio.

Churches and green spaces see a lot of arts activity. St. John’s acoustics are perfect for the JP Concerts series. Some arts events seem to be returning to Forest Hills Cemetery, sponsored by Forest Hills Educational Trust, after a hiatus. The gazebo at Jamaica Pond hosts spring butterfly art and winter poetry. The JP Music Festival will be at the pond Sept. 8.

In a category of its own, Taylor House Bed and Breakfast on Pondside shows off its beautiful renovations by holding regular arts exhibits and concerts for the public.

Those are just some of many arts venues here. For more, see JP Resources at jamaicaplaingazette.com or the “Sights & Sounds” listings in every JP Gazette. In culturally rich JP, nowhere is off-limits to the arts.

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