A Year of Creativity in Egleston Square for Local Artists at CityPop

For more than a year, music, dance, invention and visual artistic expressions have been daily occurrences within the temporary space in Jamaica Plain known by the massive “street art” sign painted on the building’s side: CityPOP Egleston.

Three Jamaica Plain artists were among many who participated in City Realty’s CityPOP arts collaborative in Egleston Square over the past year. From left: visual artist Charli Herrington, inventor Dominic Burdick and musician Maria Finkelmeir.

The initial force behind the idea was City Realty managing partner Stephen Whalen, who had noticed a vibrant temporary arts space in Allston and immediately thought of a dormant building his company owned in Jamaica Plain. City Realty invited local artists to use the Washington Street structure without charge while the permitting process was underway for eventual redevelopment. The company undertook the repairs needed to meet building codes and make the premises safe for use; soon after, the artists moved in.

Seven resident artists made most use of the space, but more than 25 local painters, inventors, writers, dancers and musicians have participated in the collaborative program. In addition to furthering their own careers, many of the artists held classes and panel discussions for the public in music, dance, drawing, literature and poetry — even yoga.

As the start date became clearer for construction for what will become The Stony Brook apartment complex at the site, the pop-up art space was extended several months to May 31.

Three of the artists — Maria Finkelmeir, Dominic Burdick and Charli Herrington, all of Jamaica Plain — spoke about their experiences over the past year:

Maria Finkelmeir, percussionist and composer

You were one of the first artists — what initially drew you to CityPOP? Why did you sign up? 

I had been searching for rehearsal and practice space for over a year when I learned that City Realty was going to offer a pop-up space in Jamaica Plain. I eagerly attended the open house event, and was excited by the prospect of having a safe space to incubate my work. As a percussionist and composer, I have a lot of instruments, and need to be able to make noise freely! I signed up to be a CityPOP resident because I not only need the resource to continue to grow as a full time artist, but also liked the opportunity to have a home to share workshops and events with my community.

What has the experience been like for you?

I’ve been able to use the space to its fullest — and the fact that we have so many artists in residence and successful programs proves the need for sustainable art spaces in our community. I work full-time in my own practice, running a non-profit and creating projects, so the experience at CityPOP has allowed these ventures to grow exponentially.

What have you learned from working with other artists in this space?

Working with fellow artists has been wonderful. In fact, many of us have produced pieces together outside of CityPOP because of this introduction to one another. In March my collective, Masary Studios, presented a large-scale immersive work at the Boston Center for the Arts, and hired two poets from CityPOP to work on the piece with us. In addition to these projects and collaborations, having other individuals to bounce ideas off of — or problem-solve in some way — is essential to building a strong community.

And now you’re moving on to a new CityPOP site in East Boston. What is the goal of this new space? How will that be different than the Egleston Square CityPOP?

My collective is partnering with New American Public Art to inhabit another City Realty-donated space called “Hammer East” this summer. (Located at 114 Orleans St., in East Boston.) Both of our collectives consist of mid-career artists needing space to physically build pieces as well as rehearse and develop ideas. While in the space, we will focus on incubating large scale public art pieces as well as developing site specific sound and projection work. A lot of our work is also light based — so you will see the space glow many nights this summer! Our long-term goal at Hammer East is to create an infrastructure for permanent work space for mid-career artists and collectives.

Charli Herrington, visual artist

How did you become involved in CityPOP?

I had heard about an application available for a studio space in Jamaica Plain. As an artist without a space to work at the time, I thought it was a great opportunity. I applied and was accepted to join CityPop as an artist-in-residence.

Please share what CityPOP has meant to you and the other artists.

Being given a space in which to work is invaluable for an artist. I am very grateful for that. The positive, inclusive, collaborative community CityPOP has created through its artists and visitors has meant a lot to us. It’s been a great place to grow, as a person and an artist, within such a vibrant neighborhood.

What sort of work/projects has CityPOP allowed you to do?

CityPOP has allowed me to have a workspace dedicated to my art practice, which is difficult to afford in the city. During my time at CityPOP so far, I have held a series of printmaking workshops. Also, I am currently co-hosting an artist critique forum which allows artists of any practice and any level of experience to share in progress work. Working around other artists of different disciplines has created a lot of ideas for my own work, as well as opened up opportunities for things I don’t normally do as a visual artist, like music and dance.

What have you liked best about CityPOP?

The people. I have met so many amazing artists and thinkers that are very passionate about our work and the Egleston community. While I have spent a lot of time on my own working in my own space, it is my collaborations and conversations and relationships that have been most important to me and my work during our time at CityPOP.

Dominic Burdick, co-founder, Boston Makers

What is is Boston Makers? How can someone become involved?

Boston Makers is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization with a mission to provide affordable access to technology, tools, and learning experiences in a collaborative environment. We’ve been building a community of “makers” since 2014 through workshops and social events. Currently, at CityPOP Egleston, we’re open four or five days a week and host monthly volunteer orientations for those who want to gain access to tools or support our mission. If you see our lights on, stop in! We love meeting our JP neighbors.

What has your participation in CityPOP meant for the Boston Makers organization?

We were honored to become part of the CityPOP community — their mission of providing free or low-cost space to artists and communities aligns with our mission and they’re good friends now. Having a concrete space to keep equipment and host events has been key to growing our volunteer base. When we opened last April, we received a number of equipment donations, including a laser cutter generously donated by the FabFoundation, which really made a difference in what we can offer.

What has been some of the most successful projects your team has worked on in your time at CityPOP?

Every Saturday morning we host a Young Makers Club, where kids come and develop their skills by working on projects with access to tools and mentors to help them. We offer this as a drop-in, donate-what-you-wish program. Also, last spring at the Wake Up the Earth festival our Angle Grinders Club made a big splash — sometimes literally — with the Spin Cycle, where kids (and grownup kids) had fun making spin art by operating a bike-powered platform, on which we place a piece of paper that others can squirt paint on while it spins. We took the Spin Cycle to the Mini Maker Faire at Boston’s Children’s Museum last summer and plan to resurrect it at Wake Up the Earth again this year. And we’re still really excited about that laser cutter!