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Boston: Artists as Residents [Fast Cities 2010]
Photograph by Katherine Ahern
Photograph by Katherine Ahern

Boston has become a beacon for displaced and emerging artists, thanks to the city's innovative housing program. The Artist Space Initiative (ASI) is dedicated exclusively to artist housing issues, from surveying artist needs in live-work units to implementing zoning tweaks that allow them to reside in industrial areas. It encouraged foot traffic by securing ground-floor galleries in emerging neighborhoods and also created a peer-review system that guarantees artist spaces will be used only by artists. ArtBlock, for example, is an old schoolhouse the city granted to a developer on the promise that half of the renovation include art studios, galleries, and live-work units. "It's an effort to use our tools to create permanent space for artists," says Heidi Burbidge, ASI's senior project manager. "It's helped revive the art scene." ASI has already created hundreds of new housing opportunities and received more than 1,000 artist applications. Fear not, RISD grads: More residences are on the way, with new lofts opening later this year.

A version of this article appeared in the May 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.