Friday, July 3, 2009

Irving Street Studio Latest News

In the News! June 25 Grand Opening of Malden's First Artists-in-Residence Project

Artist lofts ready for occupants
by Francis brown
This article was published in the Malden Observer July 3, 2009

Malden - One of the latest efforts in the city of Malden’s plan to revitalize downtown is about to come to fruition with the opening of the Irving Street Studios, affordable housing studios for local artists.
The studios, which were transformed from the Sacred Heart Convent, were developed by the Malden Redevelopment Authority and the city of Malden as part of an ongoing effort to uplift Malden Square through a creative economy, which includes the arts, restaurants and housing.
According to Mayor Richard Howard, the MRA started their negotiations with the Sacred Hearts Parish about four years ago and while some zoning problems arose, they did not lose sight of their goals.
“Other people probably would have let it go,” said Mayor Howard at an open house to showcase the studios last Thursday, “but the Malden Redevelopment Authority understood that it was an important piece to the [revitalization] process.”
Tanya Hahnel, the HOME program coordinator at the MRA, said that the studios became a reality in large part because of the North Suburban Consortium.
“I convinced them that there was a big market for artists and with $800,000 from the NSC, [the studios] became affordable,” said Hahnel.
There will be nine live/work studios for artists “who have a genuine need for affordable live/work space” according to the Irving Street Studios Web site. In addition to the nine studios, there will be a gallery, a roof deck, an outside terrace and storage rooms. Occupants needed to apply for the studios and as of June 25, all of the studios, which will open in August, were either sold or under agreement.
Krista Bebezas, at the advice of Ward 1 City Councilor Gary Christenson, came all the way from Manhattan to live in one of the studios. Bebezas, an art therapist, said she was looking to move and the Irving Street Studios fell right into her lap.
“I was working at a community center in Manhattan, but I wanted to open my own practice. I had a friend who was working on a project here in Malden who talked to Gary and a few years later here I am,” said Bebezas, who hopes to open her own practice and work with the schools in Malden, utilizing a classroom in the studio’s basement.
Marissa Meyzen, another artist who will be living in the studios, didn’t have to travel far to find the right place.
“I stumbled upon it,” said Meyzen, who hails from Somerville and is currently a student at The Art Institute of Boston. “I wasn’t looking to live in an art building, but the price was good. Once I found it, I knew it was the place for me. I’m excited about living here.”
Meyzen also expressed interest in going out into the community, as she is hoping to “spark some interest within Malden’s artist community.”
While Bebezas and Meyzen are excited about moving into their studios and getting to work, others in the community are excited about the first step in the downtown revitalization process.
“I was in here when we wore the hard hats. It’s unbelievable what they have done here,” said Gary Christenson as he talked about the refurbishing efforts inside the building.
Hahnel expressed gratitude towards the city and the occupants of the studios.
“I think it’s refreshing to see a city put so much of it’s own time into trying to foster the arts and the people,” said Hahnel.
“It’s also great to see that nine people also believed in Malden,” she added, citing the fact that only one of the nine future occupants currently lives in Malden.
“It came out great,” said Mayor Howard. “I give a lot of credit to the Malden Redevelopment Authority. They do a great job of rehabbing housing and they struck the right cord with this.”

Glimpses of the before and after

The facade of Irving Street Studios. Photo taken on March 1st, 2000 by Sand T

Artist Lawrence Wong from Canada visited Irving Street Studios. July 2009. Photo by Sand T

Checking out the soon-to-be-Gallery housed in the basement of Irving Street Studios. July 2009. Photo by Sand T
Roof deck. June 2009. Photo by Sand T

Landscape crew getting ready for the grand opening. June 2009. Photo by Sand T

Artist lofts ready for action

This article was published in the June 29, 2009
By Travis Andersen
Town Correspondent
The city plans to open a new affordable loft space for artists this summer, a project designed to spruce up the downtown area and help the local economy.
Some of the artists moving into the Irving Street Studios hobnobbed with city officials at a recent open house on the site, located at 30 Irving St., just four blocks from the Malden Center T station on the Orange Line.
Train proximity and affordable prices were a big draw for the artists, according to Deborah Burke, project director for economic development in Malden.
"The exciting part about this project is that all of the owners came from outside of Malden," Burke said in an email. "To us, it's just more proof that we are on the right track with these various downtown improvements."
The space - a former convent built in the 1920s - has nine units, between about 550 and 850 square feet. Sale prices range from $120,000 to $125,000, with a $10,000 down payment - first-time home buyers are eligible for $7,500 in down payment assistance.
Mortgages start between $900 to $1,200 per month, including taxes, insurance, and condo fees. The artists range from their mid-20s to age 60, with backgrounds in writing, music, painting, sculpture, and art therapy, among other disciplines.
Eligible artists can earn no more than $46,300 per year - $52,950 for a couple - and must receive a "substantial portion" of their annual income from creative work, according to the Malden Redevelopment Authority.
Burke said it appears that the city has sold all nine units, with five closings scheduled for July 15.
The closing artists are Krista Bebezas, an art therapist who works with children and adults; CD Collins, a spoken word artist and fiction writer; Richard Favaloro, a painter and graphic animator; Diane Leblanc, a visual artist working in watercolor and collage; and Doug Purdy, a fiction writer.
The Redevelopment Authority bought the space in 2005 for $200,000. The $1.7 million build-out lasted a year. The city received $800,000 in federal funds, as well as financing from Salem Five, a bank serving Malden and surrounding communities.