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Dorchester welcomes the Erick Jean Center for the Arts

Posted by Patrick Rosso  February 19, 2013 10:16 AM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

Destiny Palmer, one of Saturday's featured artists, speaking with Cagen Luse.

A recently opened space on Washington Street in Dorchester looks to create a home for the neighborhood’s artists and residents.

On Saturday the Dorchester Arts Collaborative celebrated the “soft opening” of its new Erick Jean Center for the Arts, welcoming the community into its very own studio and neighborhood gathering space.

“Art is important to everyone -- it’s our better selves,” said Andrea Kunst, chair of the Dorchester Arts Collaborative’s board. “We felt there wasn’t enough representation of the arts in this part of the neighborhood. We wanted to do our part to make art available to Four Corners.”

The newly built 1,200-square-foot unit has everything from a kitchen to gallery space, giving the group plenty of room to host theatrical performances, art showings, classes, and workshops.

“We want to have this place humming and vibrant seven days a week,” said Kunst.

While many on the group’s 10-member all-volunteer board have high hopes for the center, it is just getting its legs and making itself known to the community.

“I think it’s wonderful especially for this neighborhood. It will be great for the kids,” said Audrey Jones, an 80-year-old Hyde Park resident, who stopped by Saturday to see the center. “We need art. It keeps the kids busy and out of trouble and they can learn.”

The center is housed in the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation’s recently redeveloped building at 157 Washington St. The DAC rents the space from the CSNDC, supporting itself with donations.

“Art allows people modes of expression,” said Margery Buckingham, a DAC board member. “It’s about expressing emotion, passion, and letting that all out.”

Although many in the DAC were excited to welcome the new center to the neighborhood, they will have to work to encourage participation. Unlike the Waterfront’s Fort Point neighborhood or Jamaica Plain, which both have long histories as artist havens, Dorchester and its Four Corners neighborhood haven’t necessarily been a mecca for artists or galleries.

“We want to offer to people what they want to see and what they want to do,” said Buckingham. “We want to make this an active vibrant community center.”

Organizers have been working with the community to better understand what neighbors want and how to bring in more local artists, including holding community specific workshops and even opening up the center to a weekend bazaar.

“I think it’s a great addition to the neighborhood,” said J. Gustavo, a local resident and DAC board member. “This area has been missing an art space. The kids don’t have this and it gives them an exploration into the arts.”

Gustavo also added that once the word gets out more and more artists will start participating.

“Dorchester has a lot of artists, but they are limited to where they can show their art [in the neighborhood],” said Gustavo. “Now that we have this I think more artists will be participating.”

The DAC will eventually have programming at the Erick Jean Center for the Arts seven days a week. To find out what is happening at the center or for more information, click here.

E-mail Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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