Allston Residents Eager for Arts Center

Harvard professors and Allston residents have expressed support for the construction of an arts and culture center or performing arts space near Barry’s Corner since community members revived discussion about the creation of such a center at a Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting last week.

While University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 did not say whether the University plans to pursue the development of such a center, he expressed excitement about the expansion of arts in Allston.

Mentioning arts-related institutions already popping up on Harvard-owned property in Allston, Garber said, “An arts community is growing.... That can be a nucleus for all kinds of activities that people find exciting.”

In a 2007 planning document, Harvard proposed the construction of an arts and cultural center in Allston.

“A strong arts and culture presence will enliven the campus and provide public activities for Allston residents and the greater public,” the plan stated.

But financial constraints forced the University to postpone this project along with the development of the planned $1 billion dollar Science Complex and the creation of a “main street” environment on Western Ave. in Allston.

Visual and Environmental Studies Manager of Academic Programs Paula Soares spoke enthusiastically about the potential creation of more space for the arts.

“We have good space now,” she said. “But space is just something that there’s never enough of.”

VES professor Giuliana Bruno emphasized the value of creating more art spaces which are accessible to the public.

“It’s crucial for Harvard art spaces to interact with people outside of the Harvard community,” she said.

Allston residents on the Task Force said they are eager for the University to resume planning an arts and culture site. They asserted that the current University plans for the Barry’s Corner area do not measure up to past visions of development.

“Harvard spent years talking to us about how arts and culture were a keystone of their expansion into Allston,” said Harry E. Mattison. “What they’re suggesting now for Barry’s Corner is not that attractive, especially when they were discussing arts or performance space before.”

The 2007 document proposed that the University move parts of the Harvard museum system to the site currently occupied by the Charlesview Apartments or establish new performance buildings in the Barry’s Corner area, which sits on the corner of Western Ave. and North Harvard St.

Paul Berkeley seconded Mattison’s sentiment. Berkeley said that Harvard should no longer focus on filling its lots with commercial properties and should instead “start thinking about bigger and better things.”

“We’ve got enough restaurants, bars, and pizza places—we’ve got to go outside of that,” he said. “This is a neighborhood of working-class people who would really appreciate access to an art space or a performance space.”

Brent C. Whelan ’73 said that an art and culture center would be an ideal way for Harvard to demonstrate its commitment to Allston’s residents.

“The idea is for Barry’s Corner to be a place that is shared by University people and community people,” Whelan said. “Arts and the performing arts would really serve both constituencies.”

Kevin Casey, Harvard associate vice president for public affairs and communication, said that the University was pleased to receive feedback from Allston residents.

“[We] will take those thoughts and concerns into account as Harvard advances site assessment and academic planning,” Casey wrote in an email after last Tuesday’s meeting.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

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