CAMBRIDGE – For almost 30 years, Central Square’s Green Street Studios has provided both rehearsal and working space to area artists, dancers and playwrights. As a dedicated 501(c)(3) non profit organization with a dedicated mission of supporting local arts, the complex has played host to performances, classes, workshops and artist residencies. It’s been as much a vital fixture of Central Square as it has been to the greater Boston arts community.
Now, after 28 years of continuous operation, the studio is shutting down effective October 27.
“Green Street Studios is thriving both artistically and financially,” the complex indicated in a press release earlier this week. “Following a turn-around initiated in 2016, exponential growth has continued under current leadership. Despite this success, GSS cannot sustain a significant rent increase brought by new ownership of the building. Tragically, the increase reflects the prohibitive cost to operate in the Central Square Cultural Arts District and broader Cambridge.”
Since its founding in 1991, Green Street Studios has included thousands of local performers, choreographers and community members among its roster. Its closing, however, places it among the ranks of former Central Square mainstays such as the Mobius Artists Collective and the Zeitgeist and Out of the Blue Galleries who have been forced to relocate or cease operations altogether; representing not just a change in Cambridge’s attitude towards the local arts community, but the changing face of Central Square. What was once an affordable enclave for both immigrants and independent artists working without either subsidized grants or publicity has been transformed into a compound of innovation hubs, biotech startups and gastropubs. Even the venerable Verma’s Market—quite possibly the only spot in the greater metropolitan area where you could grab cheap incense, a pack of Pall Malls and a barely thawed samosa at 3 am—seems to have disappeared, replaced by… well, no one knows for sure.
The Green Street property had been sold earlier in February for a reported $12.3 million to Peter Givertzman, who is currently listed as the director of the Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation and Oriental Unlimited, Inc. Green Street chairman Stephen Ursprung told Cambridge Day that after contacting the new owner about renewing their lease in August, Givertzman was “not interested in reaching an agreement for long-term occupancy unless we agreed to pay what he considered to be market rate”—more than triple what the previous owner had charged. Nor was the City of Cambridge forthcoming with assistance.
“Central Square is marketed as a Cultural District by the City of Cambridge,” said Ursprung. “However, there are no protections, resources or zoning restrictions in place that will allow cultural institutions to remain. This new branding has done little more than increase the rate of redevelopment and gentrification. We hope that our closure can galvanize the larger movement to keep the cultural vibrancy which makes Cambridge such an exciting place to live, visit, and create work – we need protections like those that exist in New York City.”
(Used to exist, Stephen. ABC No Rio is a force majeure.)
Peter DiMuro, of Central Square’s Dance Complex, indicated he would advocate for and house dancers displaced by Green Street’s sudden closure. “The designation of Central Square as a cultural district of the state could and should stand for more than a name,” Dimuro told Cambridge Day.
Image via Wikimedia Commons / Pa1776ulspics