ArtPlace America awards $415,000 grant to Arts Council for community arts space.

SOMERVILLE – ArtPlace America, a national organization that advances the field of creative placemaking in which
art and culture plays a central role in shaping communities’ futures, recently announced that the Somerville Arts Council is the recipient of a $415,000 grant to fund the making of a creative commons, called ArtFarm for Social Innovation, on the site of the former waste transfer station on Poplar Street. Somerville is one of only 55 organizations to receive funding out of a pool of more than 1,300 applicants. The grant was approved by the Somerville Board of Aldermen at a Finance Committee meeting on July 2.
The Somerville Arts Council (SAC) has proposed converting the former 2.2-acre waste transfer station and incinerator site into a self-sustaining creative common and growing space. Using facilities largely built from reused shipping containers, SAC and its community partners will transform the site into a center for community and art-based social, economic and educational innovation. Building on Somerville’s historic concentration of artists and immigrants, this project would co-locate multiple creative uses, including farm- and food-related activity, as well as create a welcoming open space that serves as a new gateway to the community.

“Somerville has one of the most vibrant arts and artists’ communities in the country, and we are constantly seeking new, innovative, and funky ways to keep the arts scene hip and current,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “The former waste transfer station in our Inner Belt district was not only a blight on our community, but also hindered our progress in furthering our arts and economic development in a particularly underutilized area of this City. We’re thankful to ArtPlace, the Somerville Arts Council and all of our community partners for helping to bring art and culture to this area in a unique way.”

“The ArtPlace grant will enable our team to transform an overlooked, drab and once-smelly site into a creative hub that marries art, urban agriculture and cultural food-related programming—and fulfill our long-standing obsession to work with old shipping containers,” said Rachel Strutt of the Somerville Arts Council. “For the Arts Council and our community artists, the stranger and more unlikely the site, the more satisfying the challenge.”

“I am so thankful both to the Arts Council and ARTFarm Foundation, and to ArtPlace for bringing such a meaningful and important program to Somerville, particularly in an underserved neighborhood in Ward 2 with an already active and nurturing artist community,” said Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston. “This kind of innovative community center will bring vibrant art, culture and creativity to our City, and I look forward to all the great things this project will bring to Ward 2.”

“This grant validates our plan to create a self-sustaining creative common, where ideas and activities that improve the quality of life in Somerville can be developed and tested,” says Peter John Marquez, ArtFarm Advisory Board President. “Building on Somerville’s tradition of creativity and social engagement, the ArtFarm will co-locate multiple creative spaces within a welcoming open space that will serve as a striking physical and artistic gateway to the community.”

“The transformation of the site is a continuation of the City and Arts Council’s placemaking work conducted in Union Square for the past ten years,” said Gregory Jenkins, Director of the Somerville Arts Council. “The vision for the site is to incubate the social, creative, and economic work by mixing up Somerville’s strengthens—the arts, food, and social innovation. This grant validates our vision and propels us forward with another large scale initiative for Somerville.”

ARTFarm for Social Innovation will house special events, performances and green space, while creating a community space where ideas and activities that improve the quality and experience of life in Somerville can be developed, tested and implemented.

With financial support from the ArtPlace Foundation and other contributors, the ARTFarm will house and develop several key activity incubators, including:

GrowLab: A new model for community gardens that integrates urban farming with community engagement, art, culinary entrepreneurship, performance and health programs
ARTLab: Integrating educational activities with projects that explore social betterment through the arts.
ARTShow: Gallery, work, and performance spaces will link the creation and delivery of culture with direct and positive social impacts. These facilities will, wherever possible, be constructed using recycled material (such as old shipping containers) to reflect the area’s industrial past.

Community partners include:

• Brickbottom Artist Association
• Groundwork Somerville
• Tufts Institute for the Environment
• Earthos Institute
• Somerville Community Corporation
• Kitchen Inc.
• Link Somerville
• Green City Growers
• Union Square Main Streets
• East Somerville Main Streets


  1. Would be so nice for the city to invest in its’ youth with a youth center to give these kids something to do.

  2. I love that Somerville is embracing the arts, food and social innovation. But ” … community gardens that integrates urban farming …” on a former waste site concerns me. Test test test and then test again.

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