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This story ran on page A14 of the Boston Globe on 4/6/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

Kids' art center goes 'green'
New facility in Fort Point to be eco-friendly
By Teri Borseti, Globe Correspondent, 4/6/2002

There's a ''green'' building coming to Fort Point Channel in South Boston. It will be the new home of the nonprofit organization Artists for Humanity, which for a dozen years has tutored and mentored city teenagers in the creative arts.

When the planned 22,000-square-foot building is occupied - after construction ends in summer 2003 - it will be a dream come true for founder and executive/artistic director Susan Rodgerson and the more than 50 students who regularly participate.

The building will include offices, live/work space for artists, galleries, and retail space.

''We're very excited about being a part of the new waterfront neighborhood, and we hope our green building will serve as a model for future development in Boston and beyond,'' she said.

''There are currently three artist-owned buildings in this area, and that means a permanent home for artists. We're in the middle of a capital campaign right now, and I'm optimistic that we'll have the money in place by June or July.''

The group recently had to give up a 35,000-square-foot space it was renting nearby; its temporary space is just 8,500 square feet, ''so we're pretty anxious,'' she said.

Artists for Humanity purchased the site, an 11,000-square-foot parcel and the old horse and carriage barn that's on it, for $1.2 million last year. To date, the organization has raised just under $3 million. The entire project is expected to total $5 million, Rodgerson said.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority will hold a hearing on the plan April 15 at 6:30 at Children's Museum.

A ''green'' or sustainable building is a relatively new concept. Such a structure creates all of its own power, through onsite renewable energy systems and technologies. Green buildings use energy and water more efficiently, recycle materials that would otherwise be disposed of, make full use of natural light, and have a healthy indoor air quality. The new facility will have solar panels on the roof, and south-facing windows to harness energy. A geothermal heat-pump system will utilize earth and air temperatures.

In addition, the exterior of the building will be made from corrugated metal, because it's affordable, provides insulation, and can be made from recycled content.

Three floors will accommodate the students, and a 5,000-square-foot gallery will provide exhibition space.

''We want to develop a relationship with other youth arts organizations like the South Boston Neighborhood House and the Floor Lords Dance Group,'' Rodgerson said.

Rodgerson got the idea for helping city kids ''find a voice through creativity'' when she lived and worked as an artist in the South End in 1990. ''It was at a time when budget cuts affected many Boston schools, and the first thing to go was art,'' she said.

She started with middle school students from the Martin Luther King School in Dorchester. A group of 20 collaborated on a painting that was eventually purchased by the Nellie Mae Fund for Education in Braintree and placed on the cover of its annual report.

''I wanted the kids to earn money for their work to give them respect and responsibility,'' she said. The idea caught on. Rodgerson decided to move into a large space near the waterfront, and the students came to her.

Artists for Humanity offers year-round after-school programs to economically and educationally disadvantaged youths ages 14 to 18. The teens work with professional artists and young artist mentors. Fifty percent of all proceeds from the sale of their work goes directly to the students. The rest supports the program.

Carlo Lewis was just 13 when he met Rodgerson and participated in one of the group's projects. He never left. Today, the architecture school graduate is credited with helping to design the organization's new building.

''There are actually quite a few of us who worked with Arrowstreet, the architectural firm, on the design,'' Lewis said.

Support for the project has been tremendous. The list of contributors includes Arrowstreet Inc., Ropes & Gray, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Renewable Energy Trust, NStar, Kortenhause Communications, and T.R. White Inc., general contractor.

The neighborhood around the site is changing. The $375 million ''Midway'' project will add 1.5 million square feet of development to the area.

Construction on Artists for Humanity's building is due to begin next year.

This story ran on page E1 of the Boston Globe on 4/6/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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