Villa Victoria Arts Center Condemned by the City

The Villa Victoria Center for the Arts on West Newton Street in the South End has been fully condemned this week by the City, and IBA officials said they are in the process of moving planned art exhibits and their preschool to new locations as they now think even harder about the future of the Center. The new situation has sped up the timeline on the impending decision for what to do with the Center in the future – a future that IBA has presented options for already and is currently studying. Director Vanessa Calderon-Rosado said they were a bit surprised when the City decided to close down the remaining part of the Center, but they are working now to make accommodations. “It took us a little bit by surprise,” she said. “We were definitely not expecting it or planning on it. We had plans for the upcoming season. It caught us off guard, but we also knew at some point the operations in the building would cease. We just weren’t planning on that being now.” The Arts Center is a key venue for Latino music and arts in the City of Boston, as well as a resource for other arts organizations such as small theatre groups looking for practice space in off hours. However, about a year ago as IBA was refurbishing the steeple of the Center (which is an old church building campus), they discovered it was crumbling structurally and probably couldn’t be saved. The news for the overall building was not much better, putting the organization in a position to have to re-assess their future plans. At the moment, they were studying their options – such as tearing it down and building a new one, or rehabilitating part of the old Center. One thing that was never compromised was the Parish Center of the building, where the art gallery was housed and the pre-school classrooms. Those functions carried on and, in fact, there were several important exhibitions planned for the coming year. That has all changed now, Calderon-Rosado said. “We are looking for a temporary space to house our gallery exhibitions for next year,” she said. “The pre-school classrooms were already relocated. The art studios we have there are now closed…Youth programming continues, but we’ll have to use other spaces IBA has. We’re a little bit cramped in some spaces, but we have to do the best we can.” Already two exhibitions have had to be cancelled, including TIAGO’s Frailty of Strength exhibit and Allison Maria Rodriguez’s exhibit, Legends Breathe. A concert by Patricia Zarate-Perez that was to happen at the Center will now be moved to the Museum of Fine Arts via a partnership with IBA. Calderon-Rosado said the sudden closure of the Center has made them think harder about the future of the Arts Center, which they are still 100 percent committed to continuing. She said they are studying their options and will be going to Landmarks very soon with a proposal. “It has caused us to look forward and into the future,” she said. “It’s given us another opportunity to really think of the building more expansively and not just the situation with the structural plan. In many ways, it has energized us and re-mounted our effort to revitalize this arts center.”

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