EpiCenter’s $30m expansion called bonanza for young artists on the make

The biggest news to come out of the April 30 “Greatest Party on Earth” at Southie’s Artists for Humanity (AFH) EpiCenter was that this youth arts and enterprise organization plans to more than triple the size of its Fort Point facility by the end of 2017.

The EpiCenter’s innovative environmentally friendly design will also set the benchmark for future green building in the city.

The $30 million expansion will immediately benefit greater numbers of local underserved young artists with improved vocational programs in technology-based arts media and trades. AFH is already the largest onsite employer of teens in Boston. Twice as much space will translate into twice as many teens employed and soon launched on steady, well-paying careers in the arts.

And the wider community, especially South Boston and Dorchester, will also benefit from AFH’s through access to an artsy venue for corporate and social celebrations and a community-based space dedicated to the urban youth experience.

Last week’s 25th anniversary gala was the perfect occasion for Mayor Marty Walsh to unveil the project. Walsh said that the enhanced EpiCenter “will help Boston meet the city’s dual objectives of providing living wage jobs for urban youth and filling business demand for skilled workers.”

The mayor was joined by AFH’s Founder/ Executive and Artistic Director Susan Rodgerson, who has been shepherding the initiative into ever-bigger spaces, starting with a simple renovated loft on A Street.
Also sharing their vision of the future were representatives of the project’s sponsors: Liberty Mutual Insurance Chairman and CEO David H. Long; Cabot Corporation CEO Sean Keohane; and Vice President of Global Gillette Business at Procter & Gamble, John Mang.

The new facility will be built in Boston’s Innovation District on a former parking lot across from the existing EpiCenter, which was donated by Procter & Gamble.

According to the architects, Boston-based Behnisch Architekten, the non-profit’s new home promises to become the largest “energy positive” commercial facility on the East Coast. Such features as passive design, radiant heating and cooling, and a 235 kw “wrapper” of mesh-integrated photovoltaics will work together so that building will generate more energy than it uses.

The firm’s press release specified that “the new multi-story facility will add 51,500 square feet for ongoing and future programming to the existing 24,000 square feet building for a total of 75,500 square feet. It will accommodate more youth artists, expanded galleries and new studios.

“The building’s innovative façade will optimize daylighting, maximize thermal performance, and contribute to the energy production that is required of an energy positive building,” read the release. “Large loft-like floors will allow flexibility so the AFH can accommodate diverse programs as it grows.”

AFH connects mentors with talented high school students in all aspects of the art world, from conceptualization to creation to marketing. Not only are the young people expressing themselves creatively, they’re also active on the front lines of the business, attending meetings with clients and participating in negotiations.

The backing of professionals allows students to get commissions, which look impressive on their resumes. In Dorchester, for example, AFH created the mural of three athletes in the Beacon Fitness Center at UMass.