Bos­ton Fig­u­ra­tive Art Cen­ter

Damon Lehrer ex­plains how his time as a strug­gling artist in London in­spired his com­mu­nity workspace in the city of Bos­ton, Mas­sachusetts

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As a young painter, in Bos­ton and later London, Damon Lehrer would live and paint in the same stu­dio. Dur­ing those years he was al­ways on the look­out for a sense of com­mu­nity he could never find: a place where peo­ple knew his name and un­der­stood his work, some­where that val­ued artis­tic en­deav­our above eco­nomic suc­cess.

Back in Mas­sachusetts, he found him­self pay­ing rent on an un­used stu­dio, so he and a group of artists de­cided to put the space to good use and founded Bos­ton Fig­u­ra­tive Art Cen­ter (BFAC).

“A few of us went out after a draw­ing ses­sion,” Damon says, “and talked about the draw­backs (use­less de­gree, ex­pense) and virtues (use­less de­gree, com­mu­nity) of go­ing to grad school for paint­ing. We just de­cided we needed the com­mu­nity and could have it for less if we did it our­selves. So BFAC was born.”

Events vary from purely so­cial gath­er­ings, to draw­ing and paint­ing classes and pop-up lec­tures, to col­lab­o­ra­tive shows with com­mer­cial gal­leries. There’s even a yearly land­scape and paint­ing trip to Tus­cany.

BFAC now boasts hun­dreds of mem­bers and is com­pletely self-suf­fi­cient. “We try to pro­vide a com­mu­nity for peo­ple who want to prac­tise this craft in an en­vi­ron­ment that at­tracts the widest range of prac­ti­tion­ers. All to­gether in a com­modi­ous, clubby en­vi­ron­ment – with good mu­sic, food and drink, and some pretty ac­com­plished art on the walls.”

At the heart of what Damon and ev­ery­one at BFAC are try­ing to do is the art. He wants to change peo­ple’s view of fig­u­ra­tive art and pro­vide a plat­form for them to pol­ish their fig­ure skills.

“It’s true that th­ese days a lot of fig­u­ra­tive art is just bad. But that’s be­cause it’s hard to do well and easy to dis­miss when not done well. Our mis­sion is to change the cul­ture around the art of the fig­ure, by en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to prac­tise it. What main­stream cul­ture sees as un­cool, tra­di­tional and con­ser­va­tive, comes alive in our space.”

Damon founded the Bos­ton Fig­u­ra­tive Art Cen­ter to build the com­mu­nity he could never find as a young artist liv­ing and work­ing in London.

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