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
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.