Friday, May 24, 2024

There is an opportunity right now to meaningfully advance the arts in Cambridge, a city that in recent years has experienced a significant decline in artists’ space. We are proposing to transform the property of legendary outsider artist Peter Valentine, at 37 Brookline St., into an art center.

A diverse group of us are proposing that the city, the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority or a beneficent individual buy the property so we can establish the “Peter Valentine Center for Cosmic Creativity & Butterfly Preserve,” or the Valentine Art House. Our vision includes an artist residency program with living and studio space as well as community gathering and workshop areas in the three-story house, surrounded by a native plant garden.

Members of the art center advisory board include Jason Weeks, Cambridge Arts; Nancy Berliner, curator of Chinese art, and Michael Jeffery Bramwell, curator of folk and self-taught art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Michael Monestime, of the Central Square Business Improvement District; Claudia Zarazua, Cambridge’s director of arts and cultural planning; Sarah Gallop, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Adi Bemak and Rob Okun, Peter’s sister and her husband; Jill Shulman and Merhi Sater, developers; Ross Miller, public artist; and Cathie Zusy, longtime curator, project director and community activist. Advisers are Charles Sullivan, of the Cambridge Historical Commission, and Dan Marshall, of the Cambridge Community Center for the Arts.

We have identified a foundation eager to preserve Peter’s “Cosmic Moose & Grizzly Bearsville” fence, admired by curators at the Smithsonian and the American Museum of Visionary Art, as well as visitors from near and far.

Now we need to identify someone to buy the property for the common good.

If you appreciate the need for art spaces in Cambridge, green open space and places for the public to gather and make things, please support our vision by emailing our city manager, City Council and the executive director of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority as soon as possible. (Include me in the email too, please.)

Peter’s family, who are enthusiastic supporters of seeing the home stay a hub for creativity, must identify a buyer for the house by early January, so time is short.

If we can’t “move the energy forward,” as Peter would have put it, this property is likely to become more luxury housing – something no one, including his family, wants to see happen. How sad that would be.

Contact me if you have questions.

Cathie Zusy, for the Valentine Art House Advisory Board