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A local’s guide to Fort Point, Boston’s waterfront artists’ haven

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Raber Umphenour is a filmmaker

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Filmmaker Raber Umphenour has lived and worked in Boston’s Fort Point for nearly six years. He gives us an insider’s take on the popular waterfront neighborhood.

How long have you lived and/or worked in the neighborhood?

Art, filmmaking, and architecture brought me and my wife Jenni to Fort Point in 2011. We've been fortunate to be in the neighborhood for almost six years now, and, while many things have stayed the same, there's been a lot of change just in the short time we've been here.

We live at Midway Artist Studios, which is an artist-owned building in Fort Point with 89 studios of artist live-work housing. Midway is pivotal and unique as the only remaining artist rental building in Fort Point, successfully operating for 12 years.

Midway Artist Studios

How has it changed since you moved in?

Buildings are sprouting out of the surface parking lots all throughout the Seaport and increasingly in Fort Point. Restaurant row on Congress Street has really blossomed into a different kind of active nightlife, and some of the mainstays like Lucky's continue to be packed.

One thing that has changed significantly for us is the artist-led acquisition of Midway Artist Studios in 2014, which we were very proud to play a significant role in. The community of artists living here worked to acquire the building and maintain it as a rental building for artists.

The rental model allows emerging artists a place to stay and work in Boston, and artists from around the world to come and work in Boston. It encourages the free flow of ideas between disciplines and generations. We are very proud to live here.

Tell us something(s) we don't know about it.

In recent years, Fort Point has been associated a lot with the innovation startups that have been flocking here—and this is making for an exciting chemistry in Fort Point: artists, innovation, and tech companies.

Fort Point is home to a huge group of artists, the Fort Point Arts Community. FPAC not only represents artists from the local community, but has also grown to be a conduit for artists from across the city to access opportunities in Fort Point and the Seaport.

As a multi-discipline arts organization, FPAC membership spans a wide array of media and disciplines: music, dance, theater, poetry, writing, pottery, painting, filmmaking, sculpture, photography, and many more.

andrewjsan/Flickr

Name two or three of Fort Point’s hidden gems.

The Harborwalk! This is such a special place, and many people don't know that it stretches all of the way down to the Gillette campus, Rolling Bridge Park, and up past GE's new headquarters and the Necco buildings. It's an excellent place to relax and stroll—and a great view of the city.

There are gallery gems throughout the neighborhood; the gallery at 300 Summer, the Midway Gallery, the Gallery at Atlantic Wharf—all organized and curated by local artists, with work by both Fort Pointers and people from around the region.

Five years from now—what does it look like real estate- and streetscape-wise?

There is no doubt that the growth of commercial space is placing added pressure on the existing residential housing, and especially on our affordable artists live-work housing, as employees seek out more affordable options within a walking distance of work.

There are many people in the neighborhood working hard to maintain a strong and dynamic balance of development of commercial space, while maintaining the unique character of Fort Point as a cultural district and home for the art community.

An active, dynamic streetscape with ground level retail, galleries, and convenient and affordable places to dine and shop are part of a shared collective vision—it will take a great deal of hard work, collaboration and community effort to realize that balanced vision!