FOUNDED IN 2009, Urbano is a NON-PROFIT COMMUNITY ART STUDIO THAT FOSTERS PARTICIPATORY ART AS A VEHICLE FOR PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION, COMMUNITY COHESION, AND SOCIAL CHANGE.
We bring together artist-mentors, local youth, and community members to learn and experiment through place-based projects. We promote the model of the artist as citizen, actively engaged in conversations with our surrounding community through the lens of contemporary art. We support youth to become civically engaged artists as they are challenged to tackle current social issues in their community that directly affect their lives.
Urbano offers an opportunity to develop an appreciation of socially engaged art while challenging youth to express and practice through art a strengthened identity as active, powerful, and involved citizens. Urbano fosters a philosophy of artistic expansiveness, supporting works that blur boundaries between art and everyday life. Through artistic collaboration, participating teens and adults are challenged to create projects that take place both within the boundaries of our exhibition space and in the community beyond the walls of the studio.
Urbano operates in the Jamaica Plain community, where young people enrolled in local public high schools form working partnerships with professional artists. Urbano’s afterschool and summer offerings are project and idea-based programs combining studio work, discussions, site visits, and production of public arts events. These projects span diverse artistic themes and disciplines, but they are all rooted in the fundamental principles of collaboration, risk-taking, and creative/critical expression. Since its founding Urbano has served over 1,000 Boston Public Schools students and draws 3000+ audience members yearly to its programming.
Urbano is a recognized leader in the fields of arts education and youth development. Urbano was honored by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities as a Youth Program Award finalist in 2011 and 2012, received the Massachusetts College of Art and Design Excellence in Art Education Award in 2012, and has been featured in the Harvard Educational Review, one of the world’s most prominent education journals.
Stella Aguirre McGregor's MassArt Excellence in Art Education Award in 2012
Stella Aguirre McGregor named one of Boston's 100 Most Powerful Latinos by El Planeta's Powermeter in 2012
Urbano's Jorge Hernandez Arts Leadership Award in 2011
Stella Aguirre McGregor celebrated as Latina of the Year by Harvard's Presencia Latina
Urbano nominated for a New England Art Award for the Freedom Trail on Trial with Neil Horsky in 2011
Stella Aguirre McGregor celebrated as one of Boston's Top 10 Women in the Arts in 2008
To date, Urbano has served nearly a thousand students since its founding in 2009. Although we have grown and changed over the years, our programs have always been rooted in The Principles oF RISK-TAKING, COLLABORATION And Social justice.
Urbano represents an evolution of the mission and vision of The Space, a non-profit artist-run gallery and public art incubator created by Stella Aguirre McGregor in 1986. Active for 8 years in the South End and on Boston’s South Street, The Space supported contemporary artists and performers from Boston and the world to explore art as a vehicle for communication and social change. The Space’s success in fostering collaborations among artists from diverse cultural and national backgrounds led to the creation of public and participatory art projects in Boston, New Orleans, Taiwan, and Macedonia.
Since 2003 Stella Aguirre McGregor has partnered with youth and community-serving arts organizations such as the UrbanArts Institute at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design to foster intergenerational partnerships between professional artists and Boston’s public high school students. Innovative, nationally-recognized programming such as the Teen Curatorial Program and Artists’ Workshops offered Boston-area high school students opportunities to engage with printmaking, photography, performance art, spoken word, filmmaking and animation, graphic design, and more, all with a focus on development of the artistic process, community engagement, and professional exhibition.
In the summer of 2009 Stella Aguirre McGregor launched Urbano, renewing her partnership with the UrbanArts Institute. Through Urbano the programming that began with the Teen Curatorial Program and Artists’ Workshops continues, expanding to provide greater opportunities for collaboration between young people, community members, and contemporary artists. Today Urbano’s contemporary art studio and exhibition space in Jamaica Plain’s historic Brewery complex house Artists’ Projects in many media, providing high school students from all over the city ongoing opportunities for mentorship, artistic exploration, and public presentation of their work.
Urbano’s programs are united by an annual theme. The theme, developed by Artistic Director Stella Aguirre McGregor in partnership with youth artists and Urbano staff, is designed to ensure that Urbano’s work is responsive to the contemporary art and social landscape. Past themes from 2011 to 2016 have included Disobedience, Narratives of Inclusion and Exclusion, The Emancipated City: Reimagining Boston, Land of the Free: Gifts and Giving as Artistic Intervention, and The Commons: Space, Place, and Public. In 2016-2017, our theme is The Commons | The Other. We will explore themes of racial, ethnic, cultural, and urban identity and representation embedded within the social synergies of spatial distribution.
Semester-long Artists’ Projects take place in afterschool sessions at Urbano’s art studio and gallery space. These projects, our flagship program, are planned and implemented by professional practicing teaching artists. The curricula for the Artists’ Projects are modeled on college-level arts seminars, emphasizing conceptual exploration, experimentation, revision, and collaboration in addition to technical skill. Teaching artists support youth as they work across many media while developing a collaborative working and idea generation process to produce large-scale projects.
The Urbano Fellows are an exemplary group of program alumni who have participated in Urbano’s programs for at least two semesters. Ten to fifteen Fellows meet year-round, serving as peer leaders. These youth artists work with a lead artist and Stella Aguirre McGregor to host events, research and conceptualize new ideas, and produce artwork, often in partnership with area organizations.