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The Midway Studios artist community in Boston, photo by Eric Levin
The Midway Studios artist community in Boston, photo by Eric Levin


Mar. 16, 2012

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What happens when defense contractors move into a building with a bunch of artists? Well, in at least one case, they don’t all end up in a hot tub. Instead, a nasty fight has broken out at the mixed-income artists’ building Midway Studios in Boston, where in January a helmet manufacturing company, Ops-Core, moved into the former theater on the first floor.

The Boston Phoenix reports that the 80 or so artists were soon voicing concerns over unnerving smells and poor air quality. In a petition, the artists say the company has a “history of releasing chemicals and other hazardous materials into the environment through their ground-floor ventilation systems.” They say they sent a letter requesting a list of chemicals used during production, but received only a hostile response from Ops-Core founder David Rogers.

"The false sense of entitlement of many of our fellow residents astounds me,” Rogers wrote. “I have lived in the neighborhood for the past 18 years and am also very familiar with the expectations of some local artists. . . . The majority (and some of the most outspoken) "posers" do not create anything whatsoever. They are merely self delluted [sic] bullshiters [sic] and drama queens who use art as an excuse to justify and rationalize their pathetic existence [sic] while mooching from others tosustain a living. . . .”

Things didn’t get any better when the sides met face-to-face at a community meeting earlier this week. Around 200 people showed up, The Boston Phoenix reports, and were handed Ops-Core pamphlets that included a picture of a smiling tattooed worker and printed text that compared Ops-Core products -- items called “Head-Loc,” “Skull Crusher” and “Hockey-Face Cage” -- to artworks.

“Our work is no different than a fashion designer making a line of dresses, a ceramicist making bowls or dishes to sell, or a painter making multiple prints of a popular design,” read the pamphlet text. “We consider our products to be works of art, and so do our customers. The processes that are required to make our products require the same type of space and creative atmosphere as other artist businesses in the community.”

Unsurprisingly, the crowd booed and several people walked out. The company conceded that they used epoxies, rubbing alcohol and paint, but kept confidential other ingredients since its clients “include divisions of the U.S. military and police agencies.”

The city has issued a temporary stop-work order against Ops-Core, and the protestors are pushing to make it permanent.

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