Gallery East Network

Art / Performance / Education

Paola Savarino’s “Bejeweled”

Gallery at 249 A Street is set to premier Bejeweled, a new exhibit of works by Paola Savarino, to honor her memory and legacy not only as a creative force, but also as an accomplished advocate for affordable live/work space for artists in the City of Boston. Sponsored by 249 A Street Artists Cooperative, Gallery East and the South Boston Community Development Foundation, the exhibit runs from Thursday, August 17 through Saturday, September 30. Gallery hours are by appointment at 617-416-0718. The show reception takes place on Friday, September 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. and is open to the public. Refreshments will be served. The exhibit and reception are FREE.

Bejeweled is co-curated by Duane Lucia and Tony Savarino, Paola’s son, and features 25 paintings never before shown. They are works in acrylic, oil and mixed media, including glass beads and coins. The pieces portray highly-textured, colorful and poetic images that dance on the canvas and energize the viewers’ senses.

“As a visual artist, much of Paola Savarino’s experience translates into visual expressions,” said Lucia. “Color, energy, symbols and surfaces are her means of exploring and understanding the world.”

Early in Savarino’s career, she illustrated Charles Bukowski’s poem, “The Genius of the Crowd.” In the 1980s, she became known for her large abstract canvases and, more recently, her encaustic mixed media Buddhas. She received numerous awards over the course of her career, including a Museum of Fine Arts Fifth Year Grant and an endowment from the WBZ-TV Fund for the Arts to create one of the first large arts projects—a billboard painting—in Fort Point. Her paintings are part of the permanent collection at The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University.

Born in Cleveland, Savarino moved to Boston in 1970 to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where she would later go on to teach painting. As Boston’s Fort Point area—with its abandoned warehouses—became a destination for artists in the late 1970s, Savarino and others began working and living in the huge loft spaces despite the buildings being commercially zoned. They feared being caught, every knock on the door inducing panic and a scramble to hide signs of residence. That was no way to live.

In 1980, Savarino helped found Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC), which set on a course to find, re-zone, purchase and renovate buildings in which artists could afford to work and reside legally. The organization’s first success was the 249 A Street Artists Cooperative, where Savarino and her son took up residence along with 44 other artists. FPAC has since gone on to develop The Artist Building at 300 Summer Street and play an important role in establishing Midway Studios. Today, more than 300 artists live and work in Fort Point, and FPAC has become a model for artists’ organizations nationwide.

Paola Savarino passed away on March 8, 2017. Her son, Tony, said, “Paola treated everything and everyone she came in contact with like a rare and precious jewel.” It’s clear that her spirit, talent and kindness live on with her family, friends and the Boston artist community.