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POLITICS UN-USUAL : JOE FERGUS INTRODUCES THE MUSES TO DORCHESTER

By : Alula Hunsen

10 min read


Joe Fergus is the Art Department; and in a sense, we all are.


An unassuming brother with both the stories and the body of work to show for his many years of dedication to Boston’s creative communities, Fergus (known around the way, and around the world, as Joe Politics) took his first steps into the arts as a child. It’s these steps, through the halls of the MFA to take classes scheduled by his mother, that led him to careers in videography, music production, and artist management. Fergus’ latest undertaking is ownership and curatorship of The Muse, a gallery space in Dorchester; as Fergus approaches the fifty-year mark this coming March, he seeks to open Muse 2, an artists’ studio spanning music and visual production. Stacking responsibilities and working across disciplines is not unfamiliar to Joe Politics—as an adolescent, he cut heads as a barber while fulfilling regular coursework in school and dipping his toe into “this thing we call Hip-Hop.”


Mattapan-born and bred, Fergus is serious about historicizing and publicizing Boston’s centrality to hip-hophis own personal narrative is deeply woven into this city’s contributions to the genre and way of life. From dancing with the Almighty RSO, to learning technical production skills from DJ Clark Kent, and making his name known as a graffiti writer, Fergus’ understanding of the arts builds from the community spaces and DIY-culture that typify hip-hop’s early days. In the meantime, his work as a fine artist led him back to the MFA to pursue a Bachelor’s at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where an encounter with a cinematography professor set him up to eventually film music videos of his own. Listening to Joe speak on his deep involvement in culture-making throughout his life calls to mind a quip from local luminary and story-teller Dart Adams: “Hip-Hop wasn’t something you just listened to, it was something you did.” This impetus to do is what animates Joe’s constant passion for creation—he recently released his own album, entitled RENISSANCE [sic] ME.


Yet we must progress past just the doing and producing, to hear Joe tell it; when asked what the “Art Department” connotes, he replied that “it means we are the culture. It’s us that exude the level of cool you see in this world. So if we are the culture, why are we not controlling the culture? Why are we not navigating the culture, why are we not taking care of the culture? There's a certain level of curation that you have to do as somebody who is protecting the arts.”


That urge to curate and cultivate the culture is what motivates the Muses. The first Muse, at 336 Blue Hill Avenue in Grove Hall, serves as a full gallery for the visual arts; events and activations illuminate the space, on the corner of a lively block that draws pedestrian and car traffic alike. Muse 2, scheduled to open early this year, hosts the back-end of the culture about a half-mile down the road: the property is intended to be a production forum, with space for audio and visual artist studios. It’s a blank slate at the time of writing, but legendary mural artist and graf writer Rob ‘ProBlak’ Gibbs is moving into the basement studio at the end of January, while a corner recording studio on the first floor is already filling up with equipment. 


Legacy and service are the intentions and principles of the Muses, and indeed of Politics’ work across scales. Forward and backward-looking, the Muses seek to draw from rich local history to support the next generation. Project 2043, a youth visioning and mentoring program hosted at the Muse, is but one of many coming initiatives—Joe Politics sees a future for Black and Brown folks in the City of Boston that comprises gaining power, and building ownership within our neighborhoods to steer the steed of culture.


Muse 2 sits in what was once a church: perhaps it, too, will become a community-building institution once its doors open, a staple of local arts with programming that opens doors for our future Politickers.


—Alula Hunsen





Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #166 February 2024


 

Check out all the art and columns of February's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass

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