The Battle of Midway

By EUGENIA WILLIAMSON  |  March 30, 2012

"The false sense of entitlement of many of our fellow residents astounds me. 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 while mooching from others to sustain a living."

"It came out of left field," said Midway resident Joel Benjamin, a photographer.

In the lobby — Midway Studios' makeshift gallery — residents had set up an art installation featuring works that expressed their feelings about Ops-Core's tenancy. A pipe jutting out of a plywood board, an installation by resident William Frese, quotes Dylan: "You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows."

"It's about fumes," Tyrrell explained.

We arrived at the dramatic staircase that once led to the theater. As I descended, I was confronted with a concrete floor, plastic chairs, imitation Saarinen Tulip tables, and red and gray metal lockers — the Ops-Core break room. On the other side, in the darkened assembly plant, plastic storage tubs were stacked on metal shelves that stretched from floor to ceiling.

"This is supposed to be a public space," Ortolino said.

We made our way to the second floor. As we contemplated the architecture, Ryuji Suzuki, a photographer, popped out of his unit. Trusses crisscross his walls and, beneath his floors, large gaps surround where the trusses intersect with the support beams.

"I could feel the wind coming from the downstairs," Suzuki told me. "You can feel it, too," he said, and instructed me to hold my hand over the base of the truss. He was right — I could. The tenants before him had gummed up the cracks with an ad-hoc insulation job, but it wasn't quite enough to block the airflow.

In January, Suzuki's unit began smelling strongly of polyurethane. The scent was so overwhelming, he says, that he was made dizzy and had to spend a few nights staying with friends. He complained to management about the smell. It took them a week to send a contractor, he says.

"They poured a new concrete floor in my unit," Suzuki said. "It drained right through the holes. That's the moment they believed me."


HANDCRAFTED HELMETS The defense contractor
Ops-Core handed these flyers out at a community
meeting, arguing that they, too, were artists of a kind.
It didn't go over well.
The stress of these living conditions was more than apparent at the first BRA community meeting held on the matter. Upon arriving, each of the 200 attendants received a full-color, four-page leaflet from Ops-Core/Gentex, comparing its work to those of the artists in their building. "We grew up in Fort Point making hand-crafted products just like other neighborhood artists," it read. Above stock photos of smiling artists at work, the pamphlet's comparison continues: "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."

In spite of Rogers's entreaties, Midway residents failed to believe him. In the course of the three-hour meeting, people jeered at his claims that his assembly process was safe.

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Related: The quiet side of A Place To Bury Strangers, What is public art?, Slideshow: 'Networks 2009-2010' Exhibit at the Newport Art Museum, More more >
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