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The SoWa Art & Design District (South of Washington) in Boston’s South End is a community of artist studios, contemporary art galleries, boutiques, design showrooms, and restaurants. Once an area of neglected warehouses, the SoWa Art & Design District has experienced a dramatic rebirth. It features the SoWa Open Market, the SoWa Vintage Market, and a residential neighborhood which has become fashionable.
Originally derived from a shortening of "South of Washington," SoWa spans the area from East Brookline Street to East Berkeley Street and from Shawmut Avenue to Albany Street.
GTI Properties and owner Mario Nicosia are credited with rejuvenating the district, beginning in the early 2000's, and also for coining the SoWa name. Their redevelopment of the massive factory buildings on Harrison Avenue has since drawn high-end restaurants, art galleries, retail stores and creative businesses to the growing neighborhood.
In the 19th century, SoWa's brick & beam factories were home to manufacturers of pianos, canned goods, shoes and other merchandise. In addition, 540 Harrison Ave, a building currently used to host various markets & events, originally opened in 1891 as the Central Power Station for the West End Street Railway Company, the precursor to the MBTA. The Romanesque and Gothic Revival structure was the world’s largest electrical power station at the time and later became a trolley barn.
Due to the number of artists & galleries located in the neighborhood, SoWa has become a creative epicenter, attracting a wide range of art-enthused fans, creative minds, and unique events. In 2015, SoWa was ranked #2 in USA Today's 10 Best Art Districts in the country. Every month, over 90 artists & galleries throughout SoWa stage their new 30-day shows, featuring the works of emerging and established painters, photographers and sculptors. This event, known as "SoWa First Fridays", is held on the first Friday of every month from 5pm-9pm. In addition, the SoWa Art Walk, an annual art festival held each spring, enables many artists to present their works and host open studios.
Opened in 2003, the award-winning SoWa Open Market is one of Boston's largest celebrations of local artists, farmers, chefs, brewers and musicians. Driven by the goal of building community and supporting small businesses, the SoWa Open Market provides an opportunity for local artisans to share their products and passions. Each Sunday, thousands of visitors from across New England converge in SoWa, amidst a vibrant landscape of artist studios, galleries, boutiques, and design showrooms. The SoWa Open Market is open every Sunday, May through October, from 10am-4pm.