Fenway Studios Interview with Jean Etienne

Jean Étienne – Celebrating 20 years of Service with Fenway Studios 

Last week Fenway Alliance member Fenway Studios celebrated 20-year anniversary of their superintendent,  Jean Étienne.   A socially distanced party, in the back of the building, was held in his honor.  See below for photos!

Jean Etienne

By Fenway Studios Artist Kayla Mohammadi

Earlier this summer I had an opportunity to talk to Jean about his background, his life, and how he came to the Boston area. Here is his story: When Jean first came to America, he wanted to turn around and go back home to Haiti.  Maybe arriving in Boston on a winter’s day in December 1990 wasn’t the best idea. Especially after spending the first 20 years of his life in Haiti.  Enduring a New England winter and experiencing snow for the first time was a shock to say the least. 

Jean’s father and eldest sister came first to Dorchester and established themselves here, this allowed Jean to come with the rest of his siblings a few years later. Although grateful to his father for creating an entry to the US, he felt confined to his new home because of the snow and frigid temperature. He had never experienced such cold weather before. 

Jean missed Haiti, he missed his friends, and the way of life there. 

I asked Jean to tell me about what is special about Haiti. He said that it’s sunny and warm most days of the year, and that it has the best beaches. His childhood was spent outdoors with friends.  He said, “being outdoors was a way of life for me.” 

I also learned that in Haiti the food was fresh and organic. 

When Jean first arrived in the U.S., he was eating fast food and more processed food then he normally would back at home. 

Jean thought he would eventually go back to Haiti. However, over time as he gained friends, he started to feel more at home here.  His first job was as a cook at Burger King. That quickly led to a maintenance job for a building, which led to a job at Home Depot (Jean also received an AA degree from Bay State School of Technology in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning), which lead to a fortunate connection with Fenway’s management company. And voila! Lucky for Fenway Studios, Jean came to work for us. That connection was over 20 years ago in 2000. We at Fenway studios have a special place in our hearts for Jean and we appreciate his hard work and dependability. 

Question and Answer: 

Kayla:  What do you like about Fenway Studios? 

Jean:  I feel that Fenway Studios is like a second home. I like the rapport that I have with many of the artists in the building. I am happy to help artists out and willing to lend a hand. 

Kayla: What do you like to do on your days off?
Jean:  I love watching sports mostly soccer and basketball. Spending time with friends and family. I have three children. Two are adults and I also have 2 grandsons; they all live close to me. So, I see them often. 

Kayla: Fenway Park is just a block away, have you ever been to Red Sox game? 

Jean:  No, I have never been to a game. Maybe one day. 

Kayla: What have you brought to the US from Haiti? 

Jean:  I love Haitian or Caribbean food. jerk chicken, rice, jojo (mushroom), beans and meat.  Caribbean cooking is my favorite way to unwind. One of my favorite activities is to barbeque and have friends over during the weekend. 

Kayla: What is your secret to maintaining a positive attitude and calm demeanor even in the midst of chaos? 

Jean:  I believe that wherever I go I can create friends. I greet everyone with a smile, and that smile is most often returned.  Also, I learned early on that it is important to remain calm in stressful situations. 

Kayla: Who do you turn to for advice? 

Jean:  I just look to the queen of soul herself, Aretha Franklin. 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Give someone respect and they will respect you in return. 

Now that’s good advice. 

As interviewed Summer 2020 by Fenway Artist, Kayla Mohammadi 

Fenway Studios was built in 1905 and is a National Historic Landmark building. It is the oldest purpose-built structure in the country constructed for and dedicated solely to artists’ space. Artists who reside at Fenway Studios paint in a variety of styles from abstract expressionism to post-modern realism. Some continue in the Boston School tradition and teach new generations of artists, but many others work in other traditions and materials, both modern and classic. Fenway Studios currently has studios available for rent. 

For more information, see our website fenwaystudios.org. We are located at 30 Ipswich Street, Boston, MA