Strengthening Boston’s arts and culture infrastructure by addressing critical needs and forging interconnections, making this crucial sector of the city more equitable and inclusive—this requires leadership.
The Boston Creates planning process, led by Mayor Walsh, represents an important first step toward a much more active role for municipal government in arts and culture than Boston has seen in decades. Many leaders in Boston’s arts and culture, philanthropic, educational, health, and corporate sectors have joined the Mayor by serving on Boston Creates’ Leadership Council and Steering Committee. The chairs of the community teams have played a vital role by representing residents of every neighborhood in the city, which has further empowered them as cultural leaders within their respective communities.
For some of the tasks set out in this cultural plan it is, and will be, indispensable to have leadership from the top. City government, with its legal authority and convening power, has a major role to play, as do Boston’s leading private institutions in the corporate, philanthropic, and educational sectors as well as in the arts and culture sector itself. At a moment of new leadership for the City and for many of these private institutions, the City has an opportunity, which we are now seizing, to set a new course and dedicate new efforts to making Boston a truly great city for arts, culture, and creativity.
Yet not all of the necessary leadership should, or even can, come from the top or from citywide institutions. As the Boston Creates planning process has made clear, Boston has strong arts and culture leadership at the community and neighborhood levels. For much of what Boston needs to do to strengthen its arts and culture sector, the City and prominent citywide institutions can spark or catalyze change—but the leadership for it must come from the larger Boston community.
The need for citywide leadership is especially evident given the need for resources for arts and culture in Boston. While the city’s arts and culture sector is notable for its committed individual donor base, the primary beneficiaries of this support tend to be large organizations. Compared with other cities, Boston has limited foundation, corporate, and municipal support for the arts, especially for small and mid-sized organizations and individual artists.