Year One Update

Marking the One Year Milestone of Boston Creates

June 2017

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today marked the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Boston Creates Cultural Plan, a ten-year city initiative designed to align public and private resources to strengthen cultural vitality over the long-term and weave arts and culture into the fabric of everyday life.

“One year after launch, we can see the impact of investments and policy changes across the city in both the public and private sectors that are advancing Boston as an arts leader,” said Mayor Walsh. “Looking ahead, we will continue to embrace creativity and collaboration to move the plan forward.”

Since the launch of Boston Creates in 2016, Mayor Walsh has committed to leading the implementation of the plan by building City resources for arts and culture and creating the necessary partnerships to address the critical needs identified through the planning process.

From elevating the arts in the City budget to realigning existing programs, significant accomplishments from year one include:

The Launch of a Percent for Art Program

Designed to fund permanent public art in municipal construction projects, the Percent for Art Program will have a FY18 budget of $1.7 million dollars. The Jamaica Plain Branch of the Boston Public Library was the first project announced under this program, with a call for artists issued in May 2017.  This will be followed closely by a call for artists at the Dudley Square Branch Library as part of the building’s upcoming renovation.

Demonstrated Support for Local Artists

Goal 2 of the Boston Creates plan called for keeping artists in Boston, through investments in individual artists, making City government more accessible to artists and by pursuing opportunities for artist housing.  To this end, a series of grants for artists were introduced including: the Boston Opportunity Fund, a monthly grant program for individual artists for specific needs; a fellowship program offering individual unrestricted grants to provide artists the resources they need to dedicate their time to their work; and a series of matched savings grants and professional development workshops to artists in Boston. To date, more than $150,000 has been granted to over 80 individual artists. Additionally, in March, the Mayor appointed an Artist Resource Manager to serve as a liaison to local artists.

Addressing Space Issues

Performance and rehearsal spaces continue to be a challenge for artists and arts organizations. In the upcoming weeks, the Boston Planning and Development Agency will  release the Performing Arts Facilities Assessment, commissioned in response to the Boston Creates process, detailing the supply and demand for performing arts rehearsal and performance space. In the short term, the City of Boston debuted the Alternative Space Pilot Program, which collaborates with local companies and organizations including AT&T and Mass Eye & Ear to provide free rehearsal space to several organizations.

Expanding Boston AIR

The Boston Artist in Residence Program (AIR) expanded significantly. Today, 10 Boston artists are working in Boston Centers for Youth and Families around the City. As artists in residence, they have been engaging diverse populations in cultural expression and infusing BCYF with new ideas about the role of the arts in their centers and in their neighborhoods.

Looking ahead to the next year of implementation, the City will respond to the performing arts facilities assessment, partner with the Boston Foundation to carry out a cultural equity study, implement the first of three arts innovation districts in Upham’s Corner; and work closely with key partners to think carefully about long term stewardship of the plan, ensuring that implementation can be sustained over the ten year life of of the plan.

“The accomplishments of the first year are a testament to the leadership of Mayor Walsh and the willingness of all departments to collaborate, ensuring arts and culture has a role in City government,” said Julie Burros, Chief of the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture. “As we pivot to year two, we know that stewardship over the long term requires that we strategically identify the next priority areas of focus for Boston Creates and reach more fully beyond City government to take on more complex and challenging issues. We know that this work will require ongoing advocates and champions and partnerships for the integration of arts and culture across multiple sectors and communities.

 

Other key accomplishments include:

Infrastructure

CREATING INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE ARTS

Supporting arts and culture and creative life requires infrastructure. That includes: work, performance, and exhibition space; strong institutions and programs; and a broad base of private and public support. Government plays an important role by providing supportive policies, appropriate regulations, and resources. In the first year since the release of the Boston Creates Cultural Plan, we have already seen the following initiatives contribute to the overall infrastructure of Boston’s arts and culture sector:

  • As part of the Imagine Boston 2030 comprehensive citywide plan, Uphams Corner was announced as the first of three Arts Innovation Districts in the city.
  • The Boston Planning and Development Agency has nearly completed an assessment of Performing Arts Facilities across the city, which articulates the supply of and demand for rehearsal and performing spaces.
  • The City debuted the Alternative Space Pilot Program, collaborating with companies and organizations across the city to find innovative solutions for the lack of affordable rehearsal space.
  • The Boston Planning and Development Agency is including arts and culture in the City’s community plans and in development review, negotiating artist housing and affordable cultural space to support creative communities.
  • The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture has partnered with the Department of Neighborhood Development to release an RFP for new housing that includes affordable artist live and work space.
    In response to the The Boston Cultural Council (BCC) streamlined its application, put it online and updated its eligibility criteria to make organizations with budgets under $1M eligible for general operating funds.

The work of creating infrastructure for the arts extend beyond City government. Initiatives that our partners have undertaken in the spirit of Boston Creates include:

  • The ICA and Massport have partnered to create The Watershed, an ambitious new space for visual art in East Boston that will offer free admission, and will open in 2018.
  • The Dance Alliance, the Lyric Stage Company and The Boston Foundation formed a partnership to provide dancers with affordable rehearsal space.
  • In a direct response to Boston Creates, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council expanded its staff to include a Cultural Planner and an Artist in Residence. This new Arts and Planning practice area will help the region’s local governments more fully incorporate the arts into the fabric of their towns and cities.
  • The Pao Arts Center in Chinatown opened, offering residents the opportunity to connect with Chinese culture, traditional and contemporary arts, and a variety of classes from Bunker Hill Community College.
  • A section of Roxbury was designated a cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, making it the third cultural district in the city, alongside the Literary District and the Fenway Cultural District.

 

Supporting Artists

Supporting Artists and their Contribution to Civic Life

Throughout the Boston Creates engagement process, artists clearly articulated their needs, not only for more resources to be able to stay in the city and do their work, but also for more recognition and a greater access to opportunities to share their work with the public. This became its own goal in the plan: to keep artists in Boston and attract new ones here. Significant accomplishments from year one include:

  • Recognizing the need to make City Hall more accessible to artists, the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture created the role of Artist Resource Manager. This centralized access point for information and resources serves as a friendly and accessible liaison between individual artists and City Hall.
  • A series of grants for artists were introduced including the Opportunity Fund, the Boston Artist Fellowship, and the Assets for Artists Program. To date, more than $150,000 has been granted to over 80 individual artists. The resources helped artists share their work with the public, focus on creation of new work, and build their professional capacity.
  • The Boston Artist in Residence Program (AIR) expanded significantly. Today, ten artists are working in Boston Centers for Youth and Families around the city. They are engaging diverse populations in cultural expression and infusing BCYF with new ideas about the role of the arts in their centers.
    Over 500 local artists and arts organizations were showcased in the City Hall and Strand Theater galleries in over 50 different exhibitions.
  • The Mayor’s Mural Crew completed six murals through collaborations with Ashmont Main Streets, the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, the Roxbury Center for Performing Arts, Walk Up Roslindale, the Boston Literary District, and the Downtown Boston BID.
  • The Boston Art Commission, through a more user-oriented online application, approved over 80 public art projects in FY18.
  • The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture partnered with the Office of Resilience and Racial Equity to produce the Racial Equity Learning Series, which promotes the arts as a catalyst for conversation about race and racism through post-show discussions and workshops.

 

Leadership and Resources

Growing Leadership and Resources for the Arts

Boston Creates called for renewed leadership and funding for the arts. Since the launch of Boston Creates in 2016, Mayor Walsh has committed to this vision by building City resources for arts and culture and creating the necessary partnerships to address the critical needs identified through the planning process. Boston is also undergoing a shift in how it values arts and culture, with the philanthropic community and education institutions leading new programs and initiatives to support the sector. Significant accomplishments include:

  • Creation of a Percent for Art Program for the inclusion of permanent public art in municipal construction projects, with a fiscal year 2018 budget of $1.7 million dollars. The Jamaica Plain Branch Library was the first project announced under this program. The Dudley BPL project will soon follow.
  • The Department of Public Works’ has committed to incorporating public art into road reconstruction projects. Hyde Square and North Square projects are well underway with artists selected, and in the future major public works projects will all have a public art component.
  • The Office of Workforce Development, in partnership with Emerson College and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, is developing a program to support career pathways that connect youth to jobs in the creative industries.
  • Mayor Walsh was recognized by AFTA at the U.S. Conference of Mayors with the Arts Leadership Award, a step towards recognizing Boston as a municipal arts leader.

Leadership and a commitment to resources went well beyond the City:

  • The Boston Foundation in partnership with the Barr Foundation launched the Live Arts Boston grant, allowing performing artists to create new works and embark on creative risk-taking.
  • The Klarman Family Foundation, in partnership with the Massachusetts Cultural Council, launched the Music Educators and Teaching Artists Fellowship Pilot Program to strengthen the youth music training sector.
  • The Boston Foundation is preparing to conduct a Cultural Equity Study that will inform MOAC’s future grantmaking and program design.
    Edvestors announced a fourth phase of the successful Boston Public Schools (BPS) Arts Expansion Initiative to continue increasing students’ access to quality arts education. A full update of the BPS arts education policy is in the works.
  • With support from City Hall, the Colonial Theatre and the Huntington Theatre Company have reached agreements that will allow them to continue operating in their current spaces.