Boston Artists-in-Residence (AIR)
Artists in our residency program partner with City departments. Together, they re-imagine a more creative and equitable Boston.
In the program, we bring together artists and City employees that share deep investments in community and social justice. The artists bring artistic expertise and experience with creative approaches. Our City partners provide subject matter expertise and experience with existing City systems. Artists learn more about government, while City departments learn about creative problem solving. They co-design projects that test new approaches to City policies and processes. They explore how City initiatives impact the experience of all Bostonians. Projects are often responsive to the social and political context of that year.
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About the program
Through Boston AIR, artists work with City of Boston partners to strengthen City initiatives.Current cohort
For the fifth cohort of Boston Artists-in-Residence, the City of Boston invited six artists to spend 15 months collaborating with a parallel group of City departments. Together they will co-design projects that imagine and test new approaches to challenges the City faces. The current cohort includes:
- Ellice Patterson, working with Jacob Wessel of the Boston Transportation Department
- Ashton Lites, working with Maggie Owens of the Boston Parks and Recreation
- Lily Xie, working with Kristina Ricco the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA)’s Planning Division
- Heloiza Barbosa, working with Alvaro Lima of the BPDA's Research Division,
- Jaronzie Harris, working with Kathleen Hart of the Environment Department, and
- Melissa Teng, working with Karin Goodfellow of the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture on participatory action research.
Since 2015, Boston AIR has been dedicated to integrating arts and culture into all aspects of civic life by supporting collaborations between artists and municipalities. Through the past four cohorts, the program has:
- invited 25 diverse artists into the City, and
- worked with over a dozen City departments and agencies.
Artists and City partners have co-designed dynamic projects. They work to support the efforts of City departments and better serve Boston’s communities.
AIRs have used their residencies to examine how art can help reimagine a more equitable Boston. Through AIR, a textile artist has led workshops with women in recovery. A filmmaker addressed mass incarceration through fathers’ lullabies. Last year, a writer and organizer facilitated a youth-led campaign for a mental health block at Boston Latin Academy.
Read the Boston AIR evaluation
Due to the pandemic, the last cohort of the AIR program was held virtually. Projects were responsive to the current COVID-19 emergency. Artists and City partners also engaged in the nationwide conversation around racism, colonialism, and white supremacy. They addressed how these issues show up in policy that impacts the experience of Bostonians.
AIR projects involved social justice issues happening across the nation. These include:
- dialogue around public monuments
- nationwide budgeting processes, and
- disparities in fair housing access.
We held monthly Partner Circles. These meetings were held with the full cohort of Artist and City partners. They provided space to explore the intersection of these various issues and movements. They also created an opportunity for unique collaborations and relationship building.
“We at the Housing Innovation Lab are currently exploring the ways in which the triple decker has tied the fabric of the city together as a housing typology that allowed many to call Boston home. In this exploration, we have understood that art and story telling is a key component to engaging with residents, external partners, as well as other city departments. To partner with Boston AIR is to work alongside dedicated artists that are willing to engage with the work we explore and provide a unique perspective on how we shape our work and communicate it to a wide variety of audiences.” - former City partner Wandy Pascoal, Housing Innovation Lab
“VIP has long been interested in incorporating more arts into our community and youth programming. Not only are the arts a powerful way to engage the community, they also provide a creative opportunity for expression and healing.” - former City partner Tania Mireles, Boston Public Health Commission
Boston AIR Spotlight: Ellice Patterson and Boston Transportation Department
For her residency, Boston Artist-in-Residence Ellice Patterson has been working with Jacob Wessel, Public Realm Manager at the Boston Transportation Department.