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Boston Creates: Purpose, values, and vision

Boston is a city alive with creativity.

The City’s ever-growing innovation economy, vibrant arts and creative sectors, and neighborhoods where diverse cultural traditions are proudly celebrated all demonstrate Bostonians’ love of creative work and expression. Boston residents and visitors place great value on the richness and variety of the city’s arts and culture scene. At the same time, Bostonians know that their city has not yet reached its full potential for arts and culture.

The 2013 mayoral campaign took place amid a groundswell of enthusiasm for arts and culture—and of demands that the City place them in the forefront of its plans for the future. Bostonians asked for more support for the sector and more access to opportunities for all Boston residents and visitors to participate in it. They also expressed a desire to weave arts and culture into the fabric of the city’s life.

After taking office, former Mayor Martin J. Walsh worked to ensure that arts, culture, and creativity thrive as never before in Boston. He took the initial steps of creating a Cabinet-level Chief of Arts and Culture for the first time in decades, increasing funding for the arts, and launching the Boston Creates cultural planning process and its implementation.

The Boston Creates cultural plan is the product of one of the most extensive and thorough community engagement processes ever undertaken in the United States as part of cultural planning. It aims to align ideas, people, and resources around a shared vision and a comprehensive set of goals, strategies, and tactics for putting arts, culture, and creativity at the very heart of the life of the city.

Why cultural planning — and why now?

Cultural planning is an inclusive process for engaging city residents, visitors, and representatives of arts and culture and other sectors to help identify cultural needs, opportunities, and resources and to think strategically about how to use these resources to help a community achieve its goals.

Many Bostonians believe that the city’s arts and culture sector, for all of its great strengths and future potential, is now at a critical juncture. People both inside and outside this sector have told us the time is right for envisioning and articulating the role arts and culture can and should play in Boston’s future, and for acting to bring this future about. The challenges and opportunities the sector faces also present themselves at a unique moment of new leadership in Boston—at City Hall, in the corporate and foundation worlds, and in the city’s arts and culture institutions.

The City of Boston has carried out the Boston Creates planning process at a time when, through Imagine Boston 2030, the City is undertaking its first comprehensive planning process in fifty years. The goals of the Boston Creates plan will be incorporated into the larger plan for the city. At this forward-looking moment, the Boston Creates cultural plan aims to show how—with leadership and participation by the City as well as private institutions, groups, and individuals from across the city—we can begin acting now to create a brilliant future for arts and culture in Boston.


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We envision a creative Boston

There are reasons why the Boston Creates process incorporated such unprecedented community engagement. This approach grew, in part, out of a core belief that creativity is not just the realm of professional artists and designers, or of the innovators who have made Boston a world leader in fields such as healthcare and technology. Everybody has creativity, and everyone should have the ability to engage in creative activity and be part of Boston’s rich arts and culture scene.

Innovation and creativity are part of Boston’s DNA, just as much as our fabled history. That history, in fact, is full of examples of creativity and innovation—not just in the arts, sciences, and technology but in civic life as well. In the early 19th century, for example, the city established the first public park in America, the first public school system and public secondary school, the first public school for African-Americans, and the nation’s first large, free, publicly supported municipal library. These inventions responded to the need to extend educational and cultural opportunities to greater numbers of Bostonians in a city that was becoming increasingly diverse.

In today’s even more diverse city, we need to continue the work of enabling more Bostonians to enjoy and benefit from the city’s cultural resources—and to develop, share, and be recognized for their own creative expression. We also need to find innovative ways to support Boston artists and arts and culture organizations. The sector itself is much more inclusive than in the past, when officially recognized arts and culture in Boston were the domain of an elite few and the institutions they founded. Realizing these goals presents challenges but also furnishes an opportunity to unlock unprecedented amounts of creativity in order to strengthen the sector, foster creative solutions to problems in many other spheres, and enhance the life of the whole city.


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As the Boston Creates process has made clear, many Bostonians today want to make arts and culture as much a part of the city’s identity as its history and traditions; its world leadership in education, healthcare, and innovation; and its rich tapestry of neighborhoods, communities, and cultures. The Boston Creates cultural plan presents a ten-year framework for the City, the city’s arts and culture sector, and all Bostonians who want a culturally vibrant Boston—or just want to be able to enjoy the city’s arts and cultural riches to the fullest.

Through Boston Creates, as a community, we envision:

  • A Boston in which arts and culture are not just part of a storied past but at the heart of the city’s contemporary identity—powerfully expressing who Bostonians have been, who we are, and who we hope to be.
  • A Boston that demonstrates in concrete ways how it values artists: enabling them to create and showcase their best and most innovative work, grow and develop throughout their careers, and receive the support they need to survive and flourish here.
  • A Boston that celebrates diversity in all forms by inspiring and empowering all Bostonians to express their individual creativity and cultural identities.
  • A Boston in which arts and culture are woven into the very fabric of urban living, where Bostonians—residents, workers, students, and visitors—participate and take pride in the vibrant cultural life to be found in every corner of the city.
  • A Boston that fosters creative thinking as a way of solving our problems great and small.

We will continue to work together across social, cultural, geographic, and sector boundaries to bring the power of creativity to bear on the city’s challenges, great and small, and invent the Boston we want to live in for years to come. We know we can do this because Boston educates, innovates, incubates, celebrates, collaborates, and participates—but most of all, Boston Creates.

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