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Equity in the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture

We're committed to promoting equity and accessibility through the arts in Boston.

our vision

Creativity is vital to humanity, and the arts play a crucial role in creating a thriving, healthy community for all. The arts shape the design, economy, and quality of life in Boston. They are intrinsically valuable, and provoke emotion, connection, and action. The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture (MOAC) envisions a vibrant and creative Boston, where everyone can access and participate in the arts. We partner with the local arts ecosystem to support the creative economy through grants and programs, integrate public art into neighborhoods, and increase accessible opportunities for creative expression. We believe everyone is creative. Investing in our creativity will lead to a reimagined, more just Boston.

Land and Labor Acknowledgement

The City of Boston is located on the traditional homeland of the Massachusett people and the neighboring Wampanoag and Nipmuc peoples. We acknowledge the atrocities committed against Indigenous peoples, all of the communities that have been subsequently harmed, and the ways in which colonialism has created systemic oppression. We recognize the continuing presence of these communities and the Indigenous peoples represented in the City’s residents in addition to those in the diaspora. We also recognize that Boston exists as a result of the forced labor and economic extraction from enslaved African Americans.

Our Commitment to Equity

The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture (MOAC) acknowledges the systemic harm perpetuated by Boston’s arts sector. People of color in Boston have faced significant barriers to creative resources, space, and economic opportunity. We commit to an intersectional racial justice lens that uplifts those most harmed by systemic oppression and racism. We hold ourselves accountable to implement policies and programs that eliminate structural racism, embrace collective healing, and center BIPOC/ALAANA and LGBTQIA+ community members, as well as those who face discrimination due to their age, gender, disability, social status, neighborhood, citizenship status, and more. 

Read the City of Boston’s equity statement


Our Beliefs Around Creativity

Everyone is creative. We consume and practice culture, imagination, and art every day.

Creative professions are cross-sectoral. A creative worker can be a:

  • musician, visual artist, performing artist, etc., 
  • teacher, 
  • culture bearer, 
  • storyteller, 
  • movement-builder, 
  • graphic designer,
  • small business owner, 
  • activist, 
  • or an administrator.

Creativity expands and deepens our ideas of who we are and who we can be, as people and as communities. 

Creativity is needed to imagine justice at any scale: in our school, on our block, or in City Hall. Creativity and creative workers makes City policy more human-centered, more relational, and more equitable. 

Creativity is necessary for a healthy democracy. When we create, we practice agency and self-determination. When we see that we can change something in our City we become more confident that we can do it again, that we can scale our vision, and that we can make the City what we want it to be. 

Creativity is a core part of our economy that creates jobs and opportunity. 

Creativity is an essential part of a healthy and thriving community. 

Creativity is necessary for our health and well-being. It helps us heal, celebrate, reflect, and understand  trauma. We need to center the work of wellness practitioners, arts therapists, culture bearers, and traditional healers. 

Everyone should have access to creative expression - through lifelong programming and space to create in every neighborhood. 



In our work, we often use the words "agency", "department", and "office" interchangeably. In Boston, public agencies are often governed by a commission and are somewhat separate from the operations and governance of departments and offices within the administration. Some examples of agencies in Boston are the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), and the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).


An application is a formal, often written, request or response that a person will complete and submit to be considered for a program or opportunity. When we use the word application, we are often referring to the process through which the constituents we serve submit information to receive grants and other opportunities through our office.


According to Springboard for the Arts, “An artist is anyone who thinks creatively about the world and their dynamic place in it. Our definition of artist is broad and includes visual artists, performers, writers, music creators, culture bearers, makers, artisans, storytellers, social conveners, idea purveyors, imaginaries, visionaries, students, teachers, organizers and nurturers. Artists are a powerful natural resource and they exist in every place and community.”

Arts administrator

This is an umbrella term for individuals who are responsible for facilitating programming and handling operations within a cultural organization or institution. The duties of an arts administrator can include fundraising, staff management, marketing and communications, and more.


Working together with the Public Art Team in MOAC, the Boston Art Commission (BAC) is an independent board composed of two ex-officio and seven appointed volunteer art and design professionals that holds public meetings to review, discuss, and vote on matters concerning the City’s art collection. The BAC has exclusive authority to approve and commission artworks intended to be added to the City’s collection or be placed on City property.


The Boston Cultural Council (BCC) is a mayoral-appointed council of individuals who work under the umbrella of the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. Every year, the BCC distributes funds in the form of Boston Cultural Council Organizational Grants. These funds support innovative arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences programming. The goal is to enhance the quality of life in our City.

Civic Engagement

Civic engagement is the practice of being involved, informed, and interested in activities relating to a city or town, especially its governmental and/or political administration. In Boston, we would often use the phrase “civic engagement” to describe residents' involvement and advocacy work related to our municipal government.

Civic Practice

The Center for Performance and Civic Practice defines this as “projects that bring artists into collaboration and co-design with community partners and local residents around a community-defined aspiration, challenge or vision."

  • In our Boston Artists-in-Residence program, we define civic practice as the collaborative effort between the City and artists to imagine and test new approaches to City of Boston policies, processes, and procedures that speak to existing issues or questions in a department.

Collection refers to artworks that have been commissioned, donated, purchased, or otherwise acquired by the City of Boston via majority vote of the Boston Art Commission. This includes artworks colloquially referred to as public art. The public art team documents artworks included within this definition as well as short-term artworks and artworks on private property such as murals and artworks that have been deaccessioned. 


We use the word commission in two ways:

  • To signify the act of requesting and authorizing the production of a work of art,
  • and when we talk about the Boston Art Commission, which is an independent board of mayorally-appointed volunteers that approves and commissions public artworks around the City in partnership with our office.

Cultural space includes spaces to make work, such as:

  • artist studios
  • rehearsal spaces
  • fabrication spaces
  • recording spaces
  • fashion studios
  • photography studios, and
  • film facilities.

It also includes spaces to present work, such as:

  • live music venues
  • performance spaces
  • gallery spaces,
  • outdoor spaces,
  • event spaces, and
  • gathering spaces that host cultural events.

Artist work-live housing is another form of cultural space.


Merriam-Webster defines culture as: 

  • the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group
  • the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time;
  • the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization;
  • the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic;
  • the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.

Indigenous Roots and McKnight Artist Fellowships provide the following definition of culture bearers: “Culture Bearers practice intergenerational lifeways and living, evolving cultural art practices that educate, exchange, and share in order to preserve ancestral knowledge. In this work, Culture Bearers hold a direct throughline from ancestors and teachers and center sharing their practice with youth. The role of culture bearer is particularly important within ancestral cultures undergoing transition or experiencing threat from outside and dominizing culture(s).”

Culture Worker

A culture worker is someone who works to uphold, grow, conserve or restore a specific culture, or a community connected by culture, through education, artistic production, care work, or community organizing, while motivated by a sense of equity, and accountability towards that culture and others within it.  


We often use the words "department" and "office" interchangeably. When we use the word "department" we use it to describe a public department that functions as part of the larger municipal government in Boston.


Long-term refers to the projected lifespan of artworks. Long-term artworks employ durable materials and archival fabrication methods and are intended to be fixed to one site for an enduring lifespan. Long-term artworks require care and maintenance as  capital assets. Long-term artworks contribute to the lasting legacy of the City’s collection for a minimum of five years.


A memorial is a public expression designed to shape and honor a shared memory of a particular person, group, or event. In public art, memorials may be long- or short-term.


Municipal means relating to a city or town or its governing body. When we use the word “municipal”, we use it to describe the authority and constraints of the governmental body, its services, regulations, policies, and programs within Boston’s geographic boundaries.


A mural is a large painting traditionally applied to a wall or ceiling, especially in a public space. Our definition of mural extends to artworks painted or applied on the ground or other surfaces.


We often use the words department and office interchangeably. When we use the word "office" we use it to describe a public department that functions as part of the larger municipal government in Boston. Sometimes the word “office” is also used to describe a physical space where we do our work in City Hall.


Placekeeping is an effort to sustain and nurture a community and its physical and social environment. This is done for the benefit of residents and local businesses. Placekeeping focuses on the social fabric, traditions, and norms. These things are often overlooked by and invisible to outsiders. 

Public art

Public art is a term for artworks that are intentionally experienced from, or sited upon, publicly accessible locations. Artworks on City of Boston property are part of the City’s formal collection of artworks, or have been approved for temporary placement on City of Boston property by the Boston Art Commission.

Public Art is a dynamic cultural activity from conception and design, to fabrication and installation, to formal accession or temporary approval at a BAC public meeting. Public Art may affirm or challenge existing community aesthetics and values and may critique, augment, or invite exploration of established narratives and the physical landscape.

Request for Proposals (RFP)

An RFP is a call to artists to submit a specific project proposal. The RFP outlines all the details of the project, including community values, vision, and site use.

Request for Qualifications (RFQ)

An RFQ is a call to Artists to submit their qualifications. The RFQ outlines all the details of the project and any qualifications needed.


Short-term refers to the projected lifespan of artworks. Works of art intended as short-term have an intended lifespan of anything from less than one day up to five years. Short-term works may be at one or more sites, and the artwork may be dynamic in nature. 


A teaching artist can be defined in a lot of different ways, and many people use different labels, or names, to describe this type of work, such as: arts educator, art teacher, cultural artist, community artist, cultural agent, and cultural worker. We use the term “teaching artist” to focus broadly on anyone who identifies as an artist of any artistic medium, who also teaches their artistic medium as part of their artistic practice or as a means of making supplemental income.


A supplier ID, previously referred to as a vendor ID, is a number associated with an individual or organization that the City of Boston uses to differentiate vendors from each other. Vendors are individuals, organizations, or entities that receive payments from the City. A vendor ID can be found on contract documents and purchase orders. In order to receive a payment from the City for a product or service, you need to be a City vendor and have a vendor ID.

A glossary of additional terms related to public art and the Boston Art commission can be found in the City of Boston public art policies and processes document.


This is an acronym that stands for Asian American (and) Pacific Islander.


 ADA relates to The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and is an informal acronym that is often used to refer to this civil rights law. The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. When our office refers to the ADA, we are often thinking of ways the arts can be more accessible to persons with disabilities. We are thinking about accessibility both for audience members and artists/creators, and the laws and regulations that have been put in place to guide accessibility in arts spaces and programs.


ALAANA is an acronym coined by Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) that stands for “African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, (and) Native American.” ALAANA was preceded by ALANA and AHANA, which were first used by Brown University in the 1970s. GIA added the third A (Arab) in the 2000s. ALAANA is an alternative to POC (People of Color) that does not present whiteness as the norm or standard. 


BIPOC is an acronym that stands for “Black, Indigenous, [and] People of Color.” It is a 21st-century modification of the term “people of colo(u)r,” which has been used since the 1790s. The additional leading B and I are to acknowledge that Black and Indigenous communities have a different relation to whiteness and distinguishes them from the larger POC grouping. 


Resilient Boston defines diversity as "having a high number of races, cultures, and ethnicities represented within a group, organization, or institution."


The City's Language and Communications Access (LCA) office defines this as "when a person has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment."


Resilient Boston defines inclusion as "involving people of all backgrounds, abilities, perspectives, and beliefs within a group, institution, or decision. This is more than achieving diversity; it is ensuring all individuals have a true sense of belonging."


Resilient Boston defines equity as "respectful treatment and fair involvement of all people in a society. It is the state in which everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. Additionally, the National Academy of Public Administration, which has been studying the use of equity as a means of evaluating public policy describes equity as the “fair, just, and equitable management of all institutions serving the public directly or by contract; the fair, just, and equitable distribution of public services and implementation of public policy; and the commitment to promote fairness, justice, and equity in the formation of public policy.” This definition lays the groundwork for measuring equity in Resilient Boston’s initiatives."


LEP stands for “Limited English Proficiency” and is used to describe when a person does not speak English as their primary language and has a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English.


LGBTQIA+ is an acronym that stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and/or Ally +,” with the + intending to stand in for any identities outside of heterosexuality and cisgender that were not listed (such as two-spirit or pansexual). Versions of the acronym have been in use in the USA since the 1980s; previous iterations  include GLB, LGB, LGBT, LGBTQ, LQBTQ+. It is usually used as a catch-all designation to refer to people who are not straight and/or cis-gender.


This acronym stands for “Language other than English” and refers to when an individual does not speak English as their primary language and has limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English.


POC is an acronym that stands for “People of color”. This term was created and used by people who do not identify as white (or of European heritage). This term has been used since the late 1970s.


The federal government uses the term “underserved communities” to refer to populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life.

More information about these terms and other topics related to equity can be found on the Language and Communications Access website and the Office of Resilience and Racial Equity website.

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