City of Boston launches cultural plan
June 17, 2016
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today launched the Boston Creates cultural plan: a ten-year initiative led by The City of Boston that will align public and private resources to strengthen cultural vitality over the long-term, and weave arts and culture into the fabric of everyday life.
The plan identifies five strategic goals and calls for a cultural shift in the way City government and the private sector approaches and prioritizes arts and culture. This approach will include leveraging current and future municipal investments, creating new partnerships, breaking down barriers that hinder participation in the arts, creating infrastructure that supports artists, and aligning resources towards the goal of making Boston a municipal arts leader.
Critical to achieving the vision of the plan is ensuring its long-term viability. This will include leadership and financial commitments from the City as well as the cultural, corporate and philanthropic sectors. In addition, the Mayor, as always, remains committed to strengthening existing and identifying new, sustainable sources of public revenue.
"We are already making substantial investments and policy changes that will have significant impacts across the city," said Mayor Walsh. "To fully achieve the goals of this plan will take time, ingenuity and collaboration, with City government, philanthropy, business and civic leaders, and the arts and culture community all working together to make the case for sustainable investment in the arts in Boston."
The City is working to create additional funding sources for the arts, including the announcement of a municipal Percent for Art programwhich will leverage the City's Five Year Capital Plan to invest in public art as part of major city construction and infrastructure projects. Through the capital plan, the Percent for Art Program would devote funding to public art equal to approximately 1% of the City's anticipated annual general borrowing.
Separately, the Department of Public Works has made a commitment to budget $100,000 for permanent public art as part of a road improvement project in Hyde Square.
As affordable housing for artists continues to be a challenge, today the Boston Housing Authority announced it will begin to set asidelow-income housing for artists in redevelopments. As part of the redevelopment of the Bunker Hill public housing development into a new mixed-income community in Charlestown, the Boston Housing Authority and its developer partner Corcoran-SunCal will set aside 10 units of low-income housing, available to income-eligible artists. Simultaneously, new guidelines will be created for the City of Boston Artist Certification Program.
The BHA and the developer have also pledged to set aside money for public art in the project, with the details to be announced in the coming months.
"It's no secret that high housing costs make it challenging for artists to live in Boston and we're committed to working with Mayor Walsh to find innovative solutions to this problem," said Bill McGonagle, BHA Administrator. "Setting aside units at the Bunker Hill public housing development and including money for public art in the budget are the first steps in helping Boston Creates reach its goal of making art accessible to all and keeping artists in Boston. We're proud to do our part."
Ensuring arts and culture will reach across geographic and cultural borders, Imagine Boston 2030, the city's first comprehensive planning process in 50 years, will include a commitment to catalyze three neighborhood Arts Innovation Districts. Immediately, working with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the City will study ways to strengthen Upham's Corner as a cultural hub, building upon the City's investment in the Strand Theatre and integrating local businesses and arts into the economy. Two more locations will be identified through Imagine Boston 2030's public engagement process over the summer and into the fall.
To ensure sustained momentum over the long-term, implementation of the plan will require collaboration and leadership from the community. The Boston Foundation today announced the "Catalyze Creativity" Pooled Fund for Dance and Theater to provide critically needed, flexible support to small entities and artists working within the least institutionally-supported disciplines in the performing arts in Greater Boston - dance and theater, broadly defined. TBF will provide $500,000 per year for three years to pilot and establish this new mechanism of support within Greater Boston's arts ecology. The Barr Foundation will contribute $250,000 in the first year of the Fund.
During the community engagement phase of the process and in the final Boston Creates town hall, Bostonians across geographic locations and diverse communities expressed a desire to see greater cultural equity and access to the arts in their city. To meet this demand, The Boston Foundation has committed to launching a cultural equity study later in the year, exploring how cultural equity and access to the arts can be enhanced across the city. They will also devote funding to an artist housing strategy, which will identify how the region can create sufficient supplies of affordable residential, live/work and work studios to address the needs of artists.
"The Boston Foundation is proud to provide significant funding to small organizations, collaborations, and artists historically deprived of institutional capital in Boston," said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. "The process of Boston Creates, so ably supported by the Barr Foundation and The Klarman Family Foundation, has demonstrated a shared commitment to meaningful change to our city's approach to supporting the arts. Mayor Walsh has elevated this urgent and timely conversation, and we must further come together as a community to provide the leadership and resources to bring our shared expectations to fruition and make Boston the preeminent arts city in America."
Showcasing the types of partnerships it will seek to catalyze, the City announced Emerson College and the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development will partner to commission a feasibility study to look at designing and implementing a Creative Industries workforce program. It is expected that such a partnership would also utilize the area's community colleges to identify Bostonians who would be trained for jobs in the city's arts and culture institutions and industries.
In another new partnership, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston will advise the City of Boston on conservation of the City of Boston's art collection, sharing its expertise and best practices on care and preservation, as well as evaluating the current state of the collection. The City looks forward to leveraging the very specific expertise at the MFA in an effort to protect and preserve artwork owned by the City. In addition, the City and the MFA will work collaboratively to site sculpture from the MFA's collection on parkland contiguous to the museum's Huntington Ave. location.
Additionally, The Alternatives Spaces Pilot Project will use underutilized private space as rehearsal space for arts organizations. Beginning with space commitments from Massachusetts Eye & Ear, AT&T's flagship store on Boylston Street and the Plumbers Local 12 Union Hall, the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture will help these entities write and distribute an RFP for use of their spaces for rehearsals on a regular basis, for a minimum of one-year commitment. The program will expand as other companies and organizations with available space step forward.
"We are particularly excited about this innovative, low-cost program," said Joyce Linehan, Chief of Policy for the City of Boston. "It not only answers a need for rehearsal space that we heard loud and clear, but it also serves as an avenue for arts organizations to forge new cross-sectorial relationships with companies and institutions."
At the forefront of a cultural shift is creating the infrastructure that ensures artists can thrive in Boston. Guidelines for two new grant programs are forthcoming. The first is the Boston Opportunity Fund for Artists, a rolling grant program designed to help artists take advantage of immediate opportunities to showcase their work. $10,000 will be available monthly for distribution to artists, in amounts of $500 and $1,000. Later this year, the City will launch a highly competitive artist fellowship program. The City of Boston continues its second round of the innovative Boston AIR in which artists are in-residence in City agencies.
"Keeping artists in Boston and creating a fertile environment where they can work is a key goal of the cultural plan," said Julie Burros, Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston. "From the establishment of an Artist Resource Desk to a significant increase in grant funding and creating ways to help artists take advantage of these grants, we are working to find ways to help Boston artists - veteran and new - showcase their work and thrive here."
About the Boston Creates Cultural Plan
The cultural plan was created out of a year-long community engagement effort designed to help local government identify cultural needs, opportunities, and resources and to prioritize, coordinate, and align public and private resources to strengthen cultural vitality over the long term. The Boston Creates process was funded by The Barr Foundation and The Klarman Family Foundation. The full cultural plan can be found online at http://plan.bostoncreates.org. A list of initiatives tied to today's launch of the cultural plan can be found here,designed to start Boston on the path to achieving the goals outline in the cultural plan. Additional initiatives will be added in the coming months.