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City releases Performing Arts Facilities Assessment for public comment

July 24, 2017

The draft aims to understand the current and anticipated venue challenges of local performing arts organizations.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) today released a draft Performing Arts Facilities Assessment that aims to understand the current and anticipated venue challenges of local performing arts organizations in Boston. The release of the draft kicks off a 30 day comment period and the public is encouraged to review the assessment and submit feedback on bostonplans.org.

The BPDA commissioned the assessment in response to a strategy in the City's Boston Creates plan, which states that the City of Boston must support the availability, affordability and sustainability of cultural spaces and facilities for arts and cultural organizations of all sizes in Boston.

"In Boston it's our goal to harness our City's innovation and creativity to build a better, healthier and more thriving City that continues to lift up all our residents," said Mayor Walsh. "Through this assessment, we have collaborated with residents and stakeholders throughout Boston and the entire region to pinpoint what resources exist, and what resources are needed to support artists. I look forward to continued feedback from our residents as we work to finalize this assessment and determine next steps."

TDC, a nonprofit management consulting and research firm, was engaged to conduct the study in partnership with the BPDA and the Mayor's Office. The study was guided by three questions:

  1. What is the supply of spaces that serve the performing arts in Greater Boston?
  2. What is the demand for spaces that serve the performing arts in Greater Boston?
  3. How well do supply and demand align?

Researchers spoke to individuals from across the arts and related fields, including leaders of large producing organizations, artists creating one-person shows, managers of venues for global corporations, volunteers at community centers, and those who support the sector through advocacy, providing services, philanthropy, and setting policy. The assessment revealed the following conclusions:

  1. There is excess supply. Certain types and sizes of performing arts spaces have availability for rehearsals and/or performances.
  2. There is unmet demand. Many artists and arts organizations are searching for additional or different rehearsal and/or performance spaces. The need for rehearsal space is particularly high.
  3. Excess supply and unmet demand do not align due to issues of appropriateness, price, and location of available spaces.
  4. Because users cannot pay the full operating or capital costs of facilities, the market requires subsidy to adequately support facilities. Economic realities for both space users and space providers prevent them from finding a pricing "sweet spot" absent significant and ongoing additional support to run, maintain, and update facilities.

The assessment identifies potential solutions that would require a new approach to how facilities are financially supported, operated, and managed in Boston and the creation of new tools for:

  • Enhancing partnerships between developers, the City, and the local arts community.
  • Stimulating new sources of funding in the philanthropic community.
  • Developing funding mechanisms that provide ongoing support to increase access to spaces and ensure they are adequately maintained.
  • Ensuring that any new spaces are operated effectively with incentive structures that elevate the needs of the local performing arts community.

A final report will be issued following the 30 day public comment period.

"I think this report and the detailed research that went into it is of great value to the City and the arts community," Gary Dunning, President & Executive Director of Celebrity Series. "I commend the Mayor's Office for committing the time and effort to conduct this assessment. Hopefully, it will encourage continued dialogue and eventual actions that will provide more and better facilities for the performing arts, which will strengthen and enhance Boston's standing as a cultural capital."

Boston's Performing Arts Facilities Assessment is part of Boston Creates, 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 full cultural plan can be found online at plan.bostoncreates.org.

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. A full list of Boston Creates plan achievements to date can be found here.

Boston Creates, and the Performing Arts Facilities Assessment, are part of the Walsh Administration's commitment to planning a thriving, inclusive Boston for every resident. On Tuesday, Mayor Walsh launched Imagine Boston 2030, the first citywide plan in over 50 years. Imagine Boston 2030 prioritizes inclusionary growth and puts forth a comprehensive vision to boost quality of life, equity and resilience in every neighborhood across the City.

About the Boston Planning & Development Agency

As the City of Boston's urban planning and economic development agency, the BPDA works in partnership with the community to plan Boston's future while respecting its past. The agency's passionate and knowledgeable staff guides physical, social, and economic change in Boston's neighborhoods and its downtown to shape a more prosperous, resilient, and vibrant city for all. The BPDA also prepares residents for new opportunities through employment training, human services and job creation. Learn more at www.bostonplans.org, and follow us on Twitter @BostonPlans.