The first week of September passes by, and summer vacation draws to a close. College students head back to their respective campuses around the city, bringing in both old and new admirers of the array of arts, culture, and attractions available in the Boston area.
And now, for the first time, the city has a process to map out area culture. “Boston Creates” is the first cultural planning process for the city. As part of the 10-year plan to blend arts and culture into everyday life in Boston, it seeks to open more opportunities for all residents and visitors to participate.
“The goal is to keep artists in Boston and encourage people to engage in artistic pursuits,” said Julie Borros, chief of arts and culture for the city of Boston. “Our programs are meant to be inclusive, which can be seen through its focus on individuals rather than organizations.”
In its vision of a more creative and stimulating environment, the “Boston Creates” process incorporates community engagement as part of its core belief that creativity involves both the professional artists and designers and Bostonian innovators in fields such as health care and technology. The cultural plan is the perfect chance for college students to display their art.
On Aug. 18, The Friends of Symphony Park and the city of Boston’s Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust Fund presented a 16-foot sculpture made of granite, Corten steel, cast bronze, and stainless steel at Symphony Park. Created by Boston-based artist Jacob Kulin, First Chair incorporates musical elements to honor the relationship between the park’s name and its location close to Symphony Hall.
“Public art is important for early-stage implementation,” Borros said. “We plan to add public art to municipal buildings for future capital construction buildings.”
Boston has a rich history of arts and culture, including many American cultural firsts: the first public park; public library; public secondary school; public school for African-American students; the Perkins School for the Blind, a school for visually impaired students; and the oldest performing-arts organization in the U.S. Boston also has more arts and cultural organizations per capita than any other metropolitan areas in the nation.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, hopes to make the city a municipal arts leader through the creation of a sustainable cultural plan, an increase in performance and work spaces, and support for a range of arts and cultural traditions that come with the rich diversity of Boston’s population. In Walsh’s 2013 mayoral campaign, there was much demand to prioritize arts and culture in the city’s plans for the future.
Artists of all skill levels are invited to participate in creating green space-inspired works of art. The Boston Parks and Recreation Department is hosting free Watercolor Painting Workshops throughout September from 12-2 p.m. in parks across the city. The first session is Saturday, Sept. 10, and will be held at Christopher Columbus Park.
One new program provided by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture to help artists thrive and ensure everyone has access to the arts is the Peters Park art wall. In partnership with the Friends of Peters Park and Old Dover Neighborhood Association, the department is seeking proposals for a new mural as part of the major restoration of Peters Park play areas, paths, and dog parks.
Boston-area artists living within the Rt. I-495 area are invited to submit proposals with more details for the Peters Park Art Wall. Applications are due by midnight on Friday, Sept. 16.
Using input from the community engagement process and research on arts and culture in Boston, members from the Boston Creates Steering Committee, Leadership Council, special affinity groups, Greater Boston Arts Funders Group, Mayor’s Office, and Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture made recommendations that fall into three different categories—goals, strategies, and tactics—for the cultural plan.
The plan for action calls for the the city to work with the community to determine common goals and aspirations and whether an action will be city-owned, city-led, or city-catalyzed. The Boston Cultural Council, which makes grants to arts organizations, has received three times its original funding in the first and second budget from the Walsh administration.
Since July 2016, a $1 million investment using BRA community benefits funds started funding a full-time employee in the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture who will work closely with the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and help artists navigate City Hall and a competitive artist fellow program. The proposed budget for the 2017 fiscal year contains $2.3 million for the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, seven times the amount of funding available before.
According to the plan updates on the Boston Creates Cultural Plan website, the city is “already making substantial investments and policy changes that will have significant impacts across the city with the launch of the cultural plan,” Walsh said.
Also on the agenda is Imagine Boston 2030, the city’s first comprehensive planning process in 50 years.
“Timewise, it is great that the two started at the same time and will end around the same time since Boston Creates rolls right into the larger and more comprehensive plan of Imagine Boston 2030,” Borros said.
The plan includes a commitment to catalyze three neighborhood Arts Innovation District. The city, along with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, will develop strategies to strengthen Upham’s Corner as a cultural hub and take advantage of the existing Strand Theatre and local businesses and arts. The other two locations will be determined through Imagine Boston 2030’s public-engagement process continuing into the fall.