I was excited to join the Mayor’s Mural Crew last week as they celebrated their 25th anniversary of beautifying our city. I picked up a paintbrush, and colored in a mural of ballet dancers on the wall of the performing arts center on Blue Hill Avenue. As I painted in the outlines alongside the talented Mural Crew, I was reminded of what an exciting summer it has been for the arts in Boston.
This summer, the city and our Office of Arts and Culture were excited to unveil the Boston Creates Cultural Plan — a ten-year initiative that aims to elevate arts and culture in our city, and integrate them more fully into the everyday life of Bostonians. With this plan, we hope to invigorate Boston’s cultural heritage and create a pipeline for future artists to “make their mark” on our city.
Boston’s legacy is steeped in history, art, and culture. We hold the trophy in cultural firsts: the first public park, public library, public secondary s chool, public school for African-American students, school for visually impaired students, and the oldest performing arts organization in the nation. We are also home to more arts and cultural organizations per capita than any other metropolitan area in the nation. As mayor, it is my goal to harness this innovation and creativity to build a better, healthier, and more thriving city.
Arts and culture are the building blocks of community and help connect us to one another, and we now have the opportunity to make this creativity a distinct piece of our DNA.
We want to help all of our artists thrive and ensure that everyone in our city has equal access to arts and culture. This plan will increase the population of working artists in Boston through economic and social incentives while helping to retain and boost our current creative culture. We’ve created a citywide pilot grant program to fund individual artists, Artists-In-Residence cohorts, and RFP’s for public art installations, as well as other unique programs.
In the beginning of July, we launched The Opportunity Fund, a pilot grant program designed to support individual artists as they continue their professional development and hone their skills. It’s a monthly grant program, and in the first month alone, we received more than 90 applications. We’ll be opening applications again on September 1.
Our first cohort of the Boston Artist-in-Residence (Boston AIR) program closes this summer, and more than 110 applications were submitted by artists who were interested in participating in the second phase of the initiative.
And just last week, we announced the availability of RFPs for the Hyde Square public art project, asking artists and residents to submit their proposals for a public art installation in conjunction with the reconstruction of Hyde Square in the fall of 2017. The project is being funded through a commitment from the Department of Public Works, which allotted $100,000 of the budget for public art.
These are all great examples of how we can integrate arts and culture into aspects of civic life. And we have even more exciting opportunities on the horizon.
In October, the Office of Arts and Culture will host the 2nd Annual Fay Chandler Emerging Art Exhibition. The art will be displayed at Boston City Hall in the Scollay Square Gallery during that month, and will be judged by a jury of Boston art professionals and peers. $5,000 in prizes will be awarded.
Finally, in the next few weeks, we’ll begin accepting applications for the Assets for Artists program that will offer matching grants to artists, coupled with training in money management, business planning, and other professional skills needed for success.
To make sure our Cultural Plan is a success, we’ve formed neighborhood-specific community teams to ensure it reflects the deep diversity of Boston arts and culture. We’re thrilled by the level of engagement so far. More than 5,000 Bostonians came to town hall meetings, filled out surveys, and participated in community conversations, groups, and individual interviews. You have all taught us how we can find better ways to support artists, organizations, and programs. This plan is a true culmination of your efforts.
I invite all Bostonians, and call on leaders in the cultural and creative sectors, to continue the conversation and work together to achieve the goals of this plan. Together, we can show the world what we mean by Boston Creates.
Martin J. Walsh is the mayor of Boston.