Kara Elliott-Ortega was today named the Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston. Ortega has held the job in an interim capacity since Julie Burros departed in June after three and a half years in the job. Elliott-Ortega has been a planner and policy director for arts for the city for three years.

“I have found it very helpful to be someone who has done community organizing in the past,” Elliott-Ortega told ArtPlace America in an interview from this spring (I think, the date on the website is incorrect). “I have the arts and municipal perspective, but I also understand what the community is asking for, which is to think holistically about what community engagement and the project.”

Update Sept. 1:

Elliott-Ortega’s three years with the city represent most of her leadership and management experience, according to her resume on Linkedin.

After studying English literature and human rights at the University of Chicago, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 2010, she was on staff at the Chicago web publication Gapers Block for year, then was a media and communications editor for the Society of Architectural Historians in Chicago for three years.

While pursuing a master’s degree in city/urban, community and regional planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2013 to ’15, Elliott-Ortega had a 2014 summer internship working with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events on the city’s 2012 cultural plan, her Linkedin profile says. Her internship there overlapped with Burros, who served as director of cultural planning in Chicago’s cultural department for more than 15 years before becoming Boston’s arts chief in late 2014 and was involved in developing and implementing Chicago’s cultural plan.

In October 2015, after graduating from MIT, Elliott-Ortega followed Burros into Boston city government, landing her job as director of planning and policy in for Boston’s Office of Arts and Culture.


May 25, 2018: Boston Needs To Make Art, Not Just Consume It
May 18, 2018: Boston Arts Chief Julie Burros Leaving After 3.5 Years

Full press release from the city below:


BOSTON – Wednesday, August 29, 2018 – Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the appointment of Kara Elliott-Ortega as Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston. Elliott-Ortega most recently served as Interim Chief of Arts and Culture and, prior, worked as the Director of Planning and Policy in the Arts cabinet for three years, playing a leadership role in the development and implementation of Boston Creates, the City’s cultural plan.

“Over the past several years, Kara has demonstrated an extremely strong dedication to better serving local artists, generating more support for the arts sector, and developing partnerships to enhance the arts throughout the City of Boston,” said Mayor Walsh. “She played an integral role throughout the Boston Creates cultural planning process and I look forward to seeing her continue to work diligently toward accomplishing the goals of the Boston Creates cultural plan.”

As leader of the the City’s Arts and Culture cabinet, Elliott-Ortega will work to create a vehicle through which the city can increase diversity and inclusion in the arts, seek grants and sponsorship opportunities, and secure funding and support for Boston’s arts community. In addition, she will continuing to lead the implementation of action items identified in Boston Creates.

“The City of Boston has made significant strides toward accomplishing the goals outlined in Boston Creates and enhancing Boston’s arts sector,” said Elliott-Ortega. “I have enjoyed witnessing Boston evolve into a municipal arts leader, and am very excited to continue to accomplish the City’s vision for arts and culture.”

As Chief, Elliott-Ortega will oversee the staff of the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, the Boston Art Commission, Boston Cultural Council and the Strand Theatre. It is the primary responsibility of the office to support and grow the arts in Boston across all artistic disciplines, from theater to dance, to the visual arts to public art.

“I am eager to work more closely with Kara on expanding access to the arts and supporting the exemplary cultural community that is so vital to the quality of life and competitiveness of Boston,” said Jill Medvedow, Executive Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art.

“I have gotten to know Kara over the last couple of years and I consider her both a trusted colleague and a good friend,” said Kathleen Bitetti, artist and curator. “I look forward to supporting her as the new Chief of Arts and Culture. Not only will she continue the incredible work she has been doing ensure that the Boston Creates plan is fully implemented, but she will also dream up new ways to further the goal of making our city a great place for the arts and artists to thrive.”

“In Kara Elliott-Ortega, Mayor Walsh has made a great choice for Boston’s Arts + Culture Chief. She has both the vision and the on-the-ground experience to engage with the cultural community and navigate the pathways of City Hall,” said Catherine Peterson, Executive Director of ArtsBoston. “Kara understands that Boston’s arts and cultural sector is an important contributor to the economy, a vital quality of life factor making Boston an attractive destination for businesses considering relocating here, and critical in making Boston a more equitable city by elevating voices and sharing stories that build a more unified community. She can advocate for our presence at the table when the arts community can provide value, and encourage her colleagues to help us access new resources, so we can be a part of the solution in driving the change we need.”

“Kara is a great ally of Boston’s Latin Quarter as she has provided guidance and support at every stage in the development of this cultural district,” said Celina Miranda, Executive Director of the Hyde Square Task Force. “Her keen awareness of the intersection of arts, culture and community make her uniquely qualified to be the Chief of Arts and Culture.”

“I am truly excited and overjoyed that Kara Elliott-Ortega will serve as the Chief of Arts & Culture for the City of Boston,” said Catherine T. Morris, Founder & Executive Director of Boston Art & Music Soul (BAMS) Fest. “Her compassion and determination to ensure that voices are heard, and resources, people and spaces are available to all.. is truly a testament to hear character as well as complements the vibrancy, talent and common thread that connects our neighborhoods. I both support and hold Kara accountable because she is in this fight with us.”

Since the office was first established by Mayor Walsh in 2014, it has fostered the growth and well-being of the cultural community and promoted participation in the arts. Recognizing the importance of creativity across all policy areas, the cabinet works to promote access to arts and culture to all residents, making Boston a municipal arts leader. Key areas of work include supporting the cultural sector through grants and programs, as well as the production and permitting of art in public places.

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Categories: Art