What do the candidates running for mayor of Boston propose for arts and culture in the city? I reviewed the websites of the five major candidates seeking to be elected to mayor this fall following the appointment of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as U.S. Secretary of Labor. According to their own websites (as of Aug. 17) and in their own words, here is what the candidates (in alphabetical order) plan:
“Arts and Culture” are highlighted on Barros’s “Issues” page, which links to a robust “Arts and Culture” webpage, which begins:
“John knows the arts and artists are a fundamental element of the fabric of our city. Artists build bridges, tell our stories, and help us understand and describe the world around us. John pledges that, as Mayor of Boston, he will invest in the arts and culture in ways that make the city renowned for arts leadership. He will work to expand economic opportunity through the arts, reduce barriers to affordable work and live spaces for artists, and transform City government into an engine of arts growth.
“John is an artist himself, and truly believes in nurturing creative talent in our young people to help build careers, celebrate our culture and diversity, and bolster our economy. As an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, John led the Black Underground Theatre Association and served as the editor of the Black Praxis, the Black student newspaper. And still today, John plays drums in his church band, is an audio engineer, and spends quality time with his children during piano and violin lessons.
“With John as Boston’s mayor, the arts and artists will be celebrated, supported and treated as a valuable resource and a necessity. John knows the value of embedding arts in community building and placemaking, and will help build a more vibrant and inclusive Boston.”
The page lists his arts record and details priorities (see his website for full details), including:
“Create and strengthen resources to embed arts and cultural space into our built environment,” “Design new workforce development opportunities to diversify the sector and create career pathways,” and “Provide resources and build capacity for arts and culture organizations and creative businesses.”
Elsewhere on Barros’s website, the “Neighborhood Economic Development” page says:
“As Chief of Economic Development, John partnered with the community to create plans in different neighborhoods that captured the community’s vision and desires for the future of their neighborhood, such as Plan Nubian Square and the Uphams Corner Arts and Innovation Implementation Plan.”
Arts and culture are not listed on Campbell’s “Vision” page.
But her “Economy” page includes:
“Protect our creative economy. From artists and musicians to museums and concert halls, Boston is rich with talent and creativity. These individuals and institutions are an indispensable piece of the City’s lifeblood and have helped establish Boston as a regional and national hub of creative energy. As one of the industries hardest hit, they deserve extra resources and support through the pandemic. But this is about more than protecting current artists and resources — it is about expanding Boston’s arts and culture community throughout our neighborhoods and across creative mediums. In 2019, Andrea organized the launch of the first Mattapan Jazz & Unity Festival, bringing Boston’s rich cultural resources to a neighborhood often overlooked. As Mayor, Andrea will support dedicated arts and cultural sub-districts in target neighborhoods to preserve and enhance our cultural community. She will prioritize and protect artist and performance spaces being threatened by displacement, promote the expansion of public art, and connect our arts and cultural institutions to our public schools, seniors, and business community.”
Annissa Essaibi George
Arts and culture are not listed among Essaibi George’s “On the Issues.”
But her page about “Education & Child Care” includes:
“Ensure that every school has … arts programming.” And “In addition to rigorous academics, we must ensure access to enrichment opportunities for lifelong success including … arts and music …”
“Continue to update the art education curriculum to teach students about systems of race, class, and gender and develop their critical-thinking skills with the goal to increase civic engagement and improve racial and cultural equity.
“Ensure equitable access to arts education and celebrate diversity through arts education by supporting art teachers with ample equipment and resources and partnering with non-profit organizations that promote youth in the arts and empowers traditionally underserved students”
On her webpage listing her accomplishments, Essaibi George mentions: “Building and updating schools across the City …. Recently the Council approved a new facility for the Boston Arts Academy to be constructed at the current site.”
Arts and culture are not listed on Janey’s “On the Issues” webpage.
But her “Economic Development” tab, includes: “We have institutions in higher education and health care, in finance and consulting, in the arts and technology, that are setting the standards in their fields. … As Mayor, I have already … Provided 152 arts and cultural organizations with grants totaling $487,000 through the Boston Cultural Council.”
And some news announcements address arts and culture:
June 26: “Acting Mayor Kim Janey on Tuesday announced plans to use a sizable chunk of federal COVID-19 relief funding earmarked for Boston on a number of key priorities as the city works to recover from the pandemic. … $14.5 million that Janey said will address ‘the economic impact of the pandemic on food access, tourism, arts and culture and housing,’ plus $15.5 million earmarked for small businesses hurt by the crisis.”
Also on June 26: “Artists can apply for city’s ‘Joy Agenda’ opportunities”
“Arts & Culture” are highlighted on Wu’s “Issues” / “Policy Platform” webpage, which says:
“Growing up, the arts were central to Michelle’s immigrant family, grounding her in culture, heritage, and community. In her time as City Councilor, Michelle has served as Chair of the Arts, Culture & Special Events committee and helped oversee the formation of several of Boston’s cultural districts, as well as the Boston Creates plan. As Mayor, Michelle will be a champion for Boston’s diverse, vibrant arts and cultural sector that stretches across each of our city’s neighborhoods. Michelle will lead a coordinated approach to center Boston’s arts and culture sector for community connection, racial reconciliation, and civic meaning.”
This links to a robust “Arts & Culture” webpage, which begins:
“Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our local artists and arts institutions—from Boston’s world renowned museums to grassroots nonprofit organizations—have struggled to survive, often cobbling together resources from the city, state, and private partners to sustain local jobs and create meaningful cultural experiences for Boston residents and tourists alike. The challenges cut across the entire city: a lack of affordable rehearsal, studio and performance space; unstable labor conditions for artists in the gig economy or employed in contract work; racial segregation that perpetuates inequities; and a siloed approach to public policy that fails to build on artists’ contributions to civic life. As Boston emerges from the pandemic, Michelle will invest in our arts and culture sector, recognizing that arts are central not only to our economic recovery, but also our psychological and emotional healing.
The webpage identifies “what we’ve done together so far” for the arts, and details priorities (see her website for full details), including: “Empowering artists to help communities heal,” “Implementing a sustainable, equitable revenue source for the arts,” “Reforming PILOT to stabilize arts and cultural institutions,” “Expanding access to cultural institutions through a Boston Municipal ID,” “Creating space for arts and culture,” “Infusing arts leadership across City government,” and “Guaranteeing arts funding as foundational school funding,”
Elsewhere in Wu’s site, her “A Community Vision for Boston’s Students and Families” says:
“Universal access to robust arts education, athletic programming, and other enrichment opportunities is a critical component of a holistic approach to child development.” And proposes: “More resources for extracurricular programs, with foundational arts funding for programming through graduation and an increased BPS athletics budget to expand the number of sports offered.”
And a news announcement from May 25 says:
“Michelle Wu Calls for Summer of Play: Wu calls for arts and culture focus with open play streets, block parties and investment in placemaking for a joyful, healing summer”
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