Boston arts-culture policy
One of the commitments made by Martin Walsh during his 2013 campaign for Mayor of Boston was the creation of a dedicated Commissioner for Arts and Cultural Affairs. After a search, the Mayor chose Julie Barros, who was working for the City of Chicago and ran the Chicago Cultural Plan creation process in 2012 ("Walsh Names Chicagoan To Be Boston's Arts Czar," WBUR).
She starts this week.
In advance of her arrival, the Boston Globe ran a special section on Sunday, "Growing Boston’s arts scene," leading with an editorial ("Making arts policy a priority") and bolstered by 12 follow up articles authored by arts, creative, culture workers and advocates, about various elements of the culture scene in the city, providing advice on where Commissioner and the city should focus their efforts.
From the article:
... [arts are] an essential component of the state’s quality of life. The Massachusetts arts community encompasses roughly 6,000 arts and cultural organizations that support more than 45,000 jobs. A report last summer by ArtsBoston showed that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations boost the Boston economy alone by $1 billion every year. Arts education has been shown to improve student performance across the disciplines and to transform troubled schools. And it is impossible to imagine the turnarounds in economically distressed cities like Pittsfield, North Adams, and Lowell without investment in the arts.Note that the above-cited WBUR article provides a good overview of the state of the city's involvement in arts and culture. And their follow up piece, "Who Should Be The Mayor's Arts Czar? Our Nominees," outlining particularly outstanding leaders of area arts organizations and initiatives is useful background too.
As Boston welcomes its new arts czar, the creative community weighs in on Massachusetts’ potential.
As mentioned in the editorial, arts-based revitalization has been key to the improvement of former industrial towns in Western Massachusetts that have been bypassed by the shift to the post-industrial economy and the offshoring of manufacturing jobs. Pittsfield and North Adams are best practice examples--the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is in North Adams. MassMOCA has been in the news ("Mass MoCA Partners With Major Contemporary Artists," New York Times) based on an announcement of coming expansions of an already large facility that reuses an old factory complex ("Gov. Deval Patrick heralds final phase of Mass MoCA renovation," Berkshire Eagle).
This story has also been told in an now older documentary (Downside UP: How art can change the spirit of a place).
Pittsfield was an early innovator in creating a storefront revival program by engaging artists and displaying art--although the program shut down a few years ago after a 10 year run and many great successes, and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts was one of the first colleges to open an off campus art gallery (Gallery 51) in a community downtown, which tightens the connection between the college and the town in terms of activation.
This 2007 blog entry linked to a couple important articles about Mass MOCA, how it came about and its impact (although the CNN article seems to be lost to the ether).
The Center for Creative Community Development in Williamstown, Mass. does research and publishing on the economic impact of the arts in smaller communities. It looks like they have some interesting publications, including on the impact of clustering arts organizations and the impact of museums on their neighborhoods.
These are good examples for DC, in terms of the local paper covering important local matters, especially in arts and culture, having a high level "cabinet" position for arts and culture, and the need for a comprehensive city cultural plan, something that I raised yesterday in a meeting about the rehabilitation and redevelopment of the city's central library.