Hundreds turn out for City’s first arts master plan meeting

June 12, 2015
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An overflow crowd of more than 300 packed the debut meeting of the City’s new arts and culture master plan on June 2 at English High School in Jamaica Plain.

Financial support for the arts in the past has been mostly private sector, and Boston Creates is the City’s first comprehensive plan to empower local artists and support cultural institutions. The blueprint is in its Community Engagement phase, which will end in October with a “needs analysis.” Adoption and implementation is expected to be complete by June 2016.

Julie Burros, who was the director of the cultural plan for the City of Chicago issued in 2012, has been named Boston’s Chief of Arts and Culture and will play a crucial role in this project. In a speech at the Boston Creates town hall event, she promised that this plan will accelerate ideas, programs, and projects around the city regarding the art community.

Marco Goldring, administrative director of Jamaica Plain’s arts organization Spontaneous Celebrations and cultural consultant for the Boston Creates project, was impressed with the turnout for this initial meeting.

“This was one of the top two or three turnouts for an initial community meeting that I have ever seen,” he said. “The energy and enthusiasm was really striking and it seems off to a really good start.”

Goals of Boston Creates are to develop Boston’s shared vision for its creative future, engage diverse elements of Boston’s population, and strive for cultural competency, among others. However, these goals haven’t been specifically outlined yet, and the town hall meeting was one of the first brainstorming and community input sessions outlined in the planning process of the plan.

Mayor Martin Walsh did not appear at the meeting, but Burros said he is the “ultimate owner and leader for this plan.” Walsh has made citywide plans in such fields as transportation and zoning a hallmark of his relatively new administration.

Goldring said it is too early to point to themes of what Boston Creates could actually manifest, but he hopes to see the plan as a way of connecting organizations and combining their strengths.

“We can’t do everything we want to do because of the time involved,” he said. “With a plan that says that it’s the City’s job to facilitate and convene, it will create opportunities for all kinds of people. I can see that really benefiting Jamaica Plain.”

The meeting allowed for small groups of about 20 people to break off and have roundtable discussions about their art and culture vision. In one discussion, funding underscored every local concern, in terms of their accessibility and the enlightened management once they have been allocated to the arts.

The most prevalent concerns were for improving Boston Public Schools art classrooms, affordable housing for artists, and building partnerships across sectors for more cohesive cooperation. Representatives from BPS emphasized that art is “not an extra, and shouldn’t be considered a bonus” when it comes to budgeting.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to do something that is inclusive that’s not limited to just the MFA [Museum of Fine Arts] or ICA [Institute for Contemporary Art] or other big art institutions in Boston,” said Goldring.  “I’m not saying those aren’t important, but this plan is really about people who play music on their front porch or who make creative and amazing food in their own kitchens.”

Engagement with the community will continue with “Community Team” meetings around the city and discussion through social media. Boston Creates also involves a community survey, launching July 6 at BostonCreates.org.

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