By Beth Treffeisen
Summer in the city has been a big season for art in Boston.
Starting the season off in June was the unveiling of the Boston Creates Cultural Plan, a ten-year outline that aimed to elevate arts and culture in the city while integrate the arts into the everyday life of Bostonians.
The plan outlines five goals to be achieved within ten years. The summary outlines both long and short term plans to retain and enhance the arts and culture within the city.
The visioning process behind creating the plan took over a year and cost $1.4 million. They garnered feedback from over 5,000 Boston residents and visitors through town hall meetings; interviews, community conversations and surveys in order to create a plan that aligns with what people believe the arts should look like here in the future.
To learn where the plan has taken the Office of Arts and Culture two months after its release, the Boston Sun sat down with the Chief of Arts and Culture, Julie Burros to find out what’s happening now and what is on tap for the months to come.
After the plan was released the Office of Arts and Culture announced several key initiatives that they are moving forward with.
Opportunity Fund was launched in early August with a design to support individual artists in activities that help them share their work with the public or teachers as they continue their professional development and hone their skills.
“We think artists should be supported with the opportunity to show their work along with actual financial support,” said Burros. “We know that there is a tremendous need out there.”
The fund will provide $1,000 on a monthly basis. Up to $10,000 in funding will be available each month to support specific needs such as materials, profession development and more.
Burros believes the fund will help artists when they need it. A small investment grant she said can help artists take advantage of the change to showcase their artwork or learn a new skill.
In another effort to help artists navigate the city’s resources, Burros has put out a job opening for a new point person at city hall to answer any questions residents have.
While attending an event at Roxbury’s Innovation Café Burros said she came across an artist who needed help finding a space outdoors to perform. She told herself ‘this is exactly why we are creating the artist resource position!’
“He told the very familiar take of red tape,” said Burros who has heard this complaint from a lot of people. “City Hall can be confusing.”
By having a single point of entry it will make it easier for residents to have questions answered on subjects such as permits, opportunities, and more at a level of customer service that can be found elsewhere at the city such as in the Office of Neighborhood Services.
During this position they will be collecting data to create a frequently asked questions page and learn how to better help the greatest needs of artists in Boston.
One of the biggest needs that the city has been working on is creating and retaining affordable housing here in Boston for artists.
“We know that artists have been gentrified out of neighborhood after, neighborhood, after neighborhood in Boston,” said Burros. “As the neighborhoods changed and developed one of the major important things is to maintain the buildings that artists already inhabit.”
Working with the Boston Housing Authority Burros said they really want to create buildings where artists can live but are unsure what kind of housing that they will want.
In partnership ArtMorpheus, an impact-driven non-profit that empowers artists and creative entrepreneurs to develop, flourish and innovate and the New York Foundation for the Arts, they are working on a survey to quantify the demand on what artists want.
Burros believes by creating Boston Creates is has allowed for this collaboration where everyone is on the same page, working together, and not duplicating efforts to create a maximized outcome.
In Boston, Burros believes that is not always the case.
“One of the challenges with Boston’s art scene is that there isn’t any one arts organization that sort of organizes and supports artists,” she said. The dancers have one group and the writers another.
In the future she hopes that the Office of Arts and Culture can partner with more artist groups in order to better support their needs.
In regards to getting feedback on the plan she said people like how it is very comprehensive and really reflects the different sectors in Boston. Burros added that many people enjoyed seeing where they fit within it and offered how they could help to bring it into reality.
“Some people I say apply for the job,” Burros joked. “Others offer very specific ideas for artists and organize in a group.”
Burros is excited to partner and align with more groups heading into the future.
With more research about creating equity with the arts throughout the city coming in the fall she said, “We’ve been busy – we’ve had a super busy two months but we have tons more coming down the pike to look forward to.”
In terms of achieving these goals she said, “What I see now is real pockets of energy and excitement. There are arts happening in really high levels in some parts of the city but not all over.”
She continued that right now many people assume that if you say you are an artist it is assumed that you live in a specific neighborhood like Jamaica Plain.
“I want to make sure that it isn’t just that the arts are part of one part of the city but part of the life in every part of the city,” Burros said. “We know that there are hidden gems all over but we want to polish them, lift them up and shine a light on them so that there are lot’s of opportunity all over the city.”