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Authentic Civic Participation

What is the cultural identity we have, and what is the cultural identity we want to have? Those are the two questions I brought to the Boston Creates Leadership Council. Since my work as executive director of the New England Foundation for the Arts engages with creative communities all across New England, I’m hoping to share ideas, strategies and results from Boston’s process with NEFA’s constituents in the region.

Jane Jacobs, urbanist and activist, said a city is a place where you can feel safe among strangers. What connects us to one another, what allows us to feel witnessed for who we are, to be part of a reciprocal relationship of participation and delight?

I’m excited about the conversations that Boston Creates is inspiring – concentric Cathy_Edwards_Blog.JPGcircles of voices, and a democratic approach that values the conversation and an expansive approach to participation. At this week’s Leadership Council meeting we learned that over 2,500 people have completed the Boston Creates survey, and that 118 community conversations have happened in 16 Boston neighborhoods – so far!

Leadership Council conversations have been encouraging of big and aspirational thinking.

My hopes relate to the creation of urban cultural hubs -- sites to make, learn, perform and exhibit -- in neighborhoods all over the city, and a sense of connectivity between them. And, I hope for a commitment to resources dedicated to artists so that we don’t lose the creative urgency of having artists embedded in our city.

It is people who claim space, become visible, and change a city. I’m thrilled that an authentic civic participation is characterizing the Boston Creates planning process, and that Boston is seizing this opportunity to reimagine itself as a city of creative opportunity, excellence, and participation.

Cathy Edwards is Executive Director of New England Foundation for the Arts.  Photo Credit: Michael Moore

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