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Boston Creates and Boston AIR 2.0

Now that the Boston Creates plan has been released, we’ve shifted our work to focus on implementing the plan. At the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture,  we’ve just released the call for artists for the second round of Boston AIR, our artist in residence program within City government. The name Boston AIR refers to “Artists-In-Residence” but it’s also a nod to our desire to do things differently in City Hall – that working with artists will bring a breath of fresh air to government. The name is aspirational as well: putting artists at the forefront of our work in Boston should be as common as the air that we breathe.

In the Boston Creates plan, one of the goals is to “integrate arts and culture into all aspects of civic life.” To achieve this goal, we want to change City policymaking and practice to integrate creative thinking into the work of every municipal department and all planning efforts. One of the first programs to do this is Boston AIR.

Everyone agrees that there’s lots of room for improvement with our public agencies.  There is so much potential that can be realized by bringing in the creative thinking and innovative approaches from artists in a variety of disciplines into the day to day work of government. An encouraging aspect of our first foray into this work is the overwhelming receptivity among our fellow City agencies and colleagues. Not many of them would call themselves “artists” but through Boston AIR, we are finding that there are some very creative people in City government, and they have welcomed the opportunity to approach their work in new, collaborative ways.

The Boston AIR pilot is culminating with  three residencies.

L’Merchie Frazier is in residence with the Office of Women’s Advancement and the Office of Recovery Services.  Her project Where Women Succeed: The Quilted Path is a multi-disciplinary and public fiber art project designed to increase resources and awareness of women who are recovering from substance abuse, taking steps towards achieving the Mayor’s vision for a thriving, healthy and innovative Boston.

Georgie Friedman is in residence with the Department of Neighborhood Development and the Parks and Recreation Department.  She is working on a large-scale installation that will project video of natural elements on to existing architecture in areas in need of revitalization.  Her work is creating a bridge between municipal government and community organizations interested in improving their neighborhood with public art.

Finally, Shaw Pong Liu is in residence with the Boston Police Department, experimenting with ways that collaborative music-making can create a different kind of time, connection and space for healing and dialogue around the topics of gun violence, race and law enforcement practices.  

People are paying attention to what is happening here in Boston.  Earlier this year, PBS host Tavis Smiley brought his One Great Idea tour to Boston and featured the City of Boston’s AIR program.  You can watch his interview with Shaw Pong Liu and L’Merchie Frazier here.  

The second round of Boston AIR will focus on the Boston Centers for Youth and Families. Our hope is that Boston AIR will not only transform the work of BCYF agency-wide but to also have an impact on ten specific centers that will host the residencies. Because BCYF serves such a diverse population from early childhood, to school age children and teens, all the way through seniors, we know that the residencies can play a role in inspiring all Bostonians to value, practice and reap the benefits of creativity in their individual lives and in their communities.

The application for Boston AIR artists is due on July 24th. Please help us reach the talented creatives who might be a fit for this work by sharing this call. Thanks for your ongoing support of Boston Creates.

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