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Exploring Resilience and Racial Equity Through Art

The new year is upon us, and with that comes a heightened desire for change. When Mayor Walsh gave his second inaugural address to a crowded audience in the Cutler Majestic Theater on January 1, he outlined his goals for his next four years as mayor, which spanned from improving schools through the BuildBPS program, providing 20,000 new jobs to low-income residents by 2022 with the Boston Hires campaign, and creating 50,000 new homes by 2030. One of the things that I am most excited for in 2018 is the City’s focus on exploring resilience and racial equity.

Last month, Mayor Walsh held his second Boston Talks About Race Forum at Northeastern University, where the public was invited to ask him about his plans for addressing the many issues revolving around race and racism in the City of Boston. If you missed it, you can watch the video here. The dialogue was proof that change needs to be made, and change needs to be made quickly.

Boston Talks About Race Forum

Mayor Walsh speaking at the Boston Talks About Race Forum

That’s why the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture is so excited to announce our next round of artists selected to participate in Boston AIR, the City’s artist-in-residence program. The seven artists represent a wide variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, artistic mediums, and cultural knowledge. The artists will be based at BCYF locations all throughout the City, and will conduct a year-long residency project that explores the theme of resilience and racial equity. This is exactly what we need in Boston right now--and I can’t wait to see the impact each artist’s project has on the larger community. D. Farai Williams, one of the AIRs who specializes in theater, said, “Historically Boston has been known as a very racially traumatizing space, and I want to shift that idea about who we are as a city, idea about who we are as the people who live in this city, because we have what it takes to shift this. If people were at the root of creating it, then people will be at the root of dismantling it.”

Boston AIR 2018 Artists

Boston AIR 2018 Artists with Mayor Walsh, Chief Julie Burros, and Boston AIR Director Karin Goodfellow

Another extremely exciting update that coincides well with this increased focus on racial equity is that the City is currently working with MLK Boston to create a memorial honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King to Boston. This is a long overdue project, and it’s great to see that Boston will be recognizing two people whose work and lives continue to inspire so many of us. The deadline to respond to the RFQ is February 8, 2018. I encourage all local artists to explore this project, which will ultimately result in the addition of a significant new piece of public art in the City.

Along with the memorial, there are so many great events happening this month in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boston Public Schools hosted their annual MLK celebration on January 11 at the Strand Theatre, and the City of Boston partnered with Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras and the Museum of African American History to present a Day of Celebration in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 15 at Boston University’s Metcalf Hall.  

The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture is looking forward to finding ways to help local artists use their creativity and voices to change the dialogue on race in the City, and make significant strides toward change.

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