Year One: Milestones and Progress

Just over a year ago, Mayor Walsh launched the Boston Creates Cultural plan, a ten-year plan to strengthen cultural vitality in Boston and weave arts and culture into the fabric of everyday life. Today, we wanted to share an update on what has been accomplished to date and the vision for year two.

Over the past twelve months, we’ve focused on a few key strategies, including supporting the work of individual artists, ensuring that city government is fully supportive of the cultural sector, and creating more spaces for arts and cultural throughout the city.  We’ve accomplished a lot and you can find a full list here.  Some of the highlights include:

The launch of a Percent for Art Program

Designed to fund permanent public art in municipal construction projects, the Percent for Art Program will have a FY18 budget of $1.7 million dollars. In May, we announced a call for artists for public art at the Jamaica Plain Branch of the Boston Public Library, the first project announced under this program.  Next up, we’ll announce a call for artists at the Dudley Square Branch Library as part of the building’s upcoming renovation.

Demonstrated Support for Local Artists

We want to keep artists in Boston – and that means we need to invest in artists and make City government more accessible.  To this end, a series of grants for artists were introduced including: the Boston Opportunity Fund, a monthly grant program for individual artists for specific needs; a fellowship program offering individual unrestricted grants to provide artists the resources they need to dedicate their time to their work; and a series of matched savings grants and professional development workshops to artists in Boston. To date, more than $150,000 has been granted to over 80 individual artists. Additionally, in March, the Mayor appointed an Artist Resource Manager to serve as a liaison to local artists.

Addressing Space Issues

We know that performance and rehearsal spaces continue to be a challenge for artists and arts organizations. In the upcoming weeks, the Boston Planning and Development Agency will release the Performing Arts Facilities Assessment, commissioned in response to the Boston Creates process, detailing the supply and demand for performing arts rehearsal and performance space. In the short term, the City of Boston debuted the Alternative Space Pilot Program, which collaborates with local companies and organizations including AT&T and Mass Eye & Ear to provide free rehearsal space to several organizations.

The Boston Artist in Residence Program (AIR) expanded significantly. Today, 10 Boston artists are working in Boston Centers for Youth and Families around the City. As artists in residence, they have been engaging diverse populations in cultural expression and infusing BCYF with new ideas about the role of the arts in their centers and in their neighborhoods.

We are thrilled to see momentum in the cultural sector and many efforts outside of City Government show strong alignment with goals of the Boston Creates plan. A few examples are:

  • The ICA and Massport have partnered to create The Watershed, an ambitious new space for visual art in East Boston that will offer free admission, and will open in 2018.
  • The Dance Alliance, the Lyric Stage Company and The Boston Foundation have formed a partnership to provide dancers with affordable rehearsal space.
  • The Pao Arts Center in Chinatown opened, offering residents the opportunity to connect with Chinese culture, traditional and contemporary arts, and a variety of classes from Bunker Hill Community College.
  • A section of Roxbury was designated a cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, making it the third cultural district in the city, alongside the Literary District and the Fenway Cultural District.  
  • The Boston Foundation in partnership with the Barr Foundation launched the Live Arts Boston grant, allowing performing artists to create new works and embark on creative risk-taking.
  • The Klarman Family Foundation, in partnership with the Massachusetts Cultural Council, launched the Music Educators and Teaching Artists Fellowship Pilot Program to strengthen the youth music training sector.


The accomplishments of the first year are a testament to the leadership of Mayor Walsh.  And as we look ahead to year two, we want to capitalize on this momentum, pivoting to take on more complex issues and work with more external partners.  Some of the upcoming initiatives will include responding to the performing arts facilities assessment; partnering with the Boston Foundation to carry out a cultural equity study; implementing the first of three arts innovation districts in Upham's Corner; and working closely with key partners to think carefully about long-term stewardship of the plan.

Thank you for continuing to support the Boston Creates effort. We look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve the goals of the plan.



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