Performing arts space survey begins as city wraps up study

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BOSTON – An online survey, part of City Hall’s Boston Creates initiative, will take stock of the Hub’s performing arts venues and the needs of local arts organizations, according to a statement Tuesday from the mayor’s office.

The survey will be used to create a comprehensive report on the challenges and opportunities facing Boston performing arts community. It comes as several of the city’s premier venues face questions about whether they will continue to operate, including the Colonial Theater downtown and the Boston University Theater in Back Bay, according to American Theatre.

“As the performing arts landscape in Boston continues to evolve, it is important to have a clear understanding of the assets that exist within the city so we can quantify the needs that exist within the performing arts ecosystem,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement announcing the survey. He encouraged members of the community members to participate in the canvassing.

The survey targets members of the performing arts community, including those who provide rehearsal and performance space as well as those who use them. The objective is to help the city produce a report on “challenges and opportunities” facing the performing arts community, as part of the Boston Creates cultural planning process, according to the statement.

Emerson College announced last year that it would close the century-old Colonial on Boylston Street for at least a year, and has studied the possibility of retiring the landmark theater and using the building for other purposes. Earlier this month, the school announced that it would not use the theater as a student dining hall, WGBH reported, and indicated plans to renovate the performance space would be developed.

The BU Theater, which has housed the Tony award-winning Huntington Theater Company for over three decades, was put up for sale by the university last fall. What will happen there remains to be seen, though productions in the space continue.

Citigroup has also announced plans to drop its sponsorship of the Citi Performing Arts Center on Tremont Street a few blocks from the Colonial, raising questions about its future as well.

Amid the turbulence, Walsh’s economic development chief, John Barros, has openly speculated over whether the city has “too many seats” in performing arts spaces, according to the New England Cable News channel. Barros told NECN that City Hall’s assessment will look at “what’s available in Boston, and maybe what we might need and what we might have less of in Boston.”

The assessment will focus in part on “the venues that we have and the venues that we don’t have, to think about how the development boom could be leveraged to create the kind of venues that can make Boston a really exciting arts and cultural city,” Barros said, according to NECN.

Walsh launched the planning effort in April 2015 to create a blueprint for arts and cultural activities in the city. Efforts include engaging residents, visitors, and stakeholders to help local government identify cultural needs.

The survey process will go on for about two weeks, culminating in a 6 p.m. town hall-style meeting for the community March 28 at Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown.