Arts plan for Boston moves closer to completion

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BOSTON – Organizers of City Hall’s cultural planning initiative, Boston Creates, reached out for feedback on a draft plan to develop and sustain Boston’s diverse arts community over the next decade, pushing toward a release of the final version next month.

Headed by Julie Burros, the chief of the city’s office of arts and culture, the plan was outlined after months of meetings with community members at local events, starting with the Boston Creates Town Hall in June 2015. The staff pooled the collected data and inputs to find the areas of greatest concern for the community, and created a plan that focuses on a reasonable approach to Boston’s cultural needs.

“The plan was created with a lot of public engagement,” Burros said in an interview. “We had and incredible amount of engagement from the community, from the committee and a 60-person leadership council.”

“We put forward some goals, strategies and tactics and asked the public to take a look to make sure we got it right,” she said. Burros, a former cultural planning director for Chicago who Boston Mayor Marty Walsh hired two years ago to “elevate Boston’s arts and culture profile.” One of the plan’s goals, as stated in the draft, is to “keep artists in Boston and attracting new ones here.”

Burros said she hopes that the emerging plan is “deeply reflective of the needs of Boston,” and noted that so far, “we’ve been getting a tremendous amount of support” from the community. In particular, she added, there’s been “a lot of excitement about support for individual artists, and great feedback about the desire to support the infrastructure of the arts sector.”

The city put the draft plan online using the website to provide a simple and easy way for people to read it and make comments. The comment period ended Monday at 5 p.m.

The city’s first goal is to “create fertile ground for a vibrant and sustainable arts and culture ecosystem,” according to the city’s message accompanying the plan posted on Medium. Boston Creates currently expects to foster partnerships within the creative community, and to find ways the city can help cultural institutions. For example, it aims to “review and streamline municipal policies and procedures affecting arts and cultural uses.”

The plan also seeks to support individual artists with grants, creating an Artists Resource Desk at City Hall as a support resource, and to take note of city-owned buildings and spaces that could be repurposed for the arts. One overarching goal is to develop ways to deal with “fundamental issues of infrastructure, equity and inclusion, and leadership in, and for, arts and culture in Boston,” according to the preface of the draft document.

The plan strives to show how Boston “values artists: by enabling them to live in vibrant and sustaining communities, do and showcase their best and most innovative work, continue to grow and develop throughout their careers, and be supported by the city,” the preface continues. Also, it seeks to demonstrate how the city “celebrates diversity in all forms, inspiring and empowering all Bostonians to discover their creative capacities and pathways and to express their individual and cultural identities.”

The cost of living, particularly living and working space, has relentlessly squeezed local artists, and combined with a relatively limited number of opportunities to engage creative talents to make a living has led many to leave for places like New York and Los Angeles.

Most of the feedback has been positive, praising the “tremendous amount of work and good ideas,” Burros said, while adding that one frequent criticism has been about the draft’s lack of specifics. She said that issue will be addressed in the revisions of the plan.

“We’ve heard the need for more details and always intended for this plan to be more specific,” she said.

Starting Tuesday, her office will begin to comb through the comments and compile them before then launching an extensive review and revision of the draft plan. They intend to present a completed plan to the community next month.