On April 9, 2015, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh launched Boston Creates, an 18-month assessment of the city’s cultural health that will culminate in a long-range Arts and Culture Plan for Boston. Supported locally by both the Barr Foundation and the Klarman Family Foundation, the project will draw heavily on private funding both in the research stage and in its execution. Julie Burros, Boston’s new Chief of Arts and Culture, heads this effort. She has been assembling a broad-ranging team of community-based advisers and outside consultants to assess the needs of Boston’s many arts communities and to recommend “best practices.”
In June through September, she will be conducting extensive neighborhood and community focus groups throughout the city with stakeholders large and small. A preliminary draft will be aired at a “Town Meeting” in January, and she will deliver the final report next June. Her office will then direct the plan’s implementation and coordinate its recommendations with other city departments.
Having directed Chicago’s much larger planning process through to completion in 2012, Burros was a natural choice for the job. Though Boston is much smaller in size (only 21st among American cities) its regional density ranks it sixth among
combined statistical areas. Both Boston’s higher rate of population growth and its unique mix of employment will influence its decisions about priorities in the arts.
After Mayor Walsh’s announcement, Artscope Magazine’s Elizabeth Michelman sat down with Burros to talk with her about Boston Creates and the city’s long-range cultural plan.
WHAT WILL BE THE BOUNDARIES OF BOSTON’S ARTS AND CULTURE PLAN?
The Department of Arts and Culture can only do grantmaking within the City of Boston, but we know the arts ecosystem traverses the city’s boundaries. We’re very eager to have stakeholders from outside the city, involved in our leadership committee, participate in our process and come up with implementation mechanisms. We recognize that city money has to stop at the borders, but other funding mechanisms might flow across the borders.
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT PROVIDING TRAINING AND SUPPORT TO HELP SMALL ORGANIZATIONS DEVELOP MORE SOPHISTICATED STRATEGIC PLANNING?
I think you’re talking about “capacitybuilding,” which a lot of the foundations in town are already supporting. The Bloomberg Foundation — which just gave us a grant for this — is focused on capacity building and helping organizations become more sustainable. They work with the University of Maryland’s De Vos Institute of Arts Management — who used to be at the Kennedy Center — in supporting leaders of arts non-profits, typically creative persons who morphed into an executive director role. These people often have to wear many hats, none of which quite fits for the roles they play. De Vos worked with small arts organizations in Chicago, so it’s thrilling news that Bloomberg is also investing so heavily in the city of Boston.