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Meet the Mayoral Candidates: Keeping First Night alive

Posted by Joanna Weiss  June 28, 2013 09:17 PM

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Can the mayor of Boston save First Night? And what would Boston be without music and ice sculptures at the turn of the new year? This month, the nonprofit that runs one of Boston's signature celebrations announced that it was shutting down, and Bostonians erupted with nostalgia and concern. Mayor Tom Menino vowed to keep First Night alive, and potential new donors have been calling. But keeping First Night vibrant -- or turning it into something else -- will ultimately be the next mayor's job.

For the second installment of our candidate series, we asked all of the mayoral contenders what -- if anything -- they would do to keep First Night going. Here are their answers, in the order in which they were received, including an Instagram video and some tweets. Do you think First Night is worth preserving? What would you do to change it? Add your thoughts and reactions to the comments or tweet at the hashtag #BostonMayor. And tweet us all summer @BostonComment with suggested questions for the candidates.

John Connolly, @JohnRConnolly
Boston City Councilor

Thumbnail image for johnconnolly.jpgAs mayor, I will work to keep First Night going by increasing the role of local museums and cultural institutions to extend First Night into a mid-winter festival of arts and culture. First Night would serve as the kickoff of the Winter Festival in order to attract more corporate and philanthropic sponsorships seeking longer-term exposure and to provide more opportunities for our community to come together throughout the month of January.

Marty Walsh, @marty_walsh
State Representative

martywalsh.jpgNot only are the arts vital to our community, but they are also an economic driver. As Mayor, I would work to ensure that the City supports our festivals and civic events in ways that allow them to thrive. I applaud Mayor Menino for saying that there will be a First Night this year, but I would like to see more - a wide range of world-class arts and culture festivals throughout the City and throughout the year, and I would work to make this happen. In addition, tourism is one of the largest industries in the City, and we need to develop more reasons for people to come here again and again.

Bill Walczak, @BillWalczak
Community leader

BillWalczak.jpgAs mayor, I would accept nothing less than to continue the wonderful tradition of First Night, founded by artist Clara Wainwright right here in Boston. It delights thousands every year, brings families together, and is part of what makes our city a wonderful place. It has so many components which make it an attraction: the music, plays, dance, ice sculpture, the parade with the giant puppets, the fireworks at both 7pm and midnight. It is both family-friendly and brings people from all around greater Boston to celebrate together as Bostonians. It will continue.

John Barros, @JohnFBarros
Former school board member

johnbarros.jpgFirst Night and events like it are an important part of Boston, for both their economic and cultural benefits. We need to work towards an art renaissance, where a creative economy can thrive. There needs to be strong support for not just First Night, but other organizations and events that encourage creative and innovative thinking. As Mayor I would support strong working partnerships between philanthropic, non-profit and for profit organizations.

Rob Consalvo, @RobConsalvo
Boston City Councilor

Rob Consalvo.jpgBoston is a city rich in art and cultural heritage and First Night is an important annual celebration of the arts community. As mayor, I will work to find ways to continue the tradition of First Night. I believe we can find a way to preserve the First Night tradition by working with corporate partners, individuals, and organizations that support the arts and, if necessary, by taking over the operation. This is an opportunity for the city of Boston to reaffirm its commitment to the arts and support the creative economy that thrives here. We can take this opportunity to make Boston better by promoting the arts and education and developing new partners that will work together to see to it that First Night and the arts in Boston continue to be a vibrant part of the fabric of this community.

Mike Ross, @MikeforBoston
Boston City Councilor

mike_ross_headshot1.jpgBoston needs its own cultural agenda - a multi-year vision that makes us one of the world's premier arts capitals. I'm glad the Mayor stepped up to ensure there will be a First Night this year, but we need to do more. This is an opportunity to bring together the arts community, universities, civic leaders, and Boston families to talk about creative placemaking and what First Night can be. We should not be afraid look at what other cities are doing, like the Harbin's Ice and Snow festival or Nuit Blanche in Paris. We should use First Night as a showcase for Boston's diverse emerging artists and producers to make sure programming responds to changing tastes. Finally, we need to have a serious discussion about how the program remains sustainable for the long term, whether that means public funding, private donations, or even crowd-funding elements.

Ross also sent us an Instagram video. View it here, or click "play" below.

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Felix Arroyo, @FelixArroyo
Boston City Councilor

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