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Boston arts funding is opportunity for next mayor

Posted by Chad O'Connor  September 27, 2013 11:00 AM

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[The We are the Creative Industries series: The Creative Industries - video game companies, design, marketing and architecture firms, and talented people who write books, design houses, shoot movies, make art and record music, just to name a few examples - are an important part of Massachusetts' economy, with $1 billion statewide impact and over 100,000 workers. Click here to learn more.]

Current operating budget in Boston for the Mayor's Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events: $1.1million, or $1.86/capita.
San Francisco and the equivalent agency: $10million, or $12.10/capita.
Seattle and the equivalent agency: $7.5million, or $11.82/capita.

As Boston heads into an election season for the mayoral seat that has been occupied by Mayor Menino since 1993, many issues will be at the forefront of the candidates’ political platform, as the changing of the guard often represents an opportunity to do things in a new way. There is a big push from many in the arts sector to get on the platform and help shape the discussion about the future of the arts in Boston. What follows is a discussion on the state of the Arts in Boston, addressing both individual artist opportunities as well as funding for public art in the city.

Support for Individual Artists
‘The Boston Cultural Council (BCC), under the direction of the Mayor's Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events, annually distributes funds allocated by the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support innovative arts, humanities and interpretive sciences programming that enhances the quality of life in our City.’ (From the BCC website) These monies are not allocated to individual artists in the City of Boston, but to arts and cultural non-profits for their programming initiatives and to support school field trips to art and cultural destinations. However, the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) does award 12 individual artist fellowships on a biannual basis, based on disciplines, and all artists are invited to apply every other year.

The State of Public Art in Boston and Massachusetts
The City of Boston revived its long dormant Art Commission in 2003. Originally established in 1890, it is the oldest municipal art commission in the United States. This body oversees the existing public art collection and reviews newly proposed works on city land. Because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of Boston both lack a percent-for-art policy, selected artists must participate in raising the funds needed to complete public art projects from the following private sources: Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund, Fund for the Arts (FFA) which is a public art program at the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), George B. Henderson Foundation, Mabel Louise Riley Foundation, and from additional sources such as The Barr Foundation and The Boston Foundation.

In 2005, the Boston City Council voted in favor of a Percent for Art initiative, but without the mayor’s ratification, this piece of legislation expired and would have to be refiled. It would also need full state approval (house, senate and governor's signature). Further, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) discontinued its Arts on the Line capital program in 2005 after being the first public transit authority to introduce such a program in the 1970s. However, at the state level, there is a piece of legislation that was recently filed by Representative Sarah Peake to work towards bringing back state funding for public art, ‘Resolve establishing a commission to study art in public spaces.’

What are the mayoral candidates saying regarding arts and culture? Create the Vote, an effort put in play by MASSCreative has gathered their responses to questions put to them about their arts and culture platforms. Further, MASSCreative hosted a candidate-wide forum at the Paramount Theater on September 9th, focused on arts and culture.

Donna Dodson graduated cum laude from Wellesley College in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts. Since 2000, Dodson has been honored with solo shows nationwide for her wood sculptures. Dodson enjoys public speaking, and has been a guest speaker in conferences, panels and forums at museums and universities in North America.

[We are thankful for Global Business Hub’s support of the Creative Industries. Please note: This article does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development or its Creative Economy Industry Director for the Commonwealth, nor is it an endorsement of any views, products, or opinions contained therein. The author is solely responsible for the content.]

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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