ISSUES   |   ARTS AND CULTURE

ARTS AND CULTURE 

John knows the arts and artists are a fundamental element of the fabric of our city. Artists build bridges, tell our stories, and help us understand and describe the world around us. John pledges that, as Mayor of Boston, he will invest in the arts and culture in ways that make the city renowned for arts leadership. He will work to expand economic opportunity through the arts, reduce barriers to affordable work and live spaces for artists, and transform City government into an engine of arts growth.

John is an artist himself, and truly believes in nurturing creative talent in our young people to help build careers, celebrate our culture and diversity, and bolster our economy. As an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, John led the Black Underground Theatre Association and served as the editor of the Black Praxis, the Black student newspaper. And still today, John plays drums in his church band, is an audio engineer, and spends quality time with his children during piano and violin lessons. 

With John as Boston’s mayor, the arts and artists will be celebrated, supported and treated as a valuable resource and a necessity. John knows the value of embedding arts in community building and placemaking, and will help build a more vibrant and inclusive Boston.
 

John’s record: 

 

John has known from a very young age how the arts can be used to transform communities. This will inform all of his work as Mayor.

  • At Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, the arts took center stage as a foundational element to neighborhood revitalization. John led the initial work to create the Fairmount Cultural Corridor. 

  • He advocated for an increase to the budget of the Boston Cultural Council, which provides grants to community-based arts and culture programming.

  • Supported the creation of the City’s first Percent for Art program, which sets aside 1 percent of capital budgets in municipal construction projects for public art.

  • John worked with the Mayor’s Office to support local artists through new award programs and fellowships, including the first municipal grants for individual artists in Boston. He also hired an Artist Resource Manager, to help artists and producers navigate the City and its resources, including permitting and licensing.

  • John supported the complete renovation of Boston Arts Academy, a project that was in question when John joined the Walsh administration in 2014.

  • As Chief of Economic Development, John worked with developers, the Huntington Theatre, and Emerson’s Colonial Theatre to ensure their continued use as major performing arts venues for generations to come.

  • Through the BPDA, he commissioned a Performing Arts Facilities Assessment to be used as the City works with developers to activate new buildings. The BPDA now includes arts and culture concerns in the development review process. The Seaport Square development, the first large project under review since the release, will house multiple performing arts spaces, and Grub Street, a nonprofit creative writing center, will move into new space at 50 Liberty at Fan Pier.

  • John worked with Boston AIR, an artist-in-residence program that embeds artists in city agencies, to bring imagination and inspiration to the ways in which they work and engage residents.

  • John included Arts Innovation Districts in Imagine Boston 2030, the City’s first comprehensive plan in 50 years, beginning with Uphams Corner in Dorchester, and seeded by the reimagining of the Strand Theatre and an $18 million investment in a new Boston Public Library branch.

  • He led the All-Inclusive Boston campaign, a $2.5 million dollar contract awarded to a MWBE that developed a tourism campaign aimed at attracting a diverse audience and driving tourist traffic to Boston’s diverse offerings.

  • John was part of the team that received recognition from Americans for the Arts, a national advocacy organization for municipal arts leadership in 2016.

  • He worked with Northeastern University to keep the African American Master Artists Residency Program (AAMARP) in place on University property in Jamaica Plain.

  • During the pandemic, John worked to make sure that creative industry businesses and artists were included in relief funding programs.

As Mayor, John will: 
 

  • Propose to the State a CPA-like (Community Preservation Act) vehicle to generate revenue for arts and culture. In the proposed legislation, as with the CPA, Boston would have the ability to institute a ballot initiative that would allow residents an option to vote on whether a small amount of money could be added to residential property tax bills to fund arts and culture programming. Such an initiative could generate $25-35M annually for arts investment.

  • Urge the Massachusetts Legislature to set aside a consistent percentage of any online gaming revenue for arts and culture.

  • Redefine PILOT community benefit requirements to eliminate cash payments for arts and culture organizations, better integrate community benefit programs, and include reporting on workforce and leadership diversity data, local procurement dollars, and endowments.

  • Continue to implement and invest in the ambitious Boston Creates plan, investing in all of the programs listed above.

  • Support cultural equity, and make sure that we are giving equal weight to all cultural expressions.

Create and strengthen resources to embed arts and cultural space into our built environment.

  • Establish and fund with an initial $10M investment the Boston Arts Development Agency, which will be able to raise money, acquire and hold property, and finance the acquisition and development of housing and commercial space for arts use. By getting ahead of the market, and in some cases being the landlord, the Boston Arts Development Agency would preserve our neighborhoods’ unique identities, increasing control of development and stabilizing housing and commercial spaces to reduce gentrification and resident displacement.

  • Continue to collaborate with developers to embrace arts and culture as a means to enliven and activate their buildings, and ensure discussions about arts and culture integration and use is included at the beginning of the planning process.

  • Work with developers on permanent commercial affordability for creative economy enterprises, and explore incentives for developers who preserve and create affordable cultural space.

  • Using American Rescue Plan money, set aside $10M to support the development of artist housing and affordable live/work space, to advance the Boston Creates goal of keeping artists in Boston.

  • Establish a City Cultural District Program that funds and provides training in place-management and activation. This would apply to Arts Innovation Districts and State-designated cultural districts, and would bolster the existing Main Streets program.

  • Establish a City Hall Plaza Governing Board across the City’s offices of Arts and Culture, Tourism, Sports, and Entertainment, Property Management, Small Business, Parks and Recreation, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics MONUM, and relevant community-based organizations to create a truly inclusive and accessible Plaza with agreed upon goals and processes for programming.

Design new workforce development opportunities to diversify the sector and create career pathways.

 

  • In response to COVID-19’s impact on creative workers, and inspired by New York’s recently-announced Artist Corps program, John will create a program that employs artists in City jobs, using $5M in American Rescue Plan money. Operating funds will be allocated to hire artists and creative workers as a part of the work of City departments. Work could include: arts programming at Boston Housing Authority and Boston Center for Youth and Families locations; bringing arts education to older adults, youth organizations, and people in recovery; integrating artists in creative community engagement; hiring performers for events; and procuring videography or design services. In addition, every cabinet and major department in City government will have an artist-in-residence

  • Establish and fund an incubator that will employ artists as civic problem solvers. Modeled after the City’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the NEA-funded Indianapolis' Arts, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lab (AEI Lab), this will be an independent or quasi public agency that works collaboratively with government, institutions and the private sector to reveal creative approaches to problem solving.

  • Guided by a feasibility study now underway, work with MassArt and Emerson College to design an Office of Workforce Development program for the Creative Industries. Collaborators will include Boston Public School, Edvestors, Creative youth development organizations, higher education institutions, and creative industries to identify and support complete youth creative pathways.

  • Create a youth summer jobs track in arts and culture to support more jobs and career pathways for talented and diverse students. 

  • Advocate for a year-round out-of-school youth arts programming by supporting a competitive grant program to bolster established organizations serving teenagers and young adults. This process will be integrated into Boston Public Schools summer programming and create robust free summertime arts programming across the entire city.

Provide resources and build capacity for arts and culture organizations and creative businesses.

  • Commit to multi-year funding for a cohort of BIPOC-led arts and culture organizations by allocating $2 million over four years to support a cohort of 20 organizations. The program will convene arts funders to collaborate on additional financial and development support, and will work closely with the offices of Tourism, Sports, and Entertainment and Neighborhood Services to create a capacity-building program for cultural festivals that includes financial support, planning, and cross marketing.

  • Create a new permanent function in the Office of Economic Development’s Small Business Unit tailored toward technical support and start-up capital for creative businesses

  • Create a “Space Readiness Program” for new or small cultural groups, which would provide technical assistance, financial planning, and legal assistance to help navigate real estate finance. 

  • Commit to a City fund geared specifically to disabled artists, and arts organizations with programs geared toward programming featuring disabled artists. 

Additional support includes John committing to:

  • Streamline and digitize the permitting and licensing process for special events and art installations on public property. 

  • Waive licensing costs for live events venues in 2022 and 2023 to help alleviate budget concerns due to COVID-19 and speed up the recovery for businesses.

  • Create support for creative businesses that qualify to register as MWBEs, help them learn to bid on public contracts, and explore potential Project Labor Agreements where possible. 

  • Continue to advocate for a dedicated funding stream from the Commonwealth, which is the only way to meaningfully support and grow the sector.

As Mayor, John will be present at arts and culture events around the city, and will use the power of the office to lift up the work of Boston’s artists, arts presenters, producers, and organizations. Arts and culture will have a prominent seat at the table in a Barros administration, and creative thinkers will be engaged in helping the city solve its biggest problems. If you look at the other issues areas for which John has proposed plans, you will see that arts and culture are interwoven into all aspects of life, and truly strengthen and enliven the lives of Bostonians now and in the future.

A MESSAGE FROM JOHN

Just as this campaign is a community effort, this policy plan has been informed by a diverse group of residents, policy makers, and community organizations who reflect Boston's ingenuity, passion, and future. In this policy you will see your voice reflected and your neighborhood priorities front and center. I am incredibly grateful for the hours, data, and guidance leant to support this effort. I welcome continued feedback and suggestions from all corners of the city, because I know that policies are most successful when led by the community.
 
Now, more than ever, I have the opportunity to bring all voices to the table to create a Boston that brings prosperity and justice for everyone.Together we can create a Boston where nobody is left behind.
 
Thank you for reading and helping to shape Boston's future, I look forward to working with you.