Art and money: Boston Creates chaos and Clara Wainwright Boston Globe op ed

A draft of the coveted 10 year master arts and culture plan for the City of Boston dropped in May a dud, despite– or because of –its $1.2 million price tag.  There’s a lot of pressure riding on Boston Creates final report, postponed until this coming Friday, June 17th. Boston is not alone in its struggles over funding and competing demands. Boston Creates and the ‘Art Czar’ fever did contribute to a climate of planning mana mania that found its way into Gloucester and other cities and towns. Boston Magazine writer Patti Harrigan profiled the year of Boston Creates, warts– no all in the article, “Boston’s Creative Crisis”:

Marty Walsh’s $1.4 million Boston Creates plan was supposed to turbocharge the city’s arts scene. A year after its launch, are we ever going to get anything other than a series of kumbaya sessions and generic platitudes?” 

She does a good job covering some of the reasons. I can add more.  Another perspective was an op-ed piece penned by Clara Wainwright for the Boston Globe. You may know her work with the celebrated 1998 quilt series: “Protecting the Oceans That God Has Created,” by Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association members including Lena Novello, Angela Sanfilippo, Fino Sanfilippo, and Nina Groppo. I am confident you have heard about another iconic project she established.

First Night founder and artist with Gloucester ties,  Clara Wainwright, weighs in on Boston Creates. Her column “A Way Forward for Boston Creates” was published on June 2, 2016, excerpt below:

Clara Wainwright

“Members of the arts community are praising Mayor Walsh’s Boston Creates, a 10-year master plan for the city’s cultural life, but are concerned about funding. The result of interviews with leaders of large and small arts organizations, and of community brainstorming in Boston’s neighborhoods, the Boston Creates report was directed by Julie Burros, the Mayor’s new cabinet-level chief of arts and culture. In presenting a draft of the report (the final is due to appear June 17), Burros pointed out the broad, rich scope of the plan, but warned that there was minimal funding to carry out some of its goals. I was again reminded of the recent Boston Foundation report that placed Boston last of 10 major cities’ support for the arts. Why such a sad warning, when Boston’s arts organizations and artists have been so clever and resourceful over the years?

In 1970 the Institute of Contemporary Arts invited city agencies and community organizations to come up with projects. The parks commissioner wanted a huge bell on Boston Common, which children could ring by swinging on its rope; a community health center wanted a mural for its waiting room. Artists were invited to choose one of many project ideas or submit a dream of their own. A large array of their ideas were exhibited in City Hall, which then had an art gallery. Mayor White’s Office of Cultural Affairs and the city’s financial community were encouraged to fund those selected. Boston Gas saw Corita Kent’s proposal for a billboard and commissioned her to paint a mural on one of its tanks.

Currently, Artists for Humanity provides instruction and small salaries to 200 high school students in a state-of-the-art building in South Boston. Zumix gives East Boston children musical instruction, the opportunity to perform, and a recording studio and a radio station. Both organizations were initiated by dynamic young women in the 1990s on minimal budgets. Some of their funding today comes from corporate commissions for murals, graphic work, and performances.

In 1969, the Committee for the Better Use of Air, seven artists and architects, launched the Great Boston Kite Festival in Franklin Park, with the encouragement of parks commissioner Jack Warner and a budget of $6,000. There was an exhibition of kites from Charles and Ray Eames’s collection in the lobby of City Hall and a large, diverse turnout in Franklin Park. Professional and school bands played and a sculptor invited dozens of children to help him launch a huge aerial sculpture. Four years later, there was a long line of volunteers from Roxbury and Dorchester churches, as well as some enterprising entrepreneurs, offering barbecue and other delicacies along the edge of the park. The Festival was run by the Committee for the Better Use of Air, on a small budget, for 13 years. It was later run by the Parks Department.

In 1976 a small group of artists met around my dinner table and dreamed up First Night. Many artists and arts organizations were willing to come up with performances, and the financial community provided support. First Night became the closing event of Boston’s Bicentennial; its budget was $60,000. It was run by a small arts organization until three years ago. These projects, most of which have grown into institutions, all began with minimal budgets…

Continue reading the Boston Globe op ed  A Way Forward for Boston Creates by Clara Wainwright

Continue reading the Boston Magazine profile Boston’s Creative Crisis by Patti Harrigan

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