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The next Boston mayor will champion the arts

Posted by Chad O'Connor  November 4, 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.]

We don’t know who the next mayor of Boston will be. Voters will make that decision on November 5.

But here’s what we do know: The next Mayor of Boston will be a champion of the arts. Over the past several months of campaigning both John Connolly and Marty Walsh have vowed to invest in arts and cultural initiatives and use the mayor’s bully pulpit to elevate the sector.

In a striking departure from the past administration and every mayoral administration before it, the next mayor of Boston has committed to hiring a cabinet-level arts commissioner. This commissioner will advocate for the sector and work on a strategic cultural plan for the city that can be integrated with other priorities such as education, economic development, public safety, transportation, and housing.

These are ideas that would have seemed radical just six months ago, yet both mayoral finalists now routinely talk about their commitment to the arts (see them here and here).

How did this happen?

Much of this has come about from advocacy by the Create the Vote coalition, which was convened early last summer by MASSCreative. More than 100 of Boston’s arts organizations ranging from large institutions that enjoy international reputations to neighborhood-based theater groups operating on a shoestring joined the coalition to press all of the candidates for their views on arts and culture. That’s never happened before in Boston. Or elsewhere in the state.

Create the Vote sent out questionnaires to all of the preliminary mayoral candidates and sat down with nine of the candidates to question them about how they would promote the arts, cultural, and creative communities if they were elected. Representatives from 20 of Boston’s arts organizations attended the meetings. Create the Vote also hosted the largest forum of the mayoral campaign at the Paramount Theatre Sept. 9 before 600 audience members. The event was so popular that another 75 who wanted to listen in were turned away at the door.

Create the Vote held two more public meetings after the preliminary—one with John Connolly and the other with Marty Walsh. Each event drew another 70 people. Meanwhile, leaders and supporters of the creative community attended arts events and campaign events throughout the city and engaged with voters. To date, Create the Vote has signed up more than 1,600 people who have pledged to make arts and culture one of their priorities at the ballot box.

We know that the arts can improve academic achievement and build community. And we know that arts and cultural organizations generate around $1 billion of economic activity in the city each year. Despite this, the creative community has received little in the way of political cheerleading, nevermind leadership. Imagine what the sector could do if efforts to integrate arts with education and economic development initiatives were done with deliberation and planning for the greatest impact?

On November 6, we’ll know who the next mayor of Boston will be. The arts, culture and creative community looks forward to working with him on arts and cultural planning. We know he’ll support the arts. And we also know that the city will be better off for it.

Matt Wilson is the Executive Director of MASSCreative, the statewide advocacy voice for the creative community.

[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 Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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