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Mayor Walsh announces $1 million in arts funding

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Taking action to increase arts funding in the city of Boston, Mayor Martin J. Walsh is unveiling three arts-related programs with a combined budget of $1 million.

As outlined in Tuesday night's State of the City address at Symphony Hall, the programs will provide direct grants to individual artists, expand the city's fledgling artist-in-residence program, and establish an artist resource desk at City Hall, which officials said would act as a central information hub for artists working in the city.

"The biggest thing we hear all the time is that local artists living in Boston need funds," Walsh said in advance of Tuesday's address. "These are specific programs that touch on different types of artists across the spectrum in the city."


The largest of the three programs will expand the city's recently formed artist-in-residence program, or Boston AIR, into 10 or more Boston Centers for Youth & Families. Walsh said the $500,000 program would place working artists in BCYF centers throughout the city to develop programs and work alongside staff members, helping them think creatively about administration issues.

"You could really be creative with this money and this program — conflict resolution could be one, teaching young people to express themselves could be another," said Walsh, who last October ushered in the Boston AIR program with an initial cohort of 11 artists.

Walsh's chief of policy, Joyce Linehan, said the formation of the programs came about, in part, as a result of the city's ongoing cultural planning process, known as Boston Creates.

"There's a lot of talk of how artists are being pushed out of the city and haven't felt supported by the city in the past," said Linehan, who added that they expect to complete the cultural plan by this May or June. "Among the many things that are coming to the top in terms of needs is that we need to be directly supporting Boston artists."


Budgeted at $400,000, a program of direct artist grants will offer competitive grants to artists living in the city. Though the administration has yet to work out the details, Linehan said the funds will be unrestricted and probably available only to individual artists.

"Individual artists grants are pretty hard to come by," said Linehan. "Part of what we've heard through the process is that rather than be involved in programming, the city should support the people who are doing the programming."

The administration's third program will provide $100,000 to fund an artist resource desk at City Hall. The program, which will be staffed by a full-time employee, will serve as an information clearinghouse for artists, providing a list of artist-grant opportunities as well as guidance with issues such as housing, licensing, and permits.

Officials added that the artist resource desk would probably also coordinate professional development opportunities for artists by partnering with other city departments, such as the Office of Financial Empowerment and the Department of Neighborhood Development.

Walsh, who announced the Boston Creates initiative, led by city chief of arts and culture Julie Burros, to great fanfare last April, said that while the need for these programs may have been identified during the cultural planning process, their early implementation is strategic. Walsh said that once the cultural plan is unveiled, the city will seek to partner with the private sector to fund its execution.


"We have to have skin in the game," said Walsh.

Malcolm Gay can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @malcolmgay.