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City Hall outlines cultural goals for Boston

Julie Burros, Boston’s chief of arts and culture, during a Boston Creates town hall in March at Bunker Hill Community College.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/file/Globe Freelance

Broad contours of the city’s imagined cultural future came into soft focus Monday when Boston Creates, City Hall’s wide-ranging cultural planning process, released a draft version of its cultural master plan: a “roadmap” meant to outline the city’s cultural priorities over the next 10 years.

The draft plan, which will be available for public comment until May 14 at the Boston Creates website, offers a lofty vision for the city, calling for a “fundamental change” in attitudes toward the arts and culture in Boston, even while offering few specifics on how, precisely, to get there.

“We think that there’s a lot in the draft plan that people haven’t seen yet that we need their feedback on,” said Julie Burros, chief of arts and culture for the city of Boston. “This is a chance for people to react.”


The draft plan describes five primary goals for arts and culture in the city, including creating “fertile ground” for the arts by encouraging the formation of more funding and venues for arts groups, supporting efforts and policies to keep individual artists in Boston, and cultivating a civic climate where all cultural traditions “are respected, promoted and equitably resourced.” Other overarching goals include integrating the arts throughout the city and creating partnerships to support the city’s arts and culture sector.

The draft plan, a final version of which is due on June 17, is the product of a months-long process that involved more than 100 community conversations, 35 stakeholder focus groups, 50 one-on-one meetings, and three town hall-style meetings.

“The plan is deeply informed by this extensive public engagement process, and it’s meant to be responsive to the needs of the city,” said Burros. “It’s really about the whole city — not just city government and my agency, but how the whole entire sector can work together to move things forward.”


The plan’s five central goals were first announced at a town hall-style meeting last March. The newly released draft also outlines some strategies and tactics to achieve those ambitions, such as creating new revenue streams for artists and arts organizations, developing “strategic partnerships” to increase the supply of artist live/work spaces, and creating a source of “pooled funding” to help arts organizations with facilities costs.

Missing from the draft plan, however, are specifics on how these new revenue sources would be secured.

“If I told you anything now, I’d have no news on June 17 to report,” said Burros, when asked for specifics. “The creation of the plan and the implementation of the plan are two different things. Right now we’re looking for feedback about the content of the plan.”

Jim Canales, president and trustee of the Barr Foundation, said that at this stage the plan is meant to identify cultural areas that need attention rather than prescribe specific actions. “The point is to lay out a set of activities that we can organize the community around to fulfill this vision of Boston as a municipal arts leader,” said Canales, who serves as cochair of the Boston Creates leadership Council. “It begins to lay out the blueprint, saying this is what we need to do in the city to achieve his larger vision.”

Burros pointed to several tactics that City Hall has already started to implement to help enact the plan, including the creation of an artist resource desk at City Hall, the city’s newly launched artist-in-residence program, and streamlining municipal policies for permitting zoning and licensing.


Burros said the final plan would have more specifics, including charts estimating the time frame for individual tactics and who will lead them: the city, the community, or corporate/foundational partners.

“The launch of the plan is just the beginning,” said Burros. “Creating a cultural plan is like taking your car in for a diagnostic: It identifies the work you need to do, and then you need to do the work. The launch is really just the beginning.”

Malcolm Gay can be reached at malcolm.gay@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @malcolmgay.