Investing in Boston's Cultural Reopening

The City of Boston’s Fiscal Year 2022 came to a close at the end of June.

As we moved forward over the past year, The Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture focused on investing in Boston’s cultural reopening. We wanted to usher in joy and renewal while also making space to grieve and recover. Here are some of the ways we created opportunities for revival and growth through the arts:

2021 TRANSFORMATIVE PUBLIC ART PROGRAM

The third year of the City of Boston’s Transformative Public Art Program allowed us to commission public art projects in a variety of disciplines that promoted joy, healing, and unity. The program included funding for murals, cultural events, and new media projects, among others.

Tree with Network of Stars Mural
"Tree with Network of Stars" by Alex Cook at The Engagement Center in Newmarket Square.

In the first phase of this program, we supported 27 short-term projects and activations through grants totaling $323,950. In the second phase of the program, we allocated more than $1 million to fund new murals at 10 sites across nine neighborhoods. Liza Quiñonez, a creative entrepreneur and founder of Street Theory, has consulted our public art team for this phase of the program. Artists have worked with departments and initiatives such as the Boston Housing Authority, the Office of Recovery Services, and Youth Lead the Change to bring joy and inspiration to communities. Some highlights are the recently installed Rita’s Spotlight by Rixy in Allston and the Engagement Center mural series by Mz. Icar and Alex Cook in Newmarket Square. We’re looking forward to seeing more of these murals installed this summer!

BOSTON AIR

In FY22, we announced the six artists selected for the fifth cohort of Boston Artists-in-Residence (Boston AIR). In the Boston AIR program, artists collaborate with City departments to come up with creative solutions for improving city services. These departments include Parks and Recreation, the Boston Planning and Development Agency, the Environment Department, and the Boston Transportation Department.

Images: Graphic highlighting new cohort of Artists-in-Residence with six artist's headshots and alternating blue and red backgrounds. Text: Boston AIR, A civic partnership between socially-engaged artists and City departments, 2022 Artists-in-Residence, Ashton Lites, Lily Xie, Ellice Patterson, Jaronzie Harris, Melissa Teng, Heloiza Barbosa
Boston AIR Year Five Cohort.

Each AIR receives a $37,000 artist stipend as well as up to $10,000 for project materials. The City also awarded $30,000 in funding this past year to five AIRs from earlier cohorts who continued projects beyond their residency.

The artists and City partners are currently working together to co-design proposals for the residency program.

BOSTON CULTURAL COUNCIL AND REOPEN CREATIVE BOSTON FUNDING

The City of Boston and Boston Cultural Council (BCC) supported 192 arts and cultural organizations this year with a record-breaking $3.4 million in grants for general operating support and COVID-19 relief. Of this funding, $2.78 million came from Reopen Creative Boston, a one-time funding initiative allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Reopen Creative Boston supports the recovery of arts and culture organizations from the economic impact of COVID-19. A range of organizations benefited from this support — from small dance groups, to organizations that focus on engaging communities through film, to some of Boston’s most beloved cultural institutions. For the first time, the BCC changed the funding structure to ensure that organizations with the lowest budgets received the highest grant amounts. This funding strategy aimed to better support small to medium-sized organizations.

Urbanity Dance performing at the Boston Cultural Council grantee reception
Urbanity Dance performing at the 2022 Boston Cultural Council/Reopen Creative Boston reception.

BOSTON OPPORTUNITY FUND

In the fifth year of the Boston Opportunity Fund, we awarded 120 grants totaling $801,343 to artists, teaching artists, cultural practitioners, and creative workers living in the city of Boston. This fund supports one-time opportunities for artists and creative workers to further develop their careers and help provide access and community engagement opportunities throughout the city.

The Opportunity Fund grantees included Erin Caldwell, who received a grant in the Community Arts Experiences category to support Dorchfest, the inaugural Adams-Ashmont porchfest event featuring 40 local bands on June 4, 2022, and Gabriel Fernandez, who received a grant in the Artist Career Development category to acquire an art studio space and invite other artists to organize around larger projects in partnership with businesses in the East Boston neighborhood.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT CONTRACTS

At the end of FY22, we awarded 12 individuals and organizations a total of $500,000 in contracted services aiming to provide technical assistance, professional development, and workforce development services for artists and creative workers. This program aims to remove some of the barriers that artists face when sharing their work. This is especially important in the wake of the financial hardship artists faced because of COVID-19. The City focused on contracting individuals and organizations that worked with artists across disciplines and with various accessibility needs.

One contracted consultant, Boston Center for the Arts, will carry out its five-day ACTivate Residency for individuals and small groups of artists to create site-responsive work in the historic Cyclorama. Company One Theatre also received a contract to lead a professional development program for educators, serving 100-150 people.

LONG TERM PROJECTS

Along with our grant programs and funding initiatives, new long-term public art projects came to life during FY22. In January 2022, artist Joe Wardwell installed R-O-X-B-U-R-Y, a project spanning three interior walls of the Roxbury Branch of the Boston Public Library. A collaboration with poet Nakia Hill and the Youth Literary Advisory Board writers from 826 Boston, Wardwell’s design combines landscape, text, and abstracted forms to create a kaleidoscopic effect of vibrant colors. 

UNUS MUNDUS mobile
'UNUS MUNDUS' by Monika Bravo at East Boston police station, photo by Monika Bravo and Felix Bartesch.

UNUS MUNDUS, created by artist Monika Bravo, was installed at the Area A-7 Police Station in East Boston in March 2022. Bravo’s design of mosaics and hanging glass mobiles mimics the original topography of East Boston, a place that was once five separate islands and now has been covered in landfill to create one neighborhood. Images of demolished parks, shipyards, the airport, and more significant pieces of East Boston history are embedded in the artwork.

And significant progress was made on several community-initiated public artworks, including the groundbreaking of The Embrace on the Boston Common, a $550,000 investment toward the fabrication and installation of The Legacy of Frederick Douglass, and a $250,000 investment in Book Mark’d at the Mattapan Branch of the Boston Public Library.

Conceptual drawing of Frederick Douglass statue by artist Paul Goodnight.
Conceptual drawing of Frederick Douglass statue by artist Paul Goodnight.

We have more public art projects, opportunities for artists and creatives, and support for arts organizations underway, and we encourage you to follow along with us as we continue to work toward enhancing Boston’s arts sector in the years to come!

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