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Arts & Culture

Growing up, the arts were central to Michelle’s immigrant family, grounding her in culture, heritage, and community. In her time as City Councilor, Michelle has served as Chair of the Arts, Culture & Special Events committee and helped oversee the formation of several of Boston’s cultural districts, as well as the Boston Creates plan. As Mayor, Michelle will be a champion for Boston’s diverse, vibrant arts and cultural sector that stretches across each of our city’s neighborhoods.

Policy PrioritiesHow We Will Lead

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our local artists and arts institutions—from Boston’s world renowned museums to grassroots nonprofit organizations—have struggled to survive, often cobbling together resources from the city, state, and private partners to sustain local jobs and create meaningful cultural experiences for Boston residents and tourists alike. The challenges cut across the entire city: a lack of affordable rehearsal, studio and performance space; unstable labor conditions for artists in the gig economy or employed in contract work; racial segregation that perpetuates inequities; and a siloed approach to public policy that fails to build on artists’ contributions to civic life. As Boston emerges from the pandemic, Michelle will invest in our arts and culture sector, recognizing that arts are central not only to our economic recovery, but also our psychological and emotional healing.

Empowering artists to help communities heal 

Boston should ensure that every neighborhood sees new, innovative art that engages community members in placemaking, healing, activism, storytelling, and relationship building—starting immediately this summer. 

  • Scale up Boston’s Artists in Residence program to embed artists in municipal buildings–from public schools and libraries to parks, public housing, and fire stations–in paid residency positions to create meaningful employment opportunities for local artists, connect neighborhood residents with community programming and public policy, and provide the civic infrastructure for communities to rebuild social ties.

  • Prioritize residency programs in the neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19 and hire artists from our communities to support our collective recovery after a traumatic year that exacerbated racial inequities in our city.

  • Make every summer a Summer of Play, shutting down neighborhood streets to vehicle traffic and creating Play Streets, hiring local musicians, actors, and visual artists to perform, lead public arts workshops, and create opportunities for children to reconnect with each other and with their communities.

Implementing a sustainable, equitable revenue source for the arts

The health and vibrancy of our arts and culture sector underpins our community, economy, and growth. Yet Boston consistently underperforms compared to its peer cities in terms of public investment in the arts.

  • Dedicate 1% of our annual municipal capital budget to commissioning public art projects, supporting venues and facilities, and building out infrastructure for arts and culture organizations.

  • Build a coalition to advance state legislation for long-term financial support to Boston’s arts and cultural sector through a sustainable revenue stream for the City to fund arts organizations, hire artists, and build arts infrastructure.

  • Coordinate private resources to align with and supplement public funding by articulating a clear vision for arts and culture as necessary infrastructure, with clear community oversight to ensure that financial resources are directed to narrow racial gaps, not widen them.

Reforming PILOT to stabilize arts and cultural institutions

Boston is the only major city to request payment from cultural organizations through its payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) program for nonprofit, tax-exempt institutions. This unusual PILOT structure means that together, seven of Boston’s arts and cultural organizations actually pay more money to the City of Boston than the entire arts sector receives from the City in the form of arts and culture grants

  • Revisit the 2011 PILOT reforms that implemented a standardized formula for requesting contributions from large nonprofit entities across all sectors.

  • Differentiate arts and cultural institutions from other nonprofits to safeguard the financial stability of Boston’s museums, music halls, and other cultural organizations for future generations.

  • Direct the City’s Office of Arts and Culture to work with arts and cultural institutions to collaboratively support and identify right-sized community benefits projects tailored to the unique strengths of each institution and the needs of Boston’s arts communities.

Expanding access to cultural institutions through a Boston Municipal ID

Many of Boston’s larger arts institutions have launched programs to expand access to lower-income Boston residents, for whom full admission fees serve as an obstacle to enjoying arts and culture. The City should invite its museums and larger arts organizations to commit to further democratizing admission by launching a new municipal ID program, expanding access for residents who are undocumented, experiencing homelessness, lack government ID that matches their gender identity, or otherwise unable to apply for state and federally issued IDs. 

  • Design and implement a Boston Municipal ID program aligned with the community recommendations in the 2018 feasibility study, including strong privacy safeguards and rigorous, multilingual community outreach.

  • Coordinate arts and cultural organizations to offer no- or low-cost fare programs for BPS students and families, BHA residents, SNAP participants, and other lower-income Boston residents, regardless of their citizenship status, as part of a renegotiated community benefits agreement through a reformed PILOT program.

Creating space for arts and culture 

Across Boston, studio, rehearsal and performance space is increasingly scarce—either unavailable or unaffordable to most local artists and smaller organizations.

  • Make spaces in municipal and other community buildings available to musical, theater, and other artistic performances; and expand the community schools model across Boston Public Schools through collaborative shared-use agreements to open our public school buildings to local artists.

  • Coordinate higher education institutions, houses of worship and other community organizations to open up the doors to underutilized spaces for the benefit of local artists.

  • Dedicate City resources to building and managing a calendar and scheduling platform across public, non-profit and private institutions for artists to find available rehearsal and performance space. 

  • Incentivize commercial property owners with vacant office spaces to make low- or no-cost administrative space available to arts and cultural organizations, particularly as the real estate market adjusts to the post-pandemic work economy. 

  • Direct a newly-created public planning department to identify citywide gaps in studio and rehearsal space, performance space, and affordable live-work space for artists, and then codify a plan to meet the needs of Boston’s working artists into our zoning code.

Infusing arts leadership across City government

All City services and programs would benefit from the creative thinking, storytelling skills, and holistic worldview that artists have to offer. Artists have deep ties to their local communities, and Boston should employ artists as key strategists and connectors in pursuing our shared goals of racial justice, climate resilience, and civic engagement across all public policy.

  • Bring artists into every City planning initiative early on, with paid, full-time positions for artists to contribute to the design teams that shape new construction projects and major redevelopments.

  • Build on existing partnerships with programs like Arts Train to identify and implement best practices for infusing artists across broader policy initiatives across all levels of municipal government.

  • Bring artists into Complete Streets projects to build streetscapes that are safe, accessible, and enjoyable for all.

Guaranteeing arts funding as foundational school funding

Arts programming is linked to higher student attendance and family engagement, and the benefits are even higher for students with individualized education plans or students who had been chronically absent. Boston Public Schools has made progress in expanding arts education to all K-8 students—but at the high school level, more than one-third of students receive no art programming, and in the 2020-21 school year, at least ten high schools had no full-time arts educator. 

  • Reform the Boston Public Schools budgetary process to define arts funding as foundational school funding.

  • Commit to in-school arts education for every BPS student through graduation, meeting or exceeding the MassCore standards, with at least one full-time arts educator in each school and consistent professional development opportunities for culturally competent, anti-racist arts pedagogy.

  • Expand funding and infrastructure for partnerships with external arts organizations to continue to build relationships with school communities, redoubling efforts to increase support for partnerships with arts organizations led by Black and brown artists, so that every BPS student has the opportunity to envision themselves as part of Boston’s thriving arts and culture sector.

Michelle's RecordWhat We’ve Done Together So Far