Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, and The United States Conference of Mayors presented the 2017 Public Arts Leadership Awards at the mayors’ Winter Meeting. Martin Walsh, mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, received the National Award for Local Arts Leadership for cities with a population of 100,000 or more.
“In Boston, we are committed to making the arts accessible to all, celebrating all cultural traditions and creating a community where artists can thrive,” said Mayor Walsh. “At the municipal level, we’re making substantial investments and policy changes but we aren’t doing it alone. Boston’s philanthropic and business communities are joining together with arts and culture leaders and residents in every neighborhood to ensure arts and culture are part of the fabric of everyday life.”
Immediately following his election in 2013, Mayor Walsh created an Arts & Culture transition committee composed of arts leaders, educators, and artists. When he took office in 2014, one of his first acts was to increase the budget of the Boston Cultural Council, effectively doubling the amount of grant money available for Boston arts organizations, which he did again the following year. As promised in his campaign, he created a Cabinet-level position for arts and culture.
In 2015, Mayor Walsh announced the launch of Boston’s cultural planning process, designed to create a blueprint and build grassroots support for arts and culture in the city. The plan was issued in June 2016 concurrent with hosting Americans for the Arts’ annual convention in Boston. In a policy speech Mayor Walsh detailed the five major goals of Boston Creates: to create a cultural shift in the city by mobilizing partners to support the arts, grow resources to artists, enhance cultural equity, inclusion and diversity in the sector, and reimagine what a sustainable arts eco-system looks like in Boston.
In addition to planning efforts, Mayor Walsh’s actions have ensured that arts and culture are a top priority for the city. In June 2015, the city received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to create Boston AIR, an artist-in-residence program within city government. Boston AIR placed three artists into collaborative residencies in the Police Department, the Office of Recovery Services, Office of Women’s Advancement, and Department of Neighborhood Development. In FY17, the Mayor funded an expansion of Boston AIR into 10 residencies at the Boston Centers for Youth and Families. This experiment gained national attention and was recently included in the NEA’s new book on creative placemaking.
“As a Massachusetts native and frequent visitor to Boston, I can see that the arts are alive like never before thanks to Mayor Walsh,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “His commitment to the arts is unwavering. He understands the importance of using the arts in very creative ways to help enhance the quality of life for Boston’s residents, while at the same time harnessing the economic potential of investment in culture. We applaud Mayor Walsh for his leadership worthy of this recognition.”
"Every year, The U.S. Conference of Mayors recognizes the exemplary efforts of mayors who believe as much as we do that the arts are the heart of our society,” remarked Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of The U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Arts and culture help shape a city’s quality of life and economic vitality. Mayors understand the connection between the arts, business, and tourism and the arts significant impact on local economies."
Additional honorees included Satish Hiremath, mayor of Oro Valley, Arizona, for the National Award for Local Arts Leadership for cities with a population fewer than 100,000.
Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. With offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City, it has a record of more than 55 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. For more information, go to www.AmericansForTheArts.org
Jay H. Dick
Americans for the Arts