Boston Creates Outside Dancers

Three Calls to Action for the Next Chapter of Boston Creates

Jim Canales shares remarks at the launch of Boston’s cultural plan.

Friday, June 17, marked the official launch of Boston Creates, Boston’s citywide cultural plan. To celebrate this milestone, Barr President Jim Canales joined Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston Chief of Arts and Culture Julie Burros, Boston Foundation President Paul Grogan, and violinist and composer Shaw Pong Liu for a press announcement at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston. The event was attended by hundreds of area arts enthusiasts and leaders. Jim’s remarks are below:

Thank you, Mayor Walsh. You have been generous with your expressions of gratitude. But we all know that, without your fervent dedication to the arts, we would not have reached this pivotal moment.

So, on behalf of all us, thank you for your leadership.

I returned last night from Northern Europe, where I spent much of this week on a study tour on clean energy and climate resilience. I mention this because, for all that we learned on those important topics, one of the more captivating things we saw was a piece of public art outside City Hall in Copenhagen.

It was a large bronze sculpture of a polar bear, suspended 15 feet in the air, resting upon an oil pipeline, which was bent in the shape of an upward curve to represent the drastic increase in CO2 emissions since the 1850s. It also turns out that the sculpture, entitled “Unbearable,” was financed by a crowdfunding campaign in advance of the recent climate talks in Paris.

I share this story not to make a political statement, but instead to speak to the power of the arts: its power to inspire, to provoke, to force reflection, to engage, and indeed, to create change.

Here in Boston, we have the great fortune of living and working in a city that celebrates creative expression in all of its forms, for all of its residents, and in all of its neighborhoods, as Boston Creates has affirmed.

It has been our enormous privilege at the Barr Foundation, in partnership with The Klarman Family Foundation, to support the Boston Creates planning process. We invested significant resources in this effort so that it could be comprehensive in scope, it could unleash our greatest aspirations, and it could forge a path that takes full advantage of the moment before us.

Today, as we formally launch Boston Creates, we find ourselves at an important pivot point. Throughout this process, we had a familiar refrain: the creation of a cultural plan is not the end; it instead represents a beginning. All of us engaged in this process knew that if all we got out of it was a plan, we would have squandered a precious opportunity. Instead, we needed to catalyze action and change.

All of us engaged in this process knew that if all we got out of it was a plan, we would have squandered a precious opportunity. Instead, we needed to catalyze action and change.

So, as we celebrate the completion of this chapter, we also acknowledge that much remains to be done.

The mayor has already outlined a number of steps, in policy and practice and funding, that the City is committing to in order to make tangible the recommendations in the plan. As the mayor noted, this represents a strong start. But it’s just that—a start.

So today is really about the beginning of our next chapter, and a call to action for each of us in three key respects:

First, today is a call to action that invites all segments of our community to assume an active role in advancing the priorities of this plan.

One of the tremendous benefits of the robust community engagement process of Boston Creates is that it planted the seeds for new partnerships and collaborations that will enable us to carry this work forward. Boston Creates brought the business community, the philanthropic community, the public sector, and other key partners to the table as allies, stakeholders, participants, and investors in the arts. As this engagement continues and deepens, together, we can make a significant difference.

Second, today is a call to action for all of us to embrace and own this cultural plan.

Boston Creates is not—and cannot be—merely a plan for City Hall or its Office of Arts and Culture; Boston Creates is Boston’s Cultural Plan. Its success depends on every one of us playing a role—whether through funding, advocacy, partnership and/or leadership. And we must hold each other accountable to the outcomes we seek.

Finally, today is a call to action to speak to the power of the arts.

As there continue to be legislative battles about arts funding, and as we sometimes have to argue for the relevance of the arts, we can be very proud of the statement we are making today for Boston: the arts matter.

They are an essential part of the fabric of a vibrant, inclusive, and future-oriented city of the 21st century. Boston can lead the way, and we can be very proud of the aspirations that this plan sets for our city, of the care and inclusion that our planning process represents, and of the value we have placed upon the arts.

[The arts] are an essential part of the fabric of a vibrant, inclusive, and future-oriented city of the 21st century.

Within the hour, Mayor Walsh will welcome over a thousand attendees of the Americans for the Arts national convention, opening in Boston today. What a powerful message we are sending to this gathering of arts leaders from all over the country about the critical role the arts play here in Boston.

Now it is time for all of us to embrace the civic responsibility this plan invites and to actively engage to ensure that the arts, culture, and creativity thrive in our city. You can rest assured that the Barr Foundation will remain deeply engaged as well.

I am delighted to turn the podium now to my friend and colleague, Paul Grogan, president and CEO of The Boston Foundation, who will share some exciting news about a new opportunity for many to step forward to help advance Boston Creates. Thank you.

Read the Boston Creates Cultural Plan

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