Kara Eliott-Ortega was hired as Chief of Arts and Culture in August of 2018, and since then has spearheaded many programs that have improved the cultural appeal of the city of Boston.
The position was created in 2014, previously held by Julie Burros. The Chief’s duty is to oversee the Arts and Culture Cabinet, consisting of the Boston Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.
Kristina Carroll, Communications Director for the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, believes that the local artists in every community “lift up all of Boston and make it a more creative city.”
The Boston Creates cultural plan, established in 2016, has just begun its fourth year. The plan is based off of five main goals: creating space for art, assisting local artists, promoting culture and equity, integrating art into the surrounding communities, and creating partnerships.
Additionally, the establishment of an Artist Resource Desk was created in order to assist local artists. The Artist Resource Manager serves as the connection between artists and opportunities.
The Office is trying to pass a piece of legislation that will create a state-wide commission on tourism of the arts to get a constant flow of revenue. They have received resounding support from the involved neighborhoods throughout the process of Boston Creates.
Artist space has proven to be a large challenge, due to the lack of space and contrastingly large group of artists looking for a home. Guidelines for developers has been made in order for artist space to be worked in during the building process. In addition, the city owns land that they plan to provide housing for artists.
The Artists in Residence (AIR) program was created in order to assist local artists and “[help] individual artists stay in Boston, and thrive in Boston,” Carroll claimed. Kristina Carrol described that a group of artists is selected each year, “to use art to craft social conversations and look at different, creative ways that [city officials] can either change or improve city policies and city practices.”
Carroll explained that they “foster creative risk-taking,” through various grants that have, “served a population that wasn’t previously reached through [the Office’s] programming.”
The Percent for Art program, established in 2016, is funded by one percent of Boston’s capital budget in order to create permanent public art. When new government facilities are built, the budget is used to finance a new installation of public art. Government facilities normally uninvolved in the arts are enhanced by a piece of artwork. Carroll commented that, “it’s really great to see…and help build that connection.”
In efforts to make art more accessible, they have created “free and low-cost programming,” and a newsletter detailing free programming and promoting featured artists.
With the influx of public art, certain issues have been brought to light. Carroll commented that, “the imbalance of representation in public art,” has become a common theme of discussion; the artwork displayed shows a lack of artists who are female or people of color. The installment of “The Embrace,” the new Martin Luther King Jr. contemporary art installment in Boston