Tito Jackson's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

Your Personal Connection 
We’ve all had defining moments in our lives. What personal connections with the arts and creative expression have had an impact on your life and your view of the community? 

As a young person I loved to breakdance and my friends and I traveled around the city looking for places we could set up and dance. It was a challenge finding spaces where breakdancing was welcome and we were often asked to leave. As young men and women dancing was a vital outlet to express ourselves, it fostered perseverance, and led us to explore the city as artists- did I mention I can still do an air split?

As Chair of Education for the Boston City Council I see how imperative it is for all children to have art and music in school, and how arts inclusion in school curriculum improves achievement levels in other subjects. I sit on the board of the Boston Ballet and it is my great pleasure to observe the City’s young people exploring dance in the way I once did, carving out space for themselves, and pushing past obstacles. Art and dance binds our communities through performance and practice and propels children to express themselves in ways that aren’t always welcome at home or in school. Art has the power to motivate our young people and is essential to their development.

City Investment in the Arts 
Boston Create​s lays out an ambitious program to build a strong arts and creative culture. Financial investments from the city are necessary for the plan to meet its goals. While the Office of Arts and Culture has grown since 2013, Boston invests significantly les​s per capita government support than the other comparable cities, leaving many small to medium sized cultural institutions vulnerable. For example, Boston supports the arts at just over $2/person while Chicago spends $7/person and New York contributes $15. What dedicated funding stream will you establish to provide funds for the priorities outlined in Boston Creates and the sector overall? At what financial level will the city invest in the Boston arts and creative sector? 

I say it often: a budget is a values statement. I, and a Jackson Administration, will reflect our commitment to arts and creative culture through the allocation of and advocating for financial resources. The Massachusetts Cultural Council estimates that for every $1 it invests in arts organizations, $5 goes back into the economy. Investment in the arts is vital not only for Boston’s artists and performers, but fosters a healthy economy for all of our residents and increases the perception of Boston as a world class city globally.

Importantly, this will be done through a lens of cultural equity, ensuring that all Bostonians has access to the arts including art made by smaller organizations that promotes social justice, diversity, and inclusion.The inequality we see in Boston trickles down to our cultural institutions -- we must be prepared to name and act to eliminate those inequalities.

For decades, the City of Boston has been underfunding the Office of Arts and Culture and the organizations it serves. As Mayor, I will identify and advocate for a dedicated revenue stream to increase resources to the arts. We will explore options including legislation to increase the hotel tax modeled after New Bedford’s new lodging tax recently approved by the legislature and signed by the Governor, dedicating a percentage of linkage funds to the arts, and/or other creative revenue streams adopted by other communities. As part of this work, I will examine ways to site, install, and maintain more public art throughout Boston's diverse neighborhoods; possibilities for funding include percent-for-art legislation (such as Cambridge’s 1% for art), public-private partnerships, and the use of city funds.

As Mayor, I will work to raise our per-person contribution to compete with other cities, Investment in the arts is essential not only to the individual artists that live here but vital to the City as a whole.

Youth Engagement 
Engaging students with the arts in school and out of school is essential to educating the whole child. While the BPS Arts Expansion Initiative has achieved great success with 94 percent of children from Pre-K up to 8th grade receiving weekly art programs, high school student participation in arts education lags far behind. Boston’s nationally honored Creative Youth Development (youth arts) organizations continue to service thousands of kids, yet struggle to raise the money needed to reach student demand. How would you invest in arts education for students of all ages both inside and outside of school to ensure all youth in Boston have a connection to the arts and tap into their creativity? 

Boston arts organizations struggle with low investment from foundations, corporations, and government (The Boston Foundation, 2015). As Mayor, I would work across sectors to reframe arts education from an optional “enrichment” activity to a vital part of a each student’s education. This work starts with fully funding the Boston Public Schools. Principals should not have to choose between funding a school nurse and a dance teacher -- both are vital to the health of students. 

As Mayor, I will work to build upon the work of the BPS Arts Expansion to continue to provide high-quality arts instruction in Pre-K to 8th grade and increase arts education in high schools both in and out of the classroom. Research shows that arts education helps students learn from mistakes, increases their creativity, and encourages critical thinking while creating community cohesion within schools. Importantly, studies indicate that engagement in arts education can decrease high school dropout rates -- an important possible intervention in BPS where dropout rates are improving but are still unacceptable at 15.4% (2015). Increasing arts in BPS also increases opportunities for Boston’s many talented teaching artists.

Creating and Maintaining Vibrant Neighborhoods 
The Boston Creates Plan makes a powerful call for increased accessibility and diversity in the arts. With significant development planned in neighborhoods across the city over the decade, making and keeping vibrant neighborhoods for longstanding residents needs to be a priority. How would you use the arts and culture community to build connections that maintain and support the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity that makes the city thrive? 

One of my first initiatives as Mayor will be to disband the Boston Planning and Development Agency. By separating the planning and development functions of the City, we will be positioned to meet the needs of our longstanding residents and diminish the power of profit-seeking developers. 

I will create a people-centered planning department. This is important because planning -- planning that puts the needs of residents first -- will precede development. One of the tools of this new department will be with Neighborhood Stabilization Plans; these Plans will be developed with transparency and accountability and focus on jobs goals and plans for affordable housing based on the needs of the community. Artist housing, workspace, and performance venues will be included in this process and the resulting plans. We will work, through the new planning agency and a resourced Office of Arts and Culture, to involve arts early and through the process of planning and developing artist spaces so that the needs of the community are adequately represented and met. We will commit to building artist housing that will be permanently affordable. All of this work with be done through a lens of cultural equity to ensure that artist spaces reflect the racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic. diversity of Boston.

Supporting Working Artists
In the past year, Boston has provided funding and support for individual artists through a series of new grant programs. Despite this investment, many artists cannot support themselves in Boston due to the high cost of living. What will you do to provide more affordable housing and work spaces for artists? 

The high cost of living in Boston affects so many of our long-time residents -- including artists who make our neighborhoods thrive. My overall housing policies will help all Bostonians struggling to support themselves. Specifically, we will do the following city-wide: 1) Create a flexible city-funded housing voucher that will prevent people from being priced out of their neighborhoods; increase the affordable housing percentage in new builds from 13% to 25%, giving more residents access to housing they can afford; 3) Mandate that all new developments on City-owned land will be designated for ⅓ low-income, ⅓ moderate-income, and ⅓ market-rate units; and 4) introduce a Co-op housing plan to empower renters to organize and form co-ops in buildings that would otherwise be flipped into high-priced condos as a common-sense path to increased home ownership. As stated previously, we will commit to building artist housing that will be permanently affordable. 

In addition to Neighborhood Stabilization Plans, we will restore the former strength of Neighborhood Councils. Neighborhood Councils to will facilitate residents’ ability to directly advocate for real change in their communities. The Office of Arts and Culture will work to ensure that artists and arts organizations are represented o Neighborhood Councils. A more thoughtful, intentional planning process will facilitate the integration of affordable housing for artists with creative workspace, related gallery/retail space, and rehearsal/performance venues.

Creating Space to Rehearse, Perform and Operate 
Artists and cultural institutions struggle to find space to rehearse, perform, and run their administrative operations. The Boston Performing Arts Facility Assessment demonstrates that the current supply of space does not meet the demand of the arts community. What steps will you take to address this problem? 

Boston has experimented but not fully utilized the potential of creative placemaking strategies. As Mayor, I would ensure that we have a vision for projects, that that vision comes from artists, that we preserve and enhance our current often-overlooked neighborhood cultural assets, form cross-sector partnerships, pursue creative financing, and maintain a long-view including programming for new built environments. The ideas of creative placemaking can and will be built into Neighborhood Stabilization Plans. My passion for artists and cultural institutions comes from an understanding of their ability to uplift all Bostonians, connect people within and across communities, encourage healthy lifestyles, and drive economic development. I am very concerned about the shortage of rehearsal and performance spaces citywide. 

My concerns come from a grounding in the real challenges performing and other artists face. I know that when the Factory Theater (one of the most affordable performance spaces in the city) was replaced with a gym, several of the theater companies using that space were forced to close. The result was an unacceptable loss of talent for the City of Boston. 
There are long-term and short-term solutions to these issues. Much of what I outline above is long-term with the goal of creating a network of rehearsal, performance, and organizational spaces to support our smaller companies. More immediate and short-term, as Mayor, I will seek out new and innovative ways to share performance and rehearsal space, partner with non-arts organizations, and integrate supporting artists into conversations across city departments. I will engage developers to make conference rooms, boardrooms, and lobby spaces available to artists after work hours. In addition, each PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) conversation we have with large non-profit non-cultural institutions will provide an opportunity to pursue opportunities for sharing assets with the small- to mid- size organizations that make our city vibrant. Finally, I will ensure our public spaces are truly public. Libraries, community centers, and schools -- when they fit the needs of artists -- should be made available to artists without institutional barriers to access.

Best Utilizing the Chief of Arts and Culture
 In the fall of 2014, Julie Burros became Boston’s first Chief of Arts and Culture in over twenty years, and she presently works within the Mayor's cabinet. How will you work with additional city departments to leverage this cultural cabinet seat to utilize Boston’s arts and cultural sector as an asset to address the various economic and social issues of the city? 

I will maintain the Cabinet-level arts position of Chief of Arts and Culture. This both reflects by priorities and allows for closer collaboration across other important departments including education, health and human services, housing, intergovernmental relations, neighborhood services, and planning and development on issues of policy and day-to-day operations.

The arts department will also be responsible for greater artist data collection including the creations of one online, easily searchable database that includes artist housing, workspace, rehearsal space, and performance space. We know that the recent Boston Foundation report relied in part on data from the Cultural Data Profile (CDP) and that groups that participate in the CDP are supported by public and private funders. Many of our smaller companies do not meet requirements for support from funders and therefore are not counted in the CDP. There are artists that aren’t being counted, current data isn’t reflecting the work happening in our communities. In order to obtain funding streams for smaller arts organizations we need to accurately count all arts organizations and not just the groups receiving public/private funding.

Promoting Arts and Culture in Boston
Boston is known for its educational and medical institutions as well as its championship sports teams. Yet, more than 80 percent of tourist express that their primary reason for visiting the city is to attend arts and cultural events. What will you do to encourage more locals and tourists to see Boston as an international destination for the arts? 

We know that plays at Boston’s largest theaters are almost at capacity while smaller companies fill about 66% of their seats. I will work with the Chief of Arts and Culture to designate a portion of resources for promotion of our small-mid sized theater companies and small galleries with emerging artists. These artists are not only producing some of the most innovative work in Boston but fostering them creates cultural equity in the arts by highlighting artists from various neighborhoods and backgrounds.

In order to be looked at as a world-class city we need to remove creative infrastructure obstacles such as separate permits (and costs) for live music and dancing. I will extend hours of bars and nightclubs and advocate to the Commonwealth to reinstate late night MBTA service.

Your “Go To” Places
Boston is blessed with a rich mix of arts and cultural organizations. Please name two places where you have had personally significant connections to the arts and/or cultural experiences.

I was honored to host the Boston Ballet and participants of Adaptive Dance (a program of the ballet company and the Department of Education and Community Initiatives for people with disabilities) at the Strand Theater for “Rethink Ballet.” Watching nearly 1,200 fourth and fifth grade Boston Public Schools students enjoy dance in this historic theater and cultural hub was one of the more memorable moments of my public life. I also feel a personal connection to the arts every time I walk into my City Hall office. I have over a dozen drawings hanging on the walls from local artist, activist, and friend Shea Justice, along with art from school children across the City. This art inspires me everyday to keep working as hard as I can to advocate on behalf of young people for inclusion of the arts in school and access to the arts citywide.

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