Marty Walsh: ‘I’ve learned a lot’

The Marty Walsh who showed up for a public meeting sponsored by the Create the Vote coalition in the meeting house of the Museum of African American History Oct. 18 was a much different candidate than the Marty Walsh who sat down with the coalition for a discussion of arts and culture August, 13, 2013.

And Walsh himself pointed out the difference. Noting that he was the first candidate in the mayoral race to pledge to hire a cabinet-level arts commissioner, Walsh said he has a much deeper appreciation today for what such a move would mean to the arts and cultural community as well as what it would bring to the city than he did five months ago. 

“When I say that today, it has a whole different meaning,” Walsh said. “I want to have an arts renaissance in the city of Boston.”


(Photo Credit: Don Schaefer)


He also acknowledged that his original approach to finding more funding for the arts, in which he recommended tapping the city’s PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program would not necessarily work. Under the PILOT program, the city bills nonprofit organizations (such as museums) exempt from real estate taxes for municipal contributions. In most major cities, arts and cultural institutions that contribute to the economic, educational, and civic health of the community receive public funding from the municipality.

At the public meeting, Walsh talked about establishing a “percent for the arts” program; matching state funding for the arts by the Massachusetts Cultural Council with municipal money; and hiring a development officer to work with nonprofits to find grants and other private funding.

Before a crowd of approximately 75 arts supporters, Walsh walked through the points of his arts and culture plan for the city, which had been unveiled the day before. He then answered questions from moderator Joyce Kulhawik and members of the audience.

Highlights of Walsh’s plan include increasing access to the arts for all residents of the city; creating an arts and cultural policy plan for the city; fostering collaboration among all city agencies and key stakeholders to promote an agenda for the arts; creating a “comprehensive cultural affairs web portal” to track progress on the comprehensive plan. 

Kulhawik asked him what his timeline would be for establishing an Office of Cultural Affairs. Walsh answered that he would have his cabinet in place, including an arts commissioner, within 30 days after being elected mayor of Boston.

In answer to a question about what the top three priorities should be for moving an arts agenda forward, Walsh said that creating an arts line item in the budget would be the first goal. The other two would be setting up lines of communication between the arts and cultural community and his administration, and ensuring that his arts commissioner was an ambassador for the arts, but also for the city of Boston. “This isn’t a figurehead position,” Walsh vowed.

Read more about Walsh’s public meeting with the Create the Vote coalition in the Boston Globe’s coverage of the event titled “Walsh Vows Commitment To Arts.” 

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