Michael Ross' Responses to Create the Vote's Questionnaire

Addressing Citywide Issues:
 Just as any other major city, Boston faces many economic and social issues. Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving social problems? How would you use our community to drive economic development in the city?

The arts and the creative community of Boston offer countless opportunities to inspire and engage our residents in addressing the range of economic and social challenges facing our city. The creative industry offers pathways for economic prosperity for diverse residents of Boston, as well as provides outlets for creative solutions to issues like public safety and education. As Mayor, I will implement a strong Arts and Cultural Agenda that supports the arts and helps creative economy thrive and empowers the creative community to have a greater role in addressing pressing issues we face as a city. 

A smart, focused plan for the creative community will leverage Boston’s rich ecosystem of arts groups, non-profits, institutions, and schools to bring expanded programming into Boston Public Schools, neighborhoods, and parks to provide positive outlets and pathways for our young people, both in and out of school. I will bring art into all of our schools as well as introduce young people to career paths in the creative industries. I will strengthen programs like the Mayor’s Mural Crew program to empower young people to make positive contributions to their neighborhoods. Additionally, by supporting the growth of businesses in the creative industry Boston can create jobs and opportunities that spans across the neighborhoods of Boston helping bring further economic development to the city through the arts.


Your Personal Connection: We've all had defining moments in our lives. What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity has had an impact on your life and your view of the community? 

I have had a lifelong appreciation for the arts as a powerful form of personal expression, and the arts and cultural communities of our city, and beyond, have been important influence on my work. As a high school student, I used to dread going to physics class, but I sat through it because I knew I would be able get to art class in the afternoon. Art -- in particular painting -- has been a passion of mine ever since and I have tried to continue creating art as an adult. In fact, one of my paintings hangs in Tasty Burger, a great restaurant that opened as part of the revitalization of Boylston Street in the Fenway. 

Beyond my own painting, the arts have had a tremendous impact on building strong community connections for me in Boston. From the afternoons at the museums of the Fenway along Huntington Ave to passing by street murals in Mission Hill; summer nights at Shakespeare in the Common and First Friday’s from the South End to Jamaica Plain – the arts in Boston have introduced me to knew friends, neighbors, and experiences that have brought me closer to my community. I have long championed the arts in Boston because to me the arts are a part of what makes Boston the vibrant, inspiring place to live. 

 (see Mike Ross' paintings below)

Arts Education and Programs for our Youth: While the Boston Arts Academy and the BPS Arts Expansion Initiative are providing access to quality arts education, many of our youth are still being left out of the creative community. What will you do as Mayor to champion arts education with our youth both in our schools and in our communities? How will you balance the importance of arts education with the constant pull to “teach to the test”?

As Mayor, bringing arts education to every Boston Public School will be a priority for my school department. My focus on extended learning time for BPS is directed not on adding 15 minutes to math and English classes, but rather building in time for diverse enrichment programs like art, music, and theater. Just as it was the prospect of art class that got me through the day when I was in school, we should be providing the kinds of opportunities that offer positive pathways for creative expression and make kids eager to stay and come back to school.

Every BPS school should offer arts programming in visual arts, music, theater, and dance, but Boston also needs to invest in building Madison Park High School into the very best vocational technical school in the state. As Mayor, I will make that investment, but in addition to traditional vocational programs like carpentry, auto mechanics, electrical engineering, I will make Madison Park a leading high school for students eager to enter creative industries as well. Students of Boston Public Schools should have a range of outlets and career avenues presented to them, including in the culinary arts, fashion design, web design, architecture and interior design. As Boston’s creative economy continues to grow we should be encouraging our young people to pursue careers in those industries. High schools from Newton to Worcester are teaching CAD and culinary skills that are inspiring new dreams in their students. As Mayor, I will invest in the imaginative spirit and skills of our Boston schoolchildren, whether their passion is art, music, theater, or a technical creative field.

But BPS can’t do it alone. As Mayor, I will make building cross-sector partnerships a priority for bringing resources and funding for arts programs into our schools and communities. Boston is home to a rich ecosystem of creative non-profits, institutions, and businesses and we must engage them to bring their resources, talents, knowledge, and inspiration to our young people where they live, in the neighborhoods.


The New Administration’s Role in the Creative Community: According to research conducted by Americans for the Arts, Boston consistently ranks among the bottom five of the 30 largest U.S. cities in what it annually invests in the creative community. Some in the creative community are concerned about the city’s administrative capacity to program, support, and promote activities. Describe how you will address these concerns in the following areas:

  • What three revenue sources will you create or use to increase the city’s financial investment in the creative community?
  • How will you modify or expand the city’s current administrative structure to support the creative community?
  • What are your program priorities and where will the funds be allocated?

Strengthening Boston’s creative community will require identifying new resources to support our goals. That is why my Arts & Cultural Agenda starts with a commitment to implement a 1% For the Arts policy that requires new development projects in Boston to dedicate one percent of total project costs to public art or art programming in the city. This will generate a significant increase in funding for the arts across Boston. Cities from Seattle to Baltimore have had a long and successful history with similar policies and it is time Boston adopt it as well.

I will also strengthen partnerships across the arts and creative community to support programming in our parks, schools, and public places. The relationship between the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is an excellent partnership example where an institution is lending its works to enhance the public realm and provide aligned programming. I will look for similar opportunities to leverage the resources of our arts community to support public programs. Additionally, I will look to increase funding for the city’s own administrative focus on the arts and creative industries.


The Creative Economy: One of Mayor Menino’s signature accomplishments was the promotion of the Innovation District that supports and promotes the creative economy. As mayor, how would you leverage that success and broaden your administration's commitment to the creative economy to include arts and culture as well as the innovation district? How will you foster an ecosystem which is reflective of the up and coming independent creative community in Boston?

Equally as exciting as the expansion of Boston’s technology-focused innovation economy is the recent growth and development of our creative economy. From advertising and new media firms to architects and interior designers; graphic and industrial designers to video game developers and gallerists, entrepreneurs in creative sectors are putting down roots across Boston. As Mayor, I would place a stronger focus on attracting, retaining, and supporting those businesses as drivers of jobs and economic development.

I will extend existing business development resources to businesses in the creative economy and make them feel included in our city’s broad strategy for developing the knowledge-based economy. Specifically, I will increase access to technical assistance and mentorship resources, and work to increase access to capital for the creative industry by brining Boston’s investment community together with creative industry leaders. I will also work with leaders in the community to shape and build Boston’s brand as a creative economy hub, supporting events and campaigns that promote the city’s businesses and community.

Additionally, to support our creative industries it is critical to support the underpinnings that attract and retain creative talent in Boston. That means addressing issues like housing, public transportation, and continuing to make Boston a highly livable city. As Mayor, I will support the development of new housing across the neighborhoods of Boston and strengthen on-site inclusionary zoning policies in order to create more dedicated live/work spaces. I will be a strong advocate for improved public transportation and will bring back late-night MBTA service so patrons of the arts have a safe ride to and from our city’s arts and cultural offerings. I will also reform the city permitting process to support and inspire arts programming in our public spaces and neighborhoods.


A World Class Arts Destination: While Boston is known for its hospitals, professional sports, and universities, the city has yet to fully leverage the strength of our arts, culture, and creative community as a means for tourism and branding. How would you utilize our community to market Boston as a world-class cultural destination?

Boston enjoys amazing institutions and creative capital, however, we have not done enough to support and promote it on a grand stage. My Arts & Cultural Agenda aims to deepen the City’s commitment and connection to the arts. I will increase investment in the arts, leverage Boston’s creative community to help make Boston a global hub for arts and culture, and elevate our city to a world-class cultural destination. To achieve this I will not only foster a “pro-arts” administration but also rely on the power of the community itself.

As Mayor, I will support neighborhood cultural districts and a network of world-class public art that will attract visitors to all parts of our city. I will reform regulatory processes to encourage high profile music and arts festivals throughout the year that also attract visitors from around the world. I will also empower Boston’s creative community to develop a branding campaign that promotes their city as a global cultural destination.


Your Priorities: The start of a Mayor’s tenure often sets the Administration’s tone and priorities. When elected, what actions will you take in your first 100 days to provide support and resources to the creative community?

Supporting and strengthening the arts, culture, and creative economy of Boston will be a strong priority for me as Mayor. In the first 100 days of my administration I will implement a strong Arts & Cultural Agenda that addresses funding for the arts, supports both new and established artists in our city, connects residents to the arts and institutions in our communities, establishes Boston as an arts destination, and supports the growing creative economy. My Arts & Cultural Agenda includes ten priority topics that I will direct my administration to begin addressing on Day One:

1.     1% Funding for the arts

  • Immediately begin the process of requiring new development projects in Boston to dedicate one percent of the total project cost to public art or art programming.
  • Help generate critical funding for the broad set of priorities in the rest of my Arts & Cultural Agenda.

 2.     Arts in our schools and communities

  • Bring art, music, theater and dance in all BPS schools
  • Invest in a leading tech voc high school to teach creative economy careers paths like culinary arts, fashion design, graphic design, web design, architecture, and interior design.
  • Strengthen partnerships with local arts organizations and institutions to bring resources, talent, and inspiration to our young people

 3.     Supporting affordable live/work space to retain artists

  • Support new development to meet Boston’s housing demands
  • Strengthen onsite inclusionary zoning policies to create more dedicated artists housing
  • Encourage live/work spaces in neighborhoods across the city
  • Provide support for long-standing artist housing communities

 4.     Attract and retain artists and creative professionals

  • Celebrate the creative talents of emerging artists and art students
  • Integrate student and emerging artists and creative professionals into the cultural fabric of our city by offering opportunities to participate in festivals, exhibitions, and community programs
  • Build stronger partnerships with Boston area art schools to support students in Boston after graduation

 5.     Promote Boston as an Arts & Cultural Destination

  • Create branding campaign for Boston as an Arts destination
  • Empower local artists, galleries, musicians, and creative professionals to promote our city
  • Create a robust network of public art installations and neighborhood cultural districts that encourage visitors to tour more than just our largest museums

 6.     Permitting and Licensing that encourages the arts

  • Reform city regulatory processes to support and inspire arts and cultural programming
  • Create a “pro-arts” culture in city government
  • Support community voices in neighborhood arts planning 

 7.     Encourage more affordable practice, performance, gallery spaces across the city

  • Open BPS school facilities after hours to community theater and arts organizations as low-cost rehearsal and performance space in our neighborhoods
  • Encourage new development projects to include community gallery spaces in ground floors

 8.     Public Art: Letting art flourish in public spaces across Boston

  • Create planning process to open city parks, plazas, sidewalks, and other land to public art
  • Encourage private developers to include public art in their open spaces
  • Fully fund the Mayor’s Mural Crew to engage youth in painting murals in Main Streets districts

 9.     Boston’s Creative Economy: Supporting and promoting a rapidly growing economic sector

  • Promote the range of creative professionals across all sectors working in Boston
  • Improve access to technical assistance resources and capital for creative economy businesses
  • Promote Boston as a creative economy hub
  • Invest in the underpinnings that support artists and creative professionals

 10.  Neighborhood Cultural Districts

  • Support community cultural planning to highlight and attract visitors to the unique cultural character of our neighborhoods

Below are a few of Mike Ross' original paintings:


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