When consultants and plans go awry: Boston’s Cultural roadmap hopelessly lost in a thicket of words

Mayor Walsh says that Boston Creates is not his vision: “It’s your vision.”   Photo by Matt West.

Mayor Walsh says that Boston Creates is not his vision: “It’s your vision.” Photo by Matt West.

In “Boston Creates” a cultural development plan for the City of Boston there are a lot of words, created by consultants who moderated hundreds of community meetings. The creators of art were often concerned with the nitty gritty problems of survival and affordable spaces in which to create new work.

The fancy “experts” wanted to seed those clouds and asked participants to do things like make “creative sandwiches.” What we got are a thicket of words slapped between two slices of white bread.

Investigative reporter Patti Hartigan attended many of these meetings and is in a solid position to take a close look at the study to see if it reflects what was said. Some think it raises more questions than it actually answers. But you can make your own determination, check out the draft study online at www.bostoncreates.org

“How will success be measured? Who is accountable? What is the timeline? Where is the money?” Hartigan writes in Boston Magazine. “A recent Boston Foundation study found that Boston falls behind other cities in corporate, foundation, and government funding for the arts. When asked directly if the city is pursuing corporate partnerships, Julie Burros (Mayor Walsh’s chief of arts and culture) replied, “Yes, yes, yes, and yes.” Okay, but is anyone at City Hall talking to General Electric about funding the arts? The newcomer to town recently announced that it will contribute $50 million to charitable causes over the next five years—but not a penny for the arts.

“But Burros did announce three specific deliverables that will come to fruition in the near term. The mayor earmarked $1 million for the arts in his State of the City speech in January, and about $400,000 of that will go toward grants to individual artists living in the city…

“Few in the arts community are willing to criticize Boston Creates publicly…it took a 23-year-old artist…Kylila Bullard, of Poetic Change, (who) said Boston Creates appeared to be a research organization with no accountability and no responsibility. She later told me she thinks the process is “just a whole bunch of circle talk” and that “no real change is going to come.” And she got the loudest applause of the evening.”

It seems that Boston’s Cultural roadmap is hopelessly lost in a thicket of words. Some typical verbiage from the plan:

Boston Creates, Boston’s cultural planning process, draws from a theoretical framework of creative capital, developed by WolfBrown. Creative capital is based on the idea that creativity of residents and creative culture of the city are important, intangible assets, creating a culturally vibrant and inclusive community. Cities with high levels of creative capital encourage, reward and integrate imaginative thinking into all aspects of community life. We want to understand the creative capital of Boston and create a plan that will prioritize, coordinate, and align public and private resources to strengthen this creative capital over the long term.”

Read more of Patti Hartigan’s incisive analysis of consultants fleecing the city of $1.4 million in return for a questionable cultural plan in Boston Magazine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s