Inside Out, Outside In: Boston’s Mayoral Candidates Talk Arts & Culture

Thanks to MassCreative, Mattapan creatives have a basis for comparing the two mayoral candidates before we pull a lever next Tuesday.   And while the Mattapan Arts Council (M.A.C.) has decided not to endorse a candidate this time around, a side-by-side comparison of the candidates’ responses to MassCreative’s questionnaire is worth considering.

One way to compare the two is between ‘head’ versus ‘heart:’  one candidate speaks from his personal connection to the arts; the other reveals only what he thinks about the arts.  Put differently, one approaches the questions posed from the “inside out;” the other, from “outside in.”

Of course the challenger is promoting change, while the incumbent is defending the status quo.  And it is on the hinge between the two that the M.A.C. found itself deadlocked.

The challenger acknowledges the need for change, at least.  His responses suggest he’d do something about the structural inequities that delimit the growth of “small theater companies and small galleries with emerging artists,” for example.  The M.A.C. was especially heartened by his recognition of the need for “greater artist data collection” and “artists who aren’t being counted”–something our parent organization, Mattapan Cultural Arts Development (MCAD) has been railing against for years now.

The incumbent’s questionnaire responses tout Boston Creates as his major ‘signature’ achievement with respect to arts & culture.   And while the M.A.C. agrees that The Plan “sets goals for what a healthy arts and culture ecosystem in Boston [should] look like,”  the M.A.C.’s excitement about its prospects for Mattapan has dissipated over time.

Why?   We were disheartened when BostonCreates selected people from outside of Mattapan to lead its “community conversation” here:  none of the artists or arts advocates who live, work, or play in Mattapan were chosen to play an integral role (and yes, several of us applied); and the face, assigned by the City, to represent our neighborhood looked nothing like the faces we see on the ground here everyday.   

Yet, we participated–we engaged the Boston Creates process at every step, along the way.  We attended the City’s “community conversations” (again, led by people unfamiliar to any of us at the time).  We attended several of its “Town Halls,” completed surveys, and otherwise entertained whatever demands the City’s cultural planning process asked of us.   Mattapan Cultural Arts Development even hosted one of its “What Artists Knead” Breadmaking Parties given its mission to re-brand Mattapan as a cultural destination; and did so, in the face of a roiling debate that continues to this day.  And yet, hope …remains.

So while the incumbent has reason to be “proud of Boston Creates” as work product, when it comes to Mattapan at least, ‘the devil’ is always/already in the public process, it seems.   The disregard is never lost on us.  As artists, we are acutely attune to process as predicate for product(ion).

We love our neighborhood, however; and so, we can only pray that whoever wins Boston’s mayoral race next Tuesday will approach Mattapan, not as some “disassembled” community to be sub-divided and re-districted into political oblivion.

We want whoever wins to think of Mattapan as warranting every other consideration accorded other neighborhoods of Boston.   Whoever becomes the next Mayor of Boston should know that the Mattapan Arts Council will be making art happen in Mattapan as we build a “healthy arts and culture ecosystem” here.

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