While there was a great deal of crowing about cultural equity in 2017, the challenge for local arts organizations in 2018 is to be dogged about demanding access to opportunities for creative expression and play. This is especially true in neighborhoods like Mattapan where, by all measures, disparities loom.
Why? Because “more than any other social offering, availability of arts and
cultural opportunities make people love where they live” (ArtsBoston, “The Arts Factor: Measurable Impact; Boundless Possibilities,” 2014; italics mine). Mattapan resident calls for more neighborhood-based out-of-school arts programs, cultural programming, and nightlife throughout recent years only affirm ArtsBoston’s 2014 report.
So as both an artist, and as creative director of Mattapan Cultural Arts Development (MCAD). I was heartened when Boston embarked on a citywide cultural planning process– a process “intended to hear from as many voices as possible” (Next City, June 26, 2016), and “to put the arts at the heart of the city’s future for at least the next decade, for artists, residents, and visitors alike” (The Boston Globe, October 11, 2014).
All of this was only reinforced when I attended Americans for the Arts’ 2017 Annual Convention, which made “cultural equity” its through-line last year. The Convention’s call for “the fair distribution of programmatic, financial, and informational resources” was predicated on the idea that “all people everywhere have the right to inherit and develop their intellectual, emotional, material, and spiritual traditions” (Americans For the Arts‘ “Statement on Cultural Equity,” 2017).
And, coming as it did on the heels of BostonCreates–the product of Boston’s citywide cultural planning process, Mattapan artists re-doubled their efforts throughout 2017 to ‘make art happen in Mattapan:’
K. Fine Arts Studios’ Marjorie Saintil-Belizaire conducted after-school art activities and community paint nights, as well as initiated the first ever Mattapan Open Studios at the Mattahunt Community Center during her tenure as a Boston Artist-in-Residence (A.I.R.) there.
African Repertory Troupe’s Cassandra Cato-Louis brought street theatre to Mattapan Square–staging Fet Toussaint and I Am Free (May & June, respectively), lined up performances for our Neponset River Arts Festival, and coordinated ‘AiLI n d Pan’ (“Art Is Life Itself”–Mattapan) on World Aids Day 2017 in collaboration with Nina La Negra and Brothers Deli & Restaurant.
musiConnects’s Boston Public Quartet brought its “Errands Tour” to the Mattapan Post Office and American Food Basket.
Greater Boston Nazarene Compassionate Center’s Pelerge Charles guided a group of teens through a research process about the role of the arts in the Civil Rights movement, culminating in an art installation of the teens’ work there.
Now that the Year of the Rooster has given way to the Year of the Dog, MCAD and its subsidiary, the Mattapan Arts Council are gearing up make 2018 the Year of Promise. It’s time to move cultural equity beyond theory into our studio, social, and civic praxes. Expect us.