Boston, MA

Contact Name
Matt Wilson
Project Dates
Elections are a time to discuss the strengths, challenges, and opportunities for our communities and debate our vision for the future. In most campaign races, arts and culture are rarely mentioned in this discussion by candidates or voters. We need to inject arts and culture into the mix in future elections.
In 2013, the Create the Vote coalition made that arts one of the defining issues in the Boston Mayoral election. We held sit down meetings with the candidates, a forum for all the candidates on arts and culture, and conducted a voter education campaign to the electorate about the candidate’s platforms.
Learn what you can do, in a non-partisan way, to make sure arts and culture are a part of the candidates and the voter’s priority list in your community's next election.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The Project had four goals:
Encourage candidates to propose bold and dynamic arts platforms
Encourage voters to make the candidates’ platform on the arts one of their priority issues when voting
Engaging arts leaders and supporters in non-partisan political action
Tell the stories of impact from the arts and cultural community to candidates and voters

If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The goals stayed constant throughout the campaigns.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
In the Boston campaign, 100 institutions participated in the campaign meeting with candidates, doing voter education and encouraging candidates to be champions of the arts. In the statewide campaign, more than 450 institutions engaged in similar activities. The participants ranged from individual working artists to major cultural institutions. A core group of 10-12 help develop and guide the strategy throughout the campaigns. MASSCreative staff worked with the broader campaign to help the broader community implement its tactics.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
We need our political leaders to not just be supporters of the arts, but champions of the arts. An election is an opportunity to encourage the candidates to make strong commitment to supporting initiatives around arts and the creative economy. It is also an opportunity to make arts and culture an issue when they enter the voting booth. We need to better use the election season as an opportunity to broadcast the stories fo the arts and cultural community to our leaders and the public.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
We used models from other movements, such as the environmental and LGBT communities, to guide our strategies and tactics. These movements have successfully run nonpartisan public education initiatives during elections to build their grassroots movement and influence candidates.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
MASSCreative staff developed the overall strategy for the campaign and created opportunities for the community to engage.. We recruited, trained, and motivated leaders and supporters of the arts community to implement it.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
For the gubernatorial campaign, we learned from our successes and challenges from the Boston campaign to run a more focused campaign in our outreach to the candidates, voters, and media.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Many artists and arts and cultural institutions, people have not participated in political campaigns or actions. We needed to make sure that the community was in the right mindset to engage and then provide them with the tools and tactics to engage.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
We developed a great set of simple activities for the sector to be involved. We hired organizers to work directly with the leaders of the community to encourage them to engage.

What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
To run a successful project you need a statewide entity or group of individual willing to coordinate; you need to develop a leadership team to help you design the campaign and implement it, and you need to not be afraid to get engaged in a non-partisan political action.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
In Boston, Mayor Walsh pledged to lead an arts renaissance in the city. He has hired a cabinet level cultural director and is embarking on an 18 month cultural planning process in the city of Boston. In addition the Boston arts community is engaged politically and is eager to work to help the Mayor implement his plans. In Boston we have a network of politically engaged arts leaders and supporters eager to engage in public advocacy.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
The Boston campaign was a success.
How did you measure this success or progress?
The new Mayor has a bold arts agenda, voters are more aware of arts and culture as a political issue, the arts community is more engaged in political action, and the earned media and social media avenues are carrying more stories and traffic on culture and arts advocacy.
Please describe any unexpected impacts: