TBF News Arts Issue January 2017

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Zodiac Heads
 Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads on the Greenway

How Public Art Animates a City

  5000 Bostonians

From April to late October of 2016, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a key leader in Boston’s public art space, presented Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, by the Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. This tour de force of public art was installed around the Rings Fountain in Boston’s Wharf District. Twelve monumental bronze animal heads represented the signs of the Chinese zodiac. Their stay in Boston was part of a global, multi-year exhibit.  
In a similar vein, Monkey See, a sculpture by New Mexico artist Don Kennell, is enhancing Chinatown Park in honor of the Year of the Monkey. Both works represent one goal of the Greenway’s Public Art Curator Lucas Cowan, which is to engage with nearby neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, with pieces that directly correlate with the culture and traditions of the communities. 
“Our other goal is to elevate the work of Boston-area artists,” says Cowan, who has put out a request for proposals from locally-based Massachusetts artists. Cowan moved here from Chicago as part of a wave of talented arts professionals, including Julie Burros, the City’s Chief of Arts and Culture and the Foundation’s own Director of Arts and Culture Allyson Esposito. They all are excited to be here. Along with the City, funders, arts organizations, artists and, most important, those who live in Boston’s neighborhoods, they envision a Boston that is infused with art and where art is at the heart of the city’s contemporary identity. “Boston is a marvelous city full of history,” says Cowan, “but it’s been about 30 years behind a number of other cities, like Philadelphia and Chicago, when it comes to contemporary public art.”



Dancers performed at a Boston Foundation event, which included a discussion about the performing arts: (from left) Junichi Kukuda, Yosi Karahashi and the Wondertwins.

Innovation and Risk-Taking in the Performing Arts

Number of arts and culture nonprofits in Boston’s densely populated arts ecosystem. While small organizations make up 90% of these, they receive less than 10% of the funding, with more than 40% of all local arts funding going to three large institutions. As a result, these small Boston organizations are less likely to produce new works, partially because they are so dependent on earned revenues. 

The Boston Foundation recently launched two new grant programs that address needs articulated in its Understanding Boston report on support for the arts—as well as gaps identified through the City’s Boston Creates planning process. Both showed a lack of adequate support for small performing arts organizations and individual artists. 
Live Arts Boston (LAB) 
Dance. Theater. Performance Art. Circus Arts. These are just some of the disciplines supported through a close funding partner-ship with the Barr Foundation. LAB provides critically needed grants to Greater Boston’s performing artists and small performing arts nonprofits to create, produce or present artistic work for Greater Boston audiences. “This is a first in Boston and we thank Barr for its tremendous partnership,” says Boston Foundation President & CEO Paul S. Grogan. 

Learn more about Live Arts Boston.
Next Steps for Boston Dance 
A partnership with Boston Foundation donor Amy Zell Ellsworth, through the Aliad Fund, supports choreographers creating original work in any dance genre to take a “next step” in their careers. It provides rehearsal space, advisors, networking and implementation funding. The program was created by Ellsworth, Ruth Birnberg, former Executive Director of Boston Dance Alliance, and the Boston Foundation. Ellsworth says, “After studying programs in other parts of the country, we went directly to the presenters and choreographers who would benefit from this funding. We’ve received 64 proposals, which clearly reflects the tremendous need for it.”

Learn more about Next Steps for Boston Dance. 

Artists as Change Agents

"I think we should have arts specialists in every school in Greater Boston, from the elementary grades through high school. And I would like to see serious funding for the arts, particularly dance, of course, but for the arts in general. " - Amy Zell Ellsworth

  Allison and Amy
  Allyson Esposito (left) joined the Boston Foundation in 2015 as Director of Arts & Culture. She came to Boston from Chicago, where she served as the city’s Director of Cultural Grant-Making. She is also a dancer and choreographer. Amy Zell Ellsworth (right) has been a dancer, choreographer, teacher and philanthropist. Through her Donor Advised Fund at the Boston Foundation, she is partnering with the Foundation on a new program called Next Steps for Boston Dance.

TBF: How would you describe the dance scene in Boston?

AE: I think what is interesting is that—as opposed to Chicago, where the disciplines are very much divided—in Boston there is more convergence happening between the disciplines.

AZE: It’s really great to have that insight from someone who hasn’t always been in Boston, because the complaint has always been that there is too much separation and too many silos. So, thank you!

AE: If you go to the Dance Complex, which is one of the hubs for local dance artists, on any evening there’s a Haitian class, an African class, a modern class, a ballet rehearsal going on. It might have to do with the space issue in Boston. We all have to be in the same space, but it’s fascinating how many different kinds of dance are happening under one roof.

TBF: The arts report the Boston Foundation published this year—How Boston and Other American Cities Support and Sustain the Arts—revealed that Boston has one of the most vibrant cultural sectors of any city in the country, but that arts organizations, especially small and mid-sized nonprofits, receive less funding than the 10 other cities in the study. 

AZE: One issue is how many funders there are. If you look at Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco or Seattle, you have many more foundations that are supporting the arts and helping to develop young artists. That has simply never existed in Boston.

AE: Right, and you can feel that when you come here. But I’m fascinated to be here during this time. It feels like change is in the air, with the City’s Boston Creates plan and a growing focus on the arts. I’m on the board of Dance USA and attending conferences across the country. It’s interesting how much attention is on Boston right now because of what’s happening at the city level. I think it’s one of the great cities that hasn’t really been focusing on the development of its full arts ecosystem, monetarily or strategically, for a long time. And there’s so much here. 

Also, Boston is a center for innovation and there’s been a shift nationally in thinking about the arts beyond the nonprofit world and instead considering the creative industries and the intersections between technology and the arts. It’s time to get the nonprofit community, the ‘for profit’ community and the creative industries to come together to think about the future. 

AZE: Enthusiasm for the arts can run in cycles and you need someone like Allyson to come in to revitalize the scene. I think it’s a critical time for art—especially for choreographers and dance—in Boston. I’m feeling real change in the air—and so the timing of Next Steps for Boston Dance (see  article above), is just right. It has the potential to move things forward in a way that has not been possible in many years. I find that very exciting.

Amy and Allyson smalll photo
TBF: Where would you like to see Boston’s cultural landscape in 20 or 30 years?

AZE: I would love to see arts in the public schools in a real way. I grew up in Detroit when it had dance in all of the public schools. And I taught at Wayne State University, which was one of the training grounds for teaching dance. That’s something that doesn’t exist anymore. I think we should have arts specialists in every school in Greater Boston, from the elementary grades through high school. And I would like to see serious funding for the arts, particularly dance, of course, but for the arts in general. 

AE: I think this is one of the most beautiful cities in the country and people are always out and about, walking everywhere. I would love it if art was happening all over the place in public spaces and all communities. There are so many opportunities, so many spaces, so many talented artists—the raw materials are here, and there is a hunger for this kind of work.

AZE: I would also love to see a small theater venue designated for dance. There are other cities that have small spaces with the right kind of floor and the right kind of lighting. In San Francisco, there are two places, one for dance and one for jazz, and they’re among the most wonderful small theaters I’ve been in. 

AE: Yes, similarly there are several spaces in Chicago where you can put up an entire show for a full week for $1,500, soup to nuts. That really doesn’t exist here and it’s a big impediment. Performance is so important because a piece changes and grows as you perform it and allow audiences to connect with artists and work. I think the other thing is finding continual platforms for bringing artists together. This was a key focus of Boston Creates as they interviewed people about what elements could take Boston to another level when it comes to arts and culture. So the groundwork has been laid. Artists are change agents and there should be forums where they can convene and talk to one another. I want Boston to be on the list of great art cities in the country. All the ingredients are here.  


Many people with Donor Advised Funds at the Boston Foundation co-invest in the programs we support through our Arts & Culture impact area. Others make annual grants to Boston’s small and large cultural organizations. If you are interested in co-investing or simply learning more about how to support the arts, please contact Julie Smith-Bartoloni at julie.smith-bartoloni@tbf.org or 617-338-2684.  


Landmarks Orchestra
Boston Landmarks Orchestra on the Hatch Shell with percussionists from Camp Harbor View and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston’s Yawkey Club of Roxbury. Photo by Michael Dwyer.

Great Music.  Free for All.

Swanee Hunt
Swanee Hunt is a former ambassador to Austria, a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, an international leader in the area of women’s rights, a philanthropist and a dynamic, tireless social change agent. She is also deeply committed to keeping her late husband’s vision alive. 
In 2001, Charles Ansbacher founded Boston Landmarks Orchestra with the vision of offering free great music to audiences that transcend ethnic, economic and cultural boundaries. The Boston Foundation was “there at the beginning” with a grant that helped bring the dream to life. Today, the Boston Foundation and the Charles Ansbacher Foundation are keeping the dream alive through the Free for All Fund at the Boston Foundation. 
“At the beginning of Boston Landmarks Orchestra, you had to have faith in the idea, faith in the need and faith in Charles,” says Hunt. “The Boston Foundation had all of that. Charles didn’t confine concerts to the Boston Common or the Esplanade. He took the orchestra into Roxbury, into South Boston, into Dorchester. The Boston Foundation has the same vision for the arts.”
The mission of the Free for All Fund at the Boston Foundation is to ensure that everyone in the Boston area—children, adults, families—will have regular, permanent access to the rich world of classical, orchestral music and related cultural events. 
The Boston Foundation and the Charles Ansbacher Foundation have partnered to endow this fund within the Permanent Fund for Boston, which supports all of the Foundation’s work in Greater Boston. With each donation matched dollar for dollar, the new fund now totals more than $6 million toward a goal of $8 million.
Today, Swanee Hunt is moving what she calls her “center of gravity” to Washington, D.C., but she remains rooted in Boston through her work at the Kennedy School and her partnership with the Boston Foundation and the Free for All Fund

Watch videos, view photos and download reports and presentations from the forums.

Education Leaders Forum Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2016 Geography of Incarceration
 SkillWorks IT Jobs Success Boston Vision Project

Click here for upcoming events and the latest news from the Boston Foundation.

Record Company

The Record Co.

  There at the Beginning cover

On October 18, The Record Co., a nonprofit music incubator with a mission to build a sustainable, nationally recognized music scene in Boston, launched Boston Sessions Vol. 1: Beast, a multi-genre compilation album of 13 new songs from 13 Boston-based artists. Beast aims to develop new audiences for local music and elevate the reputation of Boston as a world-class popular music destination. The Boston Sessions compilation joins the organization’s flagship affordable recording program, which currently provides more than 750 affordable recording sessions for more than 3,000 emerging Boston artists and creates more than 900 freelance gigs for local producers and recording engineers annually. The Boston Foundation gave The Record Co. critical early support and recently made a cross-strategy grant that falls under the Foundation’s Arts & Culture impact area and its Jobs & Economic Development impact area.

For Vol. 1 of Beast, go to www.bostonsessions.org. 

The Boston Foundation has been “There at the Beginning” with critical early funding for more than 100 great ideas and new nonprofits in all areas of community life.

Board of Directors 

Rosalin Acosta
Zamawa Arenas
Andrew J. Arnott
Brian Conway
Sandra Edgerley, Chair
Michael R. Eisenson
  Grace Fey
Paul C. Gannon
Rev. Gregory G. Groover
Paul W. Lee
Linda Mason, Vice Chair
Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan
  J. Keith Motley
Peter Nessen
Ronald P. O’Hanley
Greg Shell
Scott Squillace, Esq.
Paul S. Grogan, ex officio

Senior Staff

 Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO
Stephen Chan
Vice President for Strategy and Operations
Orlando Watkins
Vice President for Programs
Kate R. Guedj
Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer
     Alfred F. Van Ranst Jr. 
Chief Financial Officer
Keith A. Mahoney
Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs
George Wilson
Chief Investment Officer

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