Boston – Dorchester’s Uphams Corner could become a revitalized center of neighborhood arts and ethnic culture, if a partnership of city, community and arts organizations has its way. The partnership, coordinated by the Boston Foundation, today received a $480,000, one-year grant from ArtPlace to catalyze a “cultural economy” with art installations, outdoor markets, local business activities and “random acts of culture” in and around the historic Strand Theatre and Uphams Corner MBTA stop.
The Uphams Corner initiative will also serve as a pilot for similar efforts up and down the Fairmount/Indigo Line corridor’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods. The work of the Boston Foundation and other partners will complement City-led planning efforts and ensure that the corridor expresses the cultural identity of its neighborhoods and residents.
“We invested in the Strand Theatre because we recognized that it is a irreplaceable part of the city and its culture,” said Mayor Menino. “The Strand provides a place for the people of Uphams Corner and the City of Boston to come together for music and the arts, and this effort can strengthen the cultural identity of Uphams Corner and be a potential model for the City’s work all along the Fairmount Line.”
The Uphams Corner initiative builds upon Mayor Menino’s $6.2 million capital investment to revitalize the Strand Theatre, and the City’s Fairmount Indigo Planning Initiative, led by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, to develop a long term strategy for business growth, employment opportunities, housing development, and corridor branding along the 9.2 mile Fairmount/Indigo commuter rail line. The line, which links South Station to Readville, crosses through Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park.
“With a revitalized rail station, ethnic diversity, a growing arts scene and one of city’s cultural gems in the Strand Theatre, Uphams Corner is a perfect setting to engage local residents, artists, businesses and community organizations in the design and creation of a cultural brand that highlights the vibrancy of the neighborhood,” said Paul Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation.
The Boston Foundation will work with the BRA, the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development and the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events, which manages the Strand, as partners in the pilot project.
They will be joined by a host of community partners, including theDudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), the Fairmount/Indigo Line CDC Collaborative, Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation and Uphams Corner Main Street . Programming partners will include Berklee College of Music , the Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre , ARTmorpheus , Design Studio for Social Intervention and the Boston University College of Fine Arts .
The partners in the Uphams Corner pilot will leverage local cultural communities and businesses to create a dynamic, shared vision for the neighborhood – with an eye toward connecting residents often disengaged from the public process. Residents, artists and university arts students will map cultural assets and ethnic traditions and elevate them through public art, open studios, public performances, craft and food markets, and innovative programming such as flash mobs and “pop-up” exhibits in vacant storefronts to raise the visibility of culture in the neighborhood. Particular focus will be placed on place-making activities by utilizing readily available spaces like the T-station, parks, street corners to connect and strengthen arts, culture and neighborhood business.
In addition, the project will rely on use of the Strand Theater as a performance hub for the neighborhood – making the city’s gem a valuable neighborhood institution.
“Community collaboration is a critical part of this place-making strategy,” said John Barros, Executive Director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, “When you engage the neighborhood at multiple levels throughout the planning, and give the community ownership of the vision – you create something powerful and sustainable for the long term.”
In addition, local partners will be assisting local artists as they grow their businesses. “We have been making direct small business and start up loans for over 16 years, including to local artists,” said Jeanne Du Bois, Executive Director of Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation. “The arts economy has proven to be a significant economic driver, and we hope to help these local arts businesses grow, find locations to rent or buy, and ultimately secure their future in their own community.”
Having a portfolio of strategies for revitalization with art at the core is central to the type of creative placemaking supported by ArtPlace, a collaboration of 11 major national and regional foundations, six of the nation’s largest banks, and eight federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, to accelerate creative placemaking across the U.S. To date, ArtPlace has raised almost $50 million to work alongside federal and local governments to transform communities with strategic investments in the arts.
"Across the country, cities and towns are using the arts to help shape their social, physical, and economic characters," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "The arts are a part of everyday life, and I am thrilled to see yet another example of an arts organization working with city, state, and federal offices to help strengthen and revitalize their communities through the arts. It is wonderful that ArtPlace and its funders have recognized this work and invested in it so generously."
ArtPlace received almost 2200 letters of inquiry from organizations seeking a portion of the $15.4 million available for grants in this cycle. Inquiries came from 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands. The 47 projects selected each take a unique and locally-focused approach to creative placemaking, from the creation of a Jazz and Heritage Center in New Orleans’ historic Tremé neighborhood to generate vibrancy and economic growth for the local community to ARTSIPELAGO, a comprehensive revitalization strategy that combines a number of unconnected arts and cultural initiatives in Eastport, Maine for greater effect. The Uphams Corner project is the only grantee in the state of Massachusetts.
“This Uphams Corner project represents the best in creative placemaking,” explained ArtPlace’s Carol Coletta. “It demonstrates a deep understanding of how smart investments in art, design and culture as part of a larger portfolio of revitalization strategies can change the trajectory of communities and increase economic opportunities for people.”
In September, ArtPlace will release a new set of metrics to measure changes over time in the people, activity and real estate value in the communities where ArtPlace has invested with its grants.
Participating foundations include Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Robina Foundation and an anonymous donor. In addition to the NEA, federal partners are the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education and Transportation, along with leadership from the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council. ArtPlace is also supported by a $12 million loan fund capitalized by six major financial institutions and managed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund. Participating institutions are Bank of America, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Chase, MetLife and Morgan Stanley.
A complete list of this year’s ArtPlace awards can be found at www.artplaceamerica.org.
The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with net assets of $850 million. In 2011, the Foundation and its donors made almost $78 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of $81 million. The Foundation is made up of some 850 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes. The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges.
In 2012, the Boston Foundation and The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) merged, with TPI operating as a distinct unit of the Boston Foundation. TPI pioneered the field of strategic philanthropic advising over 20 years ago and remains a national leader today. Through its consulting services and its work to advance the broader field of strategic philanthropy, TPI has influenced billions of dollars of giving worldwide. TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy promotes international giving from the U.S. and indigenous philanthropy abroad.
For more information about the Boston Foundation and TPI, visit www.tbf.org or call 617-338-1700.