Mayor's Arts Task Force - Meeting #3 Notes
(as reported for the Jan 7, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting)

Mayor’s Arts Task Force Meeting Notes
Third Meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force
Date: Dec 13th, 2018
Location: MIT Theater Arts Building - 345 Vassar St.
Meeting Start: 5:39PM
Meeting Adjourned: 7:46PM

In attendance as members of the Task Force were: Alanna Mallon, Chair; Liana Ascolese, Aide to Councillor Mallon and Executive Assistant to the Task Force; Afiyah Harrigan, Mayor’s Office Liaison; Khalil Mogassabi, Deputy Director and Chief Planner, CDD; Olivia D’Ambrosio, Executive Director of the Bridge Repertory Theater; Geeta Pradhan, CEO of the Cambridge Community Foundation; Ben Simon, EMF musician; Kristina Latino, CEO of Cornerscape; Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager; Jason Weeks, Executive Director of the Cambridge Arts Council; David De Celis, Public Arts Commission; Kelly Sherman, visual artist; Christopher Hope, Executive Director of the Loop Lab; Sarah Gallop, government relations at MIT; Martha McKenna, Director of the Creative Commons at Lesley University; James Pierre, visual artist; Peter DiMuro, Executive Director of the Dance Complex; Jero Nesson, founder of Artspace.

Members of the public in attendance were: Kristen Wainwright, Rick Harranan, Liz Walker, Rich McKinnon, Melissa LaVita, Tina Snyder, Michelle Lower, and Sal Zinno.

Materials related to this meeting are attached.

Councillor Mallon called the meeting to order at 5:39PM. She thanked everyone for coming last month and participating in the Discovering Bias training. It’s important to recognize inherent, structural, and institutional biases as we try to support artists. She stated that the tools we learned from Malia Lazu’s meeting should be brought into all of our meetings when we talk about these comprehensive policies. Councillor Mallon asked that task force members take a few seconds to remember where we were with her when we were at a place of real truth and honesty. The task force also has its goals displayed on the board from last meeting when Ms. Lazu asked each task force member to describe their goals in one word. Councillor Mallon asked everyone to think about their words and the words of other task force members.

Councillor Mallon stated that this is our first policy-focused meeting and this is a good time to talk about funding since the City is preparing for the 2020 fiscal year. We should ask ourselves the following questions: what is our goal around art? What diversity outcomes do we want? What are our values around diversity? She stated that it’s fine to have values but we need the funding behind them.

Councillor Mallon described tonight’s break out groups that task force members could select from:

  1) Increasing City investment in the arts via revenue and budget

  2) Reimagining the City’s 1% for art program

  3) Exploring public/private partnerships, including starting a private percent for art program

Councillor Mallon explained that several representatives from development groups were in attendance to observe the conversation in break out group #3, and listen to the arts community’s needs. She stated that this would be a conversation for developers to connect to the arts community and find out how they can contribute to it.

Arts Task Force members split up into break out groups for approximately 45 minutes to discuss their respective topics. Each group chose a member to report back to the entire Task Force.

Group #3: Exploring public/private partnerships, including starting a private percent for art program, presented first and Ms. Snyder was the presenter. The group talking about the following main points:

• MIT is trying to figure out how to put more money into its commercial developments to support the arts

• The Cambridge Crossing market is asking what is the best way to collaborate with cities and local artists?

• How do developers find local artists? Many have been working with the Community Arts Center, but would like ways to expand their network. What are the easy ways to find local artists?

• Is there a form of communication where developers can easily find people to collaborate with?

• Programming: how do sites continue the story after hosting just one event? There is a goal of making art continuous and consistent

• Mechanisms to acknowledge the fact that zoning mitigation is a vehicle to encourage or require developers to support artists.

Ms. Latino added that there is a reality of trying to make things easy for developers, and how do we integrate arts early on? There is a conflict between short and long term goals.

Ms. Snyder added that developers are often thinking about permitting and getting projects going, so how do we get arts in early and in an authentic way? We need to think about the value that art will add to a place and make the process more holistic.

Ms. Gallop stated that she wanted MIT to be working towards creating art that is authentic and actually a part of the community.

Ms. Snyder stated that developers seeking artists cannot just rely on personal networks.

Mr. DiMuro asked that we expand the definition of art and keep it wider to include mediums besides visual art. He stated that he is paid as a consultant to in communities across the country to help find artists, but is not usually asked to participate in the process in Cambridge. He stated that he is here and artists are developers’ best tool in planning and are eager to help from the outset.

Ms. Snyder stated that we need to think about artists when programming.

Mr. De Celis asked if future structured programming around arts and development would be helpful. he stated that a requirement might make the investment in the arts easier for developers, because then they are just required to do it. Mr. De Celis also asked about owner buy-in and what affect this has. Owners of properties need to be brought on to all of these aspects.

Ms. Pradhan stated that constant programming needs to be prioritized, and that visual artists are always present but other mediums take upkeep.

Councillor Mallon asked Ms. Lower about the ordinance in San Francisco.

Ms. Lower responded that Alexandria has offices in San Francisco, where developers are required to contribute 1% of the hard costs of construction to the arts, and that it’s amazing what they’ve been able to do. It’s a very formal process that involves a committee that reviews proposals and presentations within the City and development side. She stated that it was an interesting model and seems as though it’s successful.

Mr. DiMuro affirmed that many dancers in the City of San Francisco literally live on this money and it’s a game changer for them.

Ms. Lower said that for developers in San Francisco there are two options: you can sponsor a physical manifestation of art or you can pay into a fund which is more flexible.

Ms. Gallop stated that commercial properties at MIT are voluntary but they usually opt-in, however they don’t often use local artists. MIT tends to work with the architects to figure out the artist, which may not be the right process. She stated that they want to work on this more.

Mr. Zinno stated that real estate is cyclical, so we need to be aware of droughts and how that could impact artist funding.

Group #1: Increasing City investment in the arts via revenue and budget presented second and Ms. Sherman was the presenter. The group talked about the following main points:

• There are many revenue streams the City has that are not designated yet, such as Air BnB and recreational marijuana taxes

• There is a fund for developers who don’t meet parking requirements for their projects. What is the relationship between this and the Central Square Improvement Fund that’s mentioned in the Central Square Restoration Petition? Can we formalize this process to make sure the improvement fund is set up and money is disbursed to artists in the cultural district?

• A percentage of arts revenue from larger arts organizations should go to local or smaller artists or organizations

• There are several ways that the City can facilitate indirect support of artists as well

• Can we create a Find it Cambridge-like platform for art and artists? A one-stop shop where both artists and the public can look at programs, shows, find out what’s happening, find local artists, find out who’s doing work and where, and search for events that are happening. This could not just live on its own and would need to be actively programmed and maintained.

• The library offers free museum passes, but they all seem to be to larger institutions like the JFK Museum, the MFA, the Science Museum, etc. Can we establish a season pass to a network of smaller organizations?

• Establishing an Arts Boston style kiosk for consumers of culture

• Ways to centralize resources that cultural producers and organizations need, such as: managing start-up costs, co-working spaces, accelerator programs. This would need to be managed by the City or some other third entity.

• Expanding the bandwidth of the Cambridge Arts Council through a partnership model between the City, industry, and culture - how do you open up the resources in our City that are easy to give away? Not just money but resources like space.

• The City budget is extremely low for arts and culture. Participatory budgeting alone is just about even with the entire budget for arts and culture. If we value art, we should put aside 5x as much money for the arts. It should not be equivalent to money that’s just up for grabs.

Mr. Weeks stated that arts yield a high return on investment.

Ms. Pradhan stated that we need to think beyond one time gifts or support - how can we support more sustainable funding? This might account for the cyclical nature of real estate and make up for times when there are gaps. The innovation community values arts, but how can we make the case that arts is the first step into innovation?

Councillor Mallon stated that the Arts Council should be one leg on a 3 legged stool of partnerships - the Arts Council, community development foundations, and critical advocacy. It’s hard to do advocacy work when you are the one in government, so the Arts Council needs a partner in this.

Group #2: Reimagining the City’s 1% for art program presented third and David De Celis was the presenter. The group talked about the following main points:

• Program began in in 1979 and was not supposed to be administratively or financially Burdensome

• Is supposed to be 1%, went through a phase where the amount of money was capped at $100,000, but more recently, some projects significantly raised the cap thanks to advocacy on the part of artists

• Discussion of the different processes money is awarded: typical process is with the Foundry where there is an RFP or RFQ sent out to artists selected from the database that the Arts Council maintains, there will be a shortlist compiled of artists who may fit the site well, they each do a site visit and present to the community present, and a jury awards the project. An atypical process is with the FLOW grant that came with The Port project because community leaders wanted more of a “living organism” approach, took the grant approach to get more performative pieces.

• How we can reimagine the ordinance: more money, taking risks, asking if our public art collection reflects who we are, greater community process and involvement, more creative place making not just physical constructs

• We need to ask how we keep the stories of our art alive and relevant. How do we “sustain understanding?”

• Starting “friends of” groups - community members who have particular affinities or knowledges about pieces of art can be a liaison or educators to the community

• Ordinance needs to adapt to changes in art production - disciplines and production of art are changing and evolving, so how do we keep up? “We’re in a post bronze gloves world.”

Ms. Peterson asked how we deal with “art by consensus.” This is how many projects get watered down and don’t reflect our identity.

Mr. De Celis added another point to Group 2’s presentation: the site-based nature of public art means that areas of the City that close themselves off to construction may not have the same access to public art.

Mr. Weeks stated that we may need to reconsider how we fund arts and percent for art, and that we may need to use a grant approach instead of funding specific projects.

Ms. Pradhan stated that the first bullet was to increase the amount of money, but should this go beyond just public projects? What about private? What about a higher percentage?

Ms. Sherman asked whether we can eliminate the cap.

Mr. DiMuro stated that 1% could fund artists who are makers in the community in other ways.

They could pool the funds to use at a later date in another part of the City.

Mr. De Celis said that we need diversity not just in demographics but also diversity in types of art. He stated that the group considered other measures such as:

• Consider a quota or percentage to guarantee diversity of artist makers

• Earmarking funds for performance based art specifically

• Asking how art reflects us and the community

• Getting more diverse juries, more diverse networks, ensuring that our database is more diverse

• Guaranteeing funding for performance venues and music performers, which are rapidly leaving our City

Ms. Sherman stated that she thought the point about how art is changing was interesting. Art is less classist than it historically has been, expectations for community engagement are higher, and that more people are involved in the arts and our process should reflect it. There’s so much community engagement in the Foundry project, it’s good to ask ourselves where should the funding be coming from?

Mr. De Celis explained the triple bottom line: successful projects are better for the community, environment, and make money.

Ms. Sherman said that the baseline from the past is not sufficient anymore, and we do need more of a community engagement element. However, time is money and the same dollar years ago won’t buy you the same art now.

Mr. De Celis stated that unfortunately, many people don’t want risky projects.

Councillor Mallon asked the large group which items she should consider bringing back to the Council to put on the next agenda. The group came up with the following:

• Asking for 15% of the revenue from hotel/motel taxes

• Looking into the Central Square Improvement Fund, and getting a consensus about funding being set up, the pipeline, and the disbursement

• Seeing whether there is a percentage of the 3% of local excise tax on adult use marijuana sales that should be allocated to arts

• Asking the Arts Council to diversity both artist pools and jury pools

Ms. Sherman added removing or raising the 1% cap on the Percent for Art Ordinance.

Ms. Pradhan added expanding the idea of 1% to look at the San Francisco model. Can we do something Citywide, not just public projects? Can we get private developers on board? This would be a more robust source of funding since the City is constantly changing.

Councillor Mallon pointed out that the City budget is inconsistent with where our values lie.

Ms. D’Ambrosio asked how much free cash the City had on hand.

Councillor Mallon answered over $230 million.

Ms. D’Ambrosio stated that it shouldn’t be too hard to get the budget for the arts raised up to 5x that of Participatory Budgeting.

Ms. Peterson clarified that the City cap on percent for art had been raised, so it’s really project by project at this point. There are several projects where we are reaching 1%, but for very large projects we are not reaching the percentage. Raising the cap may not get us the results we want.

Ms. Pradhan stated that we need to consider the diversity of art in what the funding goes to. We need to recognize that art is not just physical.

Ms. Pradhan then gave a short presentation on the Cambridge Community Foundation and opportunities for them to be a fiscal agent. She informed the group about what a community foundation is: special entities that had been set up in the 1900s in response to public inequities, and that these organizations were made up of funds that are contributed to by the community in general. They are governed by a community board and fund a host of community issues. Community foundations are the local giving platform of a neighborhood or municipality. She stated that community foundations have the goal of shared prosperity, social equity, and cultural richness. The Cambridge Community Foundation specifically has the goal of responding to the great wealth but also great inequities of Cambridge so that we can live up to and retain our diversity.

Ms. Pradhan stated that the Cambridge Community Foundation (CCF) makes grants, engages civically, and cultivates philanthropy. They have a $41 million endowment and give out $1.5-$2 million annually in foundation and donor advised grants. She joked that they are the “Switzerland of Cambridge”, a neutral entity that can engage in any issue with any partner. She stated that they are a trusted entity to be a fiscal agent, because they have been funding nonprofits for years, have a deep knowledge of the community, and have a strong reach into the City, nonprofits, and the community. Ms. Pradhan gave recent examples of CCF funded projects, such as $50K for the murals in Central Square and being the fiscal agent for the immigrant defense fund.

Ms. Pradhan stated that one of CCF’s goals was their commitment to the arts. The City has a growing immigrant population and we need to see more cultures represented everywhere. Arts and creativity are the DNA of Cambridge; people come from all over the world to work and solve problems because we are seen as the innovation center in the world - so many organizations start here and have become worldwide.

Ms. Pradhan stated that CCF supports 125 arts organizations, but cannot find data on how many artists are in the City, which is disappointing. She stated that arts and culture generates $174 million in economic impact and asked how we harness this to fund arts in our community. She stated different grants that have been available through CCF and gave an overview of their new civic engagement component.

Ms. Pradhan discussed the potential role that CCF can play if there are additional revenue streams for the arts that require a fiscal agent. Proposals include:

• Creating funds such as: endowment funds, spend down funds, field of interest funds

• Receiving fund contributions - CCF is a 501c3 so they can receive contributions and donors can get tax deductions. They can also solicit contributions for existing funds.

• Manage money to get a high return on investment through partners like Bank of America and Cambridge Trust

• Solicit, administer, and track grants

• Offering partnerships with their community advisory boards who do research and make recommendations to the CCF board which has the fiduciary responsibility - this can help the CCF board integrate more deeply with communities

• Foster civic engagement, dialogue, and advocacy while allowing for a flexible use of funds Ms. Pradhan stated the importance of actively getting involved in the community so that Cambridge doesn’t become two cities. She stated the ability of CCF to also do report impacts, marketing campaigns, and publish research.

Ms. Pradhan outlined the principles for successful public/private partnerships:

1. Shared vision

2. Understand partners and players

3. Build trust

4. Establish clear, transparent, rational decision making

5. Consistent and coordinated leadership

6. Communicate early and often

Ms. Pradhan concluded by saying that having an arts fund has been on the minds of CCF for a very long time, because arts is what makes Cambridge special.

Mr. Mogassabi asked whether the CCF would fund something like a grant for the City to create a master plan for the arts.

Ms. Pradhan answered by saying that as a nonprofit, the City could apply and CCF could fund a master plan for the arts.

Councillor Mallon thanked Ms. Pradhan for putting together her presentation, because it tied the conversation of funding together. She stated that Boston has a great plan for the arts and that Cambridge is just starting out, but we have good ideas and quoted Councillor Simmons in that “if you don’t know where you’re going, any train will get you there.” She stated that knowing we have partners to help us with our arts goals makes this a powerful time to pursue them.

Councillor Mallon adjourned the meeting at 7:46pm.