Mayor's Arts Task Force - Meeting #4 Notes
(as reported for the Jan 28, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting)

Mayor’s Arts Task Force – Meeting Notes

Fourth Meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force
Date: Jan 10th, 2019
Location: Community Art Center, 119 Windsor St.
Meeting Start: 5:36PM
Meeting Adjourned: 7:39pm

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; Christopher Hope, Executive Director of The Loop Lab; Jero Nesson, Founder of Artspace, Inc.; Olivia D’Ambrosio, Director of Bridge Repertory Theater; Ellen Shakespear, Cofounder of Spaceus; Kelly Sherman, visual artist and consultant; Eryn Johnson, Executive Director of the Community Art Center; Kristina Latino, CEO of Cornerscape; Sarah Gallop, MIT government relations; Ben Simon, musician and Cambridge Arts Coalition; David De Celis, architect and member of the Public Arts Commission; Jason Week, Executive Director of the Cambridge Arts Council; Michael Monestime, Executive Director of the Central Square Business Association; Khalil Mogassabi, Deputy Director and Chief Planner, Community Development Department; Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager.

Attending as a guest speaker was Lillian Hsu from the Cambridge Arts Council.

The meeting was audio & video recorded as well as photographed by students in the first cohort of The Loop Lab’s workforce training program.

Materials related to this meeting are attached.

Councillor Mallon called the meeting to order at 5:36pm. She thanked Eryn and the Community Art Center for hosting. As indicated by a raise of hands, many of the Task Force members had never been to the Community Art Center and this meeting was a good introduction. Councillor Mallon informed the group of some exciting news: students from the first cohort of The Loop Lab were present to record the meeting. She gave a shout out to Christopher Hope for bringing his students and putting together a video of tonight’s meeting.

Mr. Hope described the program at The Loop Lab as a social enterprise focused on workforce development and AV technology. The program runs for 6 months as young adults from The Port learn the basics of AV technology and receive hands on training. They attend the program 3 nights/week and can earn a paid internship. The first half of the program is learning the basics of work and editing. The second half of the program is more basics, but working with community partners, learning the basics like social media marketing, radio broadcasting, and programming. He introduced Matt Malikowski as the program manager, who had accompanied the cohort. The students with us tonight are young adults and are here to learn.

Councillor Mallon thanked Chris and the students for being a partner in this experience and for having a chance to show the public the work that the Task Force is doing. She updated the Task Force on the 3 policy orders regarding funding that passed at the last Council meeting. She thanked the people who came and wrote and advocated passionately for more funding, reimagining the 1% for arts ordinance, and establishing the Central Square Improvement Fund through the provision in the restoration petition and Zoning Ordinance. This is not the end of the process and there is more work to be done, she will keep everyone posted. Councillor Mallon stated that what’s important is that we’re not just waiting until the end of the Task Force to make recommendations in a document, but instead making these live and active meetings to push critical issues forward and get to work right away. She stated that for working artists, there is a lot of asking to donate time and volunteer. This Task Force is yet another example of that and she wants to make it worthwhile.

Councillor Mallon reminded the group that at the last meeting, they had a robust but truncated discussion about public art, so we wanted to keep that momentum going by moving it up to tonight’s meeting. We will be discussing studio space at the next meeting.

Councillor Mallon stated that tonight we will be defining what we mean by public art, setting goals, discussing equity in art, artists, outcomes, and disciplines, and discussing how we can support those goals. Additionally, she reminded everyone the public art topics discussed at the previous meeting, and that there were still some questions around both the public art process and the Community Art Center’s role in connecting different entities to the community.

The group did two warm up excises: each wrote down their favorite piece of public art in Cambridge, and then members were asked to write down their initial reactions to public art pieces that were displayed on cards passed around the group.

Councillor Mallon introduced Lillian Hsu from the Arts Council to speak to the process around public art.

Ms. Hsu thanked the group for having her and stated that she would give a brief overview in 10 minutes, but that anyone was invited to contact her or visit the Arts Council if they continued to have questions or want further explanation. Telling people “what we do” is hard because the Arts Council is constantly evolving and changing as they are working with a living organism that is the City and community. She listed the values that were part of their mission, including: bringing more art into the public domain, particularly for “everybody.” Ms. Hsu defined public art as something that doesn’t have operating hours, tickets, or barriers, and emphasized their social justice approach.

Ms. Hsu stated that another value the Arts Council has is expertise in the community and the field of art. The Arts Council relies on those areas of expertise.

Ms. Hsu outlined the overall public art process from project identification to completion, whatever that completion might be. She defined completion as a broad, multi-year process to be thought of as a running stream of activity. Communication with the community and other City departments is key.

Ms. Hsu outlined the main steps of the process: identifying the project, site selection, and budget discussion. The public art framework, such as whether the art itself is temporary or long term, is considered. The Arts Council asks how many projects are possible within these parameters.

Ms. Hsu clarified that the selection process is often for one or more artists. This is not always the same process every time, and there are several different ways the process has been carried out.

Ms. Hsu gave the example of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) vs. Requests for Qualifications (RFQs), which are both used as tools in the public art process. RFQs ask about the skills and experience that an artist brings to a project. They often need to turn in support material, images, or performance examples. She explained that calls for RFQs for a specific project can be put out nationally or locally, depending on what the site and scope of the project is. RFPs call for a more detailed project proposal from anyone who wants to submit one. Ms. Hsu gave the example of the MBTA, which recently had 400 proposals so far, and artists are still developing ideas and submitting. The Arts Council does not often take this path because if artists are developing entire projects and interacting with the site, they should be getting paid.

Ms. Hsu said that the arts Council gave out cards about the public art collection that belongs to everyone in the City, whether they live or work here.

Ms. Hsu went on to explain that after the RFQ process, they will select a group of artists from their submissions to further develop project proposals. When an artist is developing a proposal, they need to know more about the site, because all our art is catered and created specifically for each site. The Arts Council does not go out and buy existing art and relocate it to a site. Ms. Hsu emphasized that the site is not only its physical attributes, but also the social, historical, political, and other attributes. Artists can educate themselves or get educated about the site by going out and pursuing the information they’re interested in and connecting with the community and other organizations. Because of this extensive process, the Arts Council does not have the budget to do this with multiple artists on a single site.

Ms. Hsu explained that an art jury is the Arts Council’s way of using the expertise of arts professionals with a lot of experience and knowledge of art. They have seen hundreds of artists and are accustomed to evaluating artists on particular measures. The juries are made up of between 3 and 4 professionals who select finalists to develop proposals.

Ms. Hsu explained that a site committee is a larger group of 18-22 people composed of stakeholders specific to the site. She used the example of the King Open School which involved families, the principle, school liaison, businesses across the street, residents in the area, the Public Art Commission, the architect, and City departments. This group interviews finalists and looks at proposals, deliberates and shares feedback, and comes to a decision about selecting the artist.

Ms. Hsu used the example of The Port infrastructure project as a deviation from this typical process. The Arts Council worked closely with Eryn and the Community Art Center to create a series of values and rubric criteria to develop a one-time grant program called FLOW. They received 72 submissions and proposals and ended up funding 11 projects. She stated that models like this can be used to strengthen skills in the community such as grant writing, which is why FLOW sought first-time applicants. These applicants learned to ask important questions such as budgeting, putting together materials, and considering maintenance of art, especially in ice and snow.

Councillor Mallon stated that she thought some of these processes needed to be clearer on the website and to the public, and that this is some of the work that could come out of the Task Force in the Spring.

Ms. Hsu stated that educating the community is a broad topic and mentioned an initiative where the Arts Council partnered with teachers at the Tobin Montessouri school. David De Celis helped the Arts Council connect to the school community and took them to see the public art in their neighborhood. The Arts Council wants to further integrate public art into the school curriculum, because every discipline exists in the public space. Whatever subject is being taught, teachers can work in the City’s public art to their curriculum and the Arts Council wants to help do that. She stated that their website needs to be a lot more robust and they are always working on it because keeping up with a website and how information needs to be transmitted is a task in and of itself. She stated that the Arts Council would like the Task Force’s help and feedback.

Councillor Mallon introduced Eryn Johnson, the Executive Director of the Community Art Center.

Ms. Johnson stated that she was honored to follow Ms. Hsu’s presentation, as the Arts Council has been making public art for years, but the Community Art Center is recently breaking into this field, though the Center itself is not new. The mission of the Community Art Center is to engage youth in art to transform their neighborhood and their world. Ms. Johnson stated that the Center was crowded tonight, but hopefully as Task Force members walked through, they were able to gauge the energy and spirit as they observed the space while the kids were still here. She stated that many alumni still come back and send their kids here, because this place holds the cultural identity of this neighborhood, but also of Cambridge and how we imagine ourselves to be.

Ms. Johnson described the Community Art Center as an interdisciplinary art space with programs for ages 5-19, but they are now working with people in their early 20s. Although students come from all over the City, much of their work is focused on The Port. Programs focus on creative and active organizing, building skills in the arts and personal/career development, program development, and what’s called creative youth development. She stated that creative youth development is focused on taking arts skills and applying them to the world. The Center is a licensed after school program that also offers teen media and a public art program.

Ms. Johnson explained that in 2010, the Community Art Center wrote a strategic plan and interview a lot of young people and community members. She explained the result of this was people talking about opportunity, growth, and change. There is a lot of these things in the City, but people from The Port often feel they are not a part of it.

Ms. Johnson explained that the Community Art Center has always been a “place-based place”, so many people have never been here before, because it’s one of those places where if you know about it, you’re in the know. The Center realized they cannot just keep their art there anymore and needed to address the feelings of alienation from growth and opportunity around them. The Center has established relationships with corporations in Kendall Square and with MIT. Their teen program was started when the Center used to be a Polaroid Building through a collaboration with that company. The neighborhood has an amazing history around technology and AV, which is why it’s cool that The Loop Lab now exists. The Center has an archive of Port photography if people are interested.

Ms. Johnson explained the Center’s relationship with Novartis, when the company asked them to put up art on their construction site. The Art Center proposed a year-long project where kids would put up 4 murals and an outdoor gallery as the construction progressed. This initiative was meant to get ideas, faces, and people in the community “the other side of Mass Ave.” and to build positive relationships. Each mural had a connection between people from Novartis and the community, as the company helped the kids to make the murals.

Ms. Johnson stated that the Art Center knew a lot of artists but didn’t have the public art experience, so this project was a good first step to put their stake in the ground and get to know the public art process. They want to continue their positive relationships.

Ms. Johnson stated that another important piece to this program was funding. She stated that businesses are not always interested in art organizations, but this mural initiative was a way for people to explore common interests. She stated that developers think about space and what it looks and feels like, but that neighborhood organizations also think about space and who is represented and taking up that space. It’s important to ask who is here and why. She recognized the interesting affinity in these 2 worlds and began starting collaborations with new developing spaces. The Art Center has now done 6-7 temporary murals on the side of construction sites, and each one has gotten more involved in the way that the community is engaged.

Ms. Johnson spoke to why people sought out the Art Center. It has less to do with art than it does with community, because Cambridge is changing and a lot of the individuals who work in corporations understand this in their efforts to engage who is here, they come to the Community Art Center. Ms. Johnson stated that she is lucky to run an organization that is loved by the City, and that for developers, this is a way they show goodwill towards the City and community. The Art Center has really been able to grow their community program which allows them to make art in their own neighborhood. She explained that it had been hard to make art in their own neighborhood, and they received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for the Brown Mural, Port Mural, Port T Shirts, and Port Art Truck. They are thinking of ways to use art in public space. Ms. Johnson stated that one of the most exciting parts of more funding was hiring James Pierre full time, as he is an artist from the neighborhood. She stated there are currently two groups of young people doing projects: one group in the neighborhood, and one collaboration with MIT.

Mr. Pierre stated that after hearing the history, he realized he was part of the first public art project that the Art Center did after working for the City for a good amount of years. He stated that as a kid, he was not into sports like everyone else was, especially basketball. As he grew older, he often asked himself why so much attention and funding were put towards sports, but as someone who was in to art, wondered why the arts wasn’t given the same amount of attention. He stated that being part of the Art Center and an arts advocate is incredible and the partnerships are valuable. He stated that it’s important to prepare young people for the workforce and that this can be done through arts: you have a client with expectations just as if it was an intensive sports program. The values of punctuality, a team effort, and learning how to produce a finished product are all the same.

Ms. Johnson stated that the Art Center’s biggest struggle is their wanting to put up permanent work. She stated that they do have funding and will be putting up a sculpture called The Port Rose in the coming 6 months. She stated they are proud of the temporary work and it’s great for visibility and learning.

Ms. Johnson stated that the Art Center always has a visiting artist, and they do a lot of commission work now. When we allow young people to make their own art, installing it permanently signals that we are investing in a community and that creation will be there permanently. She stated that corporations have been trusting them temporarily for longer periods of time, but that permanent art is still a challenge.

Ms. Johnson stated that people go to the Arts Council when they are looking for art. People go to the Community Art Center when they are looking for community. We need to ask who we call for art, what community art is, and recognize the fact that we often use the term “community art” to refer to “art that’s not ours.”

Councillor Mallon thanked Ms. Johnson for tying that all together and stated that we are going to have a real discussion about goals, what art is, and diversity and equity. We have talked about arts workforce development tonight, which people never talk about, but we need to create these opportunities for our young people.

Councillor Mallon stated that she has been talking with Allyson Esposito at the Boston Foundation and one of the concerns is that artists don’t always have soft skills such as presentation, budgeting, etc. but that these skills can be taught. We can’t just say “local artists can’t do this.” Using local artists is also good for the City – it cuts down on travel time and costs, and we are bringing in people from our own community.

Councillor Mallon reminded everyone of Malia Lazu’s “rules” for discussion and asked everyone to reorient themselves to think about bias in art. She stated she will be moderating more and asking people to step up and step back. Please ask yourself why you are talking and if you are listening and listen to be changed. She stated that listening is the best thing we can do at this table so that we actually hear what people are saying – it’s important to understand and connect on this piece. She stated that we all come to the table to strengthen the systemic support for artists, and that people have a lot of feelings about art and public art and the way they experience it emotionally.

The group came up with the following words to describe public art:

• Accessible
• Statues
• Equity
• Driven by community
• Emotional
• Landmarks
• Symbolic
• Educational
• Placemaking
• Placekeeping
• Story-holding
• Free
• Identity
• Colorful
• Interactive
• Playful
• Inspirational
• Necessary
• Historical
• Grounding
• Confrontational
• Representative
• Expansive
• Dynamic
• Thought-provoking
• Sensory
• Functional
• Social
• Aesthetic
• Comfortable & uncomfortable
• In context
• Neighborhood
• Voiced
• Dialogue
• Inclusive
• Gathering spot
• Inscrutable

Councillor Mallon stated that she was reading through people’s comments on our City’s public art and pointed out the example of the Irish Famine Statue as one that doesn’t feel like it captures the time. She stated that the Queendom mural had hearts and flowers drawn on it. She stated that people expressed the rocks at Riverside Press Park being a wonderful place to sit and was art that brought the community together. She cited Mr. DiMuro as saying that this shouldn’t be just permanent visual art, but that celebrations, festivals, and performances are other ways to think about art.

Mr. DiMuro stated that art has the antithesis of everything. He stated he was just at a conference in New York City and they were discussing the Vietnam Wall, and how people were complaining about it because it was “too abstract.” We need to ask ourselves how humans engage with art because we know the story, but what about 20 years from now? We need to ask ourselves who keeps stories alive. He used an example of immigration, and what people are running to and from now as opposed to later, and that putting a lens on things from the current day can help people engage.

Ms. Sherman stated that even though there are drawbacks to temporary art, it creates room for risk that isn’t there in permanent art. We can use temporary art to start to push people and educate them through the in-person experience with art. Temporal can be valuable.

Councillor Mallon talked about the Greenway and the temporary mesh light-up. Some thought it was weird and others loved it, but now that it’s gone, everyone wants to know where it went. She asked the experts if this is where we’re headed in the art world, or if there was a balance.

Mr. Weeks stated that there is an increasing appetite for the temporary and we practice that in Cambridge too. The temporary gives artists an outlet for risks and can be nimble both physically and in definition. He stated that artist practice is not just one thing, there’s a host of issues that artists are trying to explore and find out about.

Ms. Sherman agreed that not all art is appropriate in a permanent capacity, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good art.

Mr. Monestime stated that his joy of graffiti alley is the “here today, gone tomorrow” effect. You have to value and enjoy everything that appears there in the moment.

Mr. Weeks stated that we have a permanent collection of art in the City, so artists can respond to an existing collection. People may pass physical artwork and respond to it, but not know what it is or its context. Artists also have these interactions, and it gives them and new audiences a chance to experience art in their own time.

Mr. De Celis stated that it is beneficial to look at history, but also the funding element and whether there’s a correlation between temporary and permanent. There is a perception that temporary pieces cost less in the short term, but many pieces that are supposed to be temporary end up staying long term. This speaks to the question of trends of temperance to deal with funding issues.

Mr. DiMuro asked if pieces for “gathering” are built into the budget to withstand 10-15 years of upkeep, and how people engaged with this art over time.

Ms. Sherman commented that MIT builds in a renovation/conservation reserve fund for every project as part of the budget over time, and this could be interesting to think about with more time-based mediums.

Mr. DiMuro spoke about a lesson he learned from the Gardener Museum, which is that performers can humanize the space. He spoke about the sidewalks of Central Square on parking day and the value of animating parking spaces in the Square. People walking down the street when they are no longer there will think about it when it was – the street becomes a greatly made place.

Ms. Johnson commented that the issues of time are interesting to play with, and that art that gets taken away may be invited back. However, she felt that art was not a place to play and can’t be taken for granted, like you can’t take your home for granted. She spoke about the growing trend in offices where people don’t have desks, and if you feel secure in the world, then temporal pieces may be good for you. But for people who feel as though they don’t belong, they need to be urgent and take a stand over the pieces of our history that we don’t want to lose. Ms. Johnson did not feel playful, because public art is activism and that is beautiful. She stated temporal is the opposite of what we’re trying to work for, because we’re here and this place is ours, which is not something that can or should be taken for granted.

Ms. Latino asked if activism could be added to the “what is public art?” list. She suggested instead of thinking of art as temporary, to think of it as living. Live performances, musicians, and dance all represent the people who are currently living in the community. Our collection will evolve to be representative of our history and help our story be told. She thought that old statues can be dead, but things like graffiti alley are the most living examples she could think of.

Councillor Mallon pointed out that when considering something like graffiti alley vs. statues that there are a lot of people who consider one of those things art, and the other not.

Mr. Simon asked if he could speak about the Cambridge Arts Coalition.

Councillor Mallon asked him to keep it in the context of public art.

Mr. Simon stated that the way this is curated keeps the Coalition perspective off the table. He stated that he is against using more money to fund public art, because this conversation is not fundamentally an arts issue, it is an issue about what we value as a society and as a City, which is messed up. Developers and corporate landlords have the de facto right to control buildings, demographics, and they decide who gets to live here and who doesn’t. He expressed frustrating with the fact that arts spaces are disappearing and so are cheap housing and cheap eateries, and that there is a difference between arts infrastructure and the arts community. We need to ask who is benefitting from the changes that we’re making, as it’s not always beneficial to ask how we protect art, because no everyone makes a lot of money. He stated the discussion should take into account the larger problem of not just the art itself but who has been contributing to art. There’s no way we can protect people without recognizing that there’s an enemy which is corporate landlords and developers. He stated that John DiGiovanni stated that people don’t have a right to live in their community, and longevity doesn’t matter. He asked what contributions to the community actually do matter. He stated that people are lining the pockets of developers.

Ms. Johnson asked Mr. Simon the role he thought that art-making and the presence of art could play or does play in activism. She asked in what ways can the production of art making and art as activism move us towards something better.

Mr. Simon stated that he is concerned that the status quo is morally bankrupt, and that if we just do these art things without addressing the larger issue, than beautifying the City without protecting people only expedites displacement. When property values go up, people won’t be able to stay, and people in a precarious situation will only be moved out faster. There can be an intent of activism and social justice behind art, but we need to look at the big picture of how Cambridge is changing and growing. Mr. Simon stated that he does not feel like he lives in a community, but that he lives in a luxury hotel with open-air hallways. He stated that art could have a role in transforming the City in a positive way, but he doesn’t see that happening without recognizing larger trends.

Councillor Mallon thanked Mr. Simon for giving a name to these problems and expressed that everyone is grappling with them in their own ways, and that everyone knows someone who has been displaced from the City and is dealing with that in their own way. She asked how we can use this group to bring that fact to the forefront and how we use public art to talk about what’s going on in the community. She mentioned a moment in the first Task Force meeting when Ms. Gallop was talking about art as a means of talking about displacement and asked if others had thoughts.

Mr. De Celis asked Mr. Simon to educate the group more about the EMF building and asked about the connections, activism, and outreached the building did in its heyday. He stated that he did not know a lot about EMF and that he would like to learn about this experience and brainstorm.

Mr. Simon responded that the building was primarily a rehearsal space and recording studios for local bands. About 4-5 bands would share each room or rehearsal space and compared the setup to a dance studio. It is completely necessary to have such a space if you are going to be a band, but they’re disappearing all over Boston and the private sector can’t provide this.

Mr. DiMuro expressed sympathy because he has been doing political work as a dance artist, advocating for dancers to be seen as “whole artists”, not just people who perform in tents at festivals. He expressed hope that the meeting on studio space would help us with this problem, because there’s a lot that we can do in investing in public art and we should be looking at the percentages. He stated there isn’t an either order of making public art or supporting the people who make public art.

Ms. Sherman had an idea about prioritization and was hearing a huge push for supporting the artists who live here, especially when it comes to space. She also thought that we’re not just going to stop funding public art, but knowing that protecting people is a challenge, asked how we can use the tool of public art funding to address these challenges. She brought up the idea of public art residencies, using the example of Novartis hosting a venue where once a quarter there are performances. We need to ask ourselves about the priorities across everything. It seems that our meetings are structured around the different tools and channels we can use, so we can look across and say what are our priorities and how can we use these tools.

Ms. D’Ambrosio stated that her and her wife have now moved to Worcester, so she is commuting from Worcester to Cambridge to make art. She stated that people think art is statues, open spaces, and other things that people can see. She stated that surely what she makes is not private art, and that her lowest ticket prices are fractions of what someone would normally pay to go to the theater. She asked if we have new sources of arts money, where is it going to? She asked if we can expand the definition of where public art money goes, or if public art needs to expand into five units of artist housing. We may need to ask ourselves if we need to do things that are not statues in public spaces, but instead recognize that art lives in this space that is both public and private at the same time, so we need to figure out how to negotiate that.

Mr. DiMuro stated that art can’t be separated from humans and humanity. Placemaking is new, but we have been doing community engagement in our world for 60-70 years, and this cannot be separated.

Mr. Monestime stated the connection between temporary/permanent art and places like the EMF, Community Art Center, and Dance Complex. Are all these places temporary? He asked if not, how we make sure that they are permanent. He mentioned Caleb Neelon having a mural on the EMF wall that says “the future of what we used to be.” He asked how we make these institutions more permanent.

Mr. Hope asked who the arbiter of what is considered public art in Cambridge is, who gets to make art, display art, and receive commission for art. He stated that he had to advocate for black and brown folks, particularly women of color who are critical in this space. He stated he is looking around the room and we need to ask ourselves who the gatekeepers are and if we have the courage to help others be represented.

Mr. Pierre referenced the warm-up exercise and said that his favorite public art piece in Cambridge is the Grease Pole Statue in Clement Morgan Park. He mentioned that he didn’t know what the piece was until Dennis Benzan told him the story of Dominican festivals being held in the area and the practice of greasing the poles. Years later, it’s valuable to know the story when looking at the Clement Morgan Statue. The Port and Columbia Street are often referred to as “that neighborhood” in Cambridge that people don’t go near. He stated that to have an activity like the grease pole memorialized is important. Other conversations have been stymied by gatekeepers, but bias isn’t always malicious. He stated that he comes from a certain background and studied at a certain school, and now that he’s a gatekeeper, he can call on people from his community who he is familiar with.

Ms. Johnson stated that Mr. Simon’s statement about not wanting to fund more public art is radical. She agreed that if we get more money, we shouldn’t just put it towards art without a goal. We need to ensure we have representation and can’t afford to have the City or private entities produce art that isn’t accounting for the future we want to see. There is a place for more diversity murals and it’s important to think together about the world we’d like to exist, like the practice of saying things until they’re true. She stated that she would not support more public art unless we have goals.

Councillor Mallon stated that we have systems of funding in place, but what she’s hearing is focused on the gatekeeper aspect. She asked if we need to look at an inventory of our practices, such as workforce development, diversity, and equity, to identify a process that we’ve all bought into and that we know is inclusive and equitable.

Mr. De Celis stated that he had been listening to Mr. Simon, Mr. Hope, and Ms. Johnson. He stated that there are two sides of the coin and to play devil’s advocate, we could stop funding public art, or we could be more expansive about what public art actually is and what it means. We can turn things inside out and tackle them simultaneously, being more expansive. We can explore funding policies that buy the opportunity for people like Ms. D’Ambrosio not to be commuting an hour and a half from Worcester to make her art.

Ms. Harrigan suggested that we move from thinking about public art to thinking of the public’s ability to enjoy art to honor what Mr. Simon said. Rather than thinking of art as just stationary and something to be looked at, we need to protect those that are creating the art. If we do this, we are not only preserving public art, but the public’s ability to enjoy it and the artists’ ability to create it.

Ms. Latino asked if there was a way to for the City to create a small, accessible fund for community members to purchase tickets to access art. She stated that she “stole” the tiered pricing model from the Bridge Repertory Theater and that the Dance Complex does it as well. She stated that perhaps a new way to enjoy public art is to get more people to be able to access it.

Ms. Sherman brought back the idea from a previous discussion of passes and access.

Ms. Johnson stated the problem of some people not feeling like they have permission to call themselves artists, practice art, or create their own art. Many people who are creators don’t feel invited into the club because their work has not been approved by an institution, and this feeling spans race and class lines.

Mr. DiMuro stated that the public should be more informed about what the artistic process is. The demystifying of art will make it more understandable, especially for people who don’t feel like they belong. We need to make artists feel like weird or like outsiders.

Ms. D’Ambrosio agreed with many of the concerns here. She expressed concerns that when the government or private individual finances art, it makes them a stakeholder in the outcome. She suggested that the role of Cambridge City government is not to be the arbiter or gatekeeper of art, artists, or tickets, but to promote arts consumption. We need to be less granular in picking which art to support, but instead take a City-wide branding exercise approach that is not so lazar focused and more on the consumer side.

Councillor Mallon asked Ms. Shakespear about her artist clients at Spaceus, and whether or not they had expressed any of these concerns to her.

Ms. Shakespear stated that performance artists are having a hard time because things in the City are changing and locating space is difficult. She stated that when she tells people they’re leaving a storefront, they are sad but have also come to expect it as a sign of the status of art in Cambridge: fleeting and temporary. She asked how we get institutions with more teeth. She stated that as an organization, Spaceus thinks that what’s great about cities is the ability to facilitate things quickly and the excitement of being fast and modular. However, they need to increasingly balance this with caretaking, because they want to be a place where people come to know and trust in their neighborhood. She stated this discussion has been helpful when grappling with these issues.

Ms. Gallop stated that she was not an artist and had no trouble asserting that, so this may be naïve, but asked whether it was possible to have a framework for art. She stated that spontaneity had tremendous value and can also disrupt spaces and people remember those experiences, even though they may be fleeting. She mentioned a memory of flash mobs and dance troupes in the City Council.

Councillor Mallon asked if we could bring those back.

Ms. Gallop stated that temporary art invites people into a dialogue, while permanent art is about belonging, history, and being a part of something. These things are all important, and we should recognize that in this effort. There are reasons for each of these kinds of art.

Mr. Weeks though that public art and funding for art were two things that stood side by side but aren’t necessarily valued in the same way. He observed what we spend on the process of caring vs. what we spend on individual artists and ideas, the second of which is sorely underfunded. He stated that many of our good ideas are just woefully underfunded, and that he did not disagree that how we think and organize with the community to make art is important, but that we needed more money available for those ideas to percolate and take hold. We need to think about putting money on the table to fund ideas, people, organization, and things we haven’t yet thought of that will draw us together. We need to be enormously positive, exciting, productive, and have an unrestricted outcome. The community can decide who is going to create, but the money being received is just too little.

Councillor Mallon stated that she would love to have more grant funding so that artists submitting work actually get money to do this. She mentioned going back to race and equity in our process.

Ms. Peterson stated she thought about Ms. D’Ambrosio’s comment about not wanting public art where the City gets veto power and used the example of CCTV vs. Cambridge Municipal Television. She cited CCTV as an example of complete free speech without any City integration, because they can say and air whatever they want. There’s always a push/pull between full freedom of expression from a public artist who is funded by the more conservative City side. She stated that maybe she was getting a little into the weeds, but that she would love additional funding as well as a nonprofit with a separate board that’s in no way accountable to the government. We need to think about this tool because there are times when you don’t want the government involved. She stated we need to take an expansive view about what is public.

Councillor Mallon reminded the group about Ms. Pradhan’s presentation of the Cambridge Community Foundation as a fiscal agent. She mentioned that she had the opportunity to talk to Alyson Esposito from the Boston Foundation, who helped the City spend 2 years revamping their processes from an equity lens. Because they’re a foundation they can put their money towards more controversial things.

Ms. Johnson stated that as a group, we should prioritize investing in cultural institutions that already exist, and that sometimes in Cambridge she wants to put a moratorium on new ideas. We are a City that prides itself on innovation and being a land of heroes and geniuses, but it breaks her heart to hear Ms. Shakespear’s struggles because it shouldn’t be this hard in a City with so much wealth. She stated that the government and Arts Council need to look at how they can help existing institutions, because the Art Center often does not get funded specifically because they are in Cambridge, and funders assume they are ok. She asked whether there was a process in which we could figure things out, because we don’t need new positions, systems, etc. She expressed her frustration that the Art Center was already competing with the Foundry for a grant, and the building isn’t even online yet.

Councillor Mallon stated that she is also in the nonprofit world and that it’s hard to get funding when you’re not constantly doing something new and cool. She agreed with Ms. Johnson that because her organization is in Cambridge, it’s hard to attract donors because people assume we have money pouring in the door.

Mr. DiMuro stated that when he was in New York City, someone asked him “how dare you ask for money when you’re in Cambridge.”

Councillor Mallon stated that one of the things Ms. Esposito did was take an inventory or arts organizations that exist vs. the number of organizations that are funding them. The Boston area has thousands of arts organizations that are only benefitting from 1-2 donors. We need to do an inventory like this in Cambridge because we know we have a problem, but we need data.

Councillor Mallon stated that there were only 5 minutes left in the meeting and asked if there was anything that she should bring to the Council.

Ms. D’Ambrosio heartily supported the action of supporting existing arts organizations.

Mr. De Celis would like to see the inventory of all existing arts organizations, because many of them are not visible to the naked eye, but we do have an amazing inventory. For example, if you walk by this building, you don’t get to see all the beautiful artwork inside.

Ms. Sherman would like to see a framework defining the diversity of art.

Mr. De Celis agreed with Ms. Peterson’s recommendation of a nonprofit or independent group to help with the expansive definition that is public art to guarantee independence and creativity of arts production.

Councillor Mallon asked Ms. Peterson to clarify.

Ms. Peterson clarified that we need governance and a separate decision-making process, and that this would benefit from more discussion. It’s a kernel of an idea we should continue to talk about.

Ms. Harrigan emphasized protecting the public’s ability to enjoy art, because it might help to solve some of the problems we currently have. This would also create and foster a respect for art that might encourage more funding down the line. It seems there’s a lot of fighting from the outside in, so we need more public support and to create community.

Mr. DiMuro stated in addition to thinking about equity, diversity, and inclusion, we need to think about artists as underpaid and overworked in a transactional world. We need to think about flattening these hierarchies and learn from other movements that are happening now.

Mr. Simon discussed the idea of killing two birds with one stone to address the bigger economic system that is causing the disappearance of arts and arts spaces. We need to ask who is driving displacement and tax them, using the revenue to build actual affordable housing like the Viennese model, which integrates mixed incomes all into one housing project. He stated that funding from the private sector has failed, and we are losing music venues and cheap eateries. He pointed out that Harvard is the 2nd wealthiest private institution in the world after the Vatican, and that they should pay property taxes. They can do more to benefit society instead of being concerned with their own ability to amass lots of wealth.

Mr. Hope agreed with Ms. Johnson on the cultural preservation of institutions which are a critical part of the fabric. We don’t need to think of an either/or between innovation and institutions, but instead as an and. He asked whether there were ways that innovation could help cultural centers. He stated that he could only speak for The Loop Lab, but that they would not exist if there wasn’t a need and desire from young adults in The Port who felt a gap. He stated that many people have never been to the Community Art Center, and that there needs to be more awareness, such as an arts awareness month that prompts actions among government and private organizations around specific events.

Ms. Johnson wanted to clarify that there was a lot of innovative things coming out of the Community Art Center.

Ms. Sherman wanted to move from thinking about public art to thinking about public artists.

Mr. Pierre asked when we were going to have enough permanent artworks or statues and what comes next. He asked if we should have more education in the school system. He asked whether this conversation would happen again in 50 years because we all moved on and don’t have advocates. He stated that most people in the City don’t have time to enjoy art when they’re working 2 jobs and taking care of 3 kids, and asked how we could get people like them to enjoy art.

Ms. Latino asked if the City has a definition of public art.

Mr. Weeks replied that there is a general definition, but it changes according to practice and needs to be revisited. In thinking about action items, we need to have a discussion or declaration of public art and what it is.

Mr. DiMuro added considering what we want art to be.

Ms. D’Ambrosio added now that we have new funding, the definition of art will be important because that’s what gets the money.

Ms. Peterson stated that there was a definition in the Ordinance, but it was broad.

Councillor Mallon stated that this is an important conversation and she was glad that everyone was here to engage honestly. The next meeting will be on artist live/work space and will be held at Workbar. She asked that everyone reach out after the meeting with thoughts and other things that weren’t covered. She thanked everyone for coming.

Meeting adjourned at 7:39pm.