Creative City: Proof of the Contrary

We are living in a time of chaos and inequity, turbulence, violence, injustice, tyranny…we could go on. But you know this already. It fills our air waves and news feeds. It could drive us all to distraction.

What we look for — no, yearn for — here at Hairpin is proof of the contrary. We hunt for partners who are doing the work to tell their stories and make this world better.

We’ve been working with the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) for the last year to document the Creative City pilot program, which funded artists directly. You read that right. Not through an institution or nonprofit, but money put directly in the hands of the artists, to create and execute their vision from start to finish. There were two guidelines: the project had to be public art and the artist needed to work with a community partner. But that’s it.

Forty-six artists received grants and professional development support from NEFA. They were musicians, composers, choreographers, dancers, weavers, activists, performers, teachers, sculptors, poets and writers. They performed in parks, churches, community centers, and on the streets. They created installations on overpasses and in alleyways. They brought art to the people.

That matters. It matters who gets funding to create art and who has access to art. It matters who tells the stories of communities.

Hairpin spent a lot of time interviewing and filming NEFA staff and the Creative City artists to produce a series of videos. The collective commitment to supporting and making art that we witnessed was remarkable. We saw an environment that encouraged risk-taking, diversity, innovation, inclusion, iteration and collaboration. The daily practice of raising up voices and changing narratives is exactly what Boston needs. What every city needs.

The good news is our city is going to get just that. NEFA is launching Creative City Boston with more funding from the Barr Foundation, which means more artists, making more art and more voices being added to the story of this city.

Which brings us back to proof of the contrary. Good work is happening, every day. The world-changers, do-gooders and hell-raisers are out there, speaking truth to power, demanding change, challenging our tiresome attachment to the status quo and building connections. Pushing us toward justice, equity, possibilities and yes, beauty.