Artists and creative professionals are change agents. They provide us with fresh ideas on old quandaries, from racial equity and gentrification to gender identity. Those ideas then shape our culture. Culture forms public attitudes. Public attitudes help mold our policy and legislation.
In Boston, there’s a palpable surge of new artistic energy. A daring cohort of young creatives is molding the city’s cultural ecosystem in promising ways. Their ascension comes at a time when the city is ripe for an artistic renaissance, which is in part due to a committed financial investment in culture.
Just last week, the city of Boston and the Boston Cultural Council awarded $487,000 to 221 arts organizations, the largest ever investment in local arts by the city. The Boston and Barr foundations’ Live Arts Boston (LAB) grants have awarded $1.5 million for local artists, 70 percent of whom are people of color, the last couple of years and are slated to announce their third round of awardees very soon.
These new financial injections into the arts supplement longstanding funding mechanisms. In fiscal year 2019, the Mass Cultural Council has awarded $613,000 to individual artists and $5.9 million to nonprofit cultural organizations. Last fiscal year, the New England Foundation for the Arts gave $3.75 million to hundreds of artists and organizations.
Together, these investments to the arts have served as a jolt to the cultural scene. They’ve fomented a vibrant landscape in which more artists have the tools to create, to take risks, to think big.
But there’s something deeper at play, too. A new generation of creative professionals is growing into its power. These artists are rigorous but not tradition-bound, informed by the canon but not tethered to it. And they operate in both grassroots scenes and in storied institutions.
With The ARTery 25, we sought to capture the spirit of this new Boston.
We focused on young people of color, recognizing that diverse creatives have historically been under-credited, underfunded or unnoticed. Cultural equity requires intentionality.
We asked cultural institutions to nominate individuals in their orbit. We also searched in overlooked corners of the city. And we deliberated as a staff for weeks, narrowing down based on an individual’s impact, innovation and rigor.
This is not a comprehensive list. It’s a subjective, curated guide put together by fallible humans. Curation inherently means leaving even worthy people out. We hope you will also share other creatives we should be watching in the comment section below.
Some of the individuals we chose you will have heard of, others will be a discovery. All of them are worth keeping an eye out for in the next year.