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Mayoral Candidates Lay Out Plans For Expanding The Arts

Participants at the Mayoral Arts Forum. (Kat Waterman)

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BOSTON — Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Monday night’s Boston Mayoral Candidate Forum on Arts, Culture and Creativity was that it happened. First that MassCreative — a grassroots organization centered on culture and creativity — got nine candidates to agree that the arts needed to be part of the public dialogue, and second that neither the arts community nor the candidates buckled when The Boston Herald, New England Cable News and Suffolk University tried to big-foot the event with a televised debate. (The second debate was eventually pushed back and held later Monday night.)

The event itself, before a packed Paramount Mainstage, was impressive for other reasons, beginning with the fact that there was widespread agreement among the candidates on several issues that seemed fairly radical not that long ago — the school day should be extended to allow for arts education and training; developers should spend 1 percent of their construction costs on funding for the arts; there should be a cabinet-level arts administrator.

The audience at the Mayoral Arts Forum. (Kat Waterman)

The audience at the Mayoral Arts Forum. (Kat Waterman)

Given such agreement there wasn’t much room for drama or discord, though there was a high energy level from the candidates and the crowd and moderator Joyce Kulhawik kept the pace moving forward. Bill Walczak stressed his administrative credentials as well as his opposition to the proposed East Boston casino as “casinos suck the lifeblood out of the arts community.”

And despite the consensus on issues, Felix Arroyo, John Connolly and Mike Ross — all Boston City councilors — seemed more specific and passionate on a wide range of issues. Connolly also had the best soundbite of the night: “I want you to feel when you walk into City Hall you’re walking into the Apple store,” referring to that company’s highly regarded customer service.

It would be silly declaring a winner in such a big field, except for MassCreative and the arts community establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the political life of the city, and perhaps of the state when the governor’s race begins.

Listen to Ed Siegel recap the arts forum on WBUR’s Morning Edition:

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  • J__o__h__n

    I thought it was great that the arts community held the debate and that the most of the candidates thought that it was important enough to cause the other debate to be rescheduled. Some of the questions were repetitive and appeared to be more focused on showing off various members of the arts community rather than trying to pin the candidates down on specifics. Only Walczac addressed the impact the casino will have in draining resources from the arts. But as it is unlikely that the casino will be stopped, it would have been good to ask the candidates what they planned to do to prevent the casino from harming the arts.