BOSTON_JULY

The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, devotes its resources to building and sustaining a vital, prosperous city and region, where justice and opportunity are extended to everyone. For more than 95 years, the Boston Foundation has addressed critical community challenges and served as a civic hub and center of information, where ideas are shared, levers for change are identified, and common agendas are developed.

ArtPlace recently connected with F. Javier Torres, Senior Program Officer at the Boston Foundation, and asked him to talk more about the most effective strategies TBF has identified for cultural economic development.

ARTPLACE: What is your elevator pitch when you describe your project to people?

TORRES: This Uphams Corner Pilot is a unique cross-sector partnership of city, philanthropic, community-based and arts organizations that have come together to elevate the Fairmount/Indigo Line Cultural Corridor as a destination. Today, the Fairmount/Indigo transit line passes through a number of historically-disinvested neighborhoods without stopping, but after years of community advocacy, new transit stations are being constructed to bring critical access to these neighborhoods and their residents. The vision is to build a brand for the neighborhoods along the corridor that is based in and sustained by the cultural assets and ethnic traditions of its residents.

ARTPLACE: How do you expect to increase vibrancy in the place you are working?

TORRES: In our experience, the most effective strategy we have found for building and sustaining long-term vibrancy is to organize residents and businesses to vision, implement, maintain and adapt; and then hold ourselves accountable to supporting that plan with the resources available to us. Successful placemaking shifts the responsibility from the professional to the resident, making them the defining force within it.

Located in Boston’s Dorchester section, Uphams Corner is an ideal setting for this project – a diverse mix of cultures – Cape Verdean, Haitian, African American, Caucasian, Dominican, Vietnamese and more – give the neighborhood unique character, and it has become a home for artists, small businesses, renters and homeowners. Using Uphams Corner as a pilot neighborhood, we will encourage cultural economic activity through placemaking interventions such as ‘random acts of culture,’ installations, outdoor markets, and complementary business activity in and around the historic Strand Theater and the Uphams Corner transit stop. These efforts will address the perceived ‘disconnect’ between the Uphams Corner train station and the commercial district, empowering the residents and local businesses as experts in the effort to build a dynamic vision with shared, actionable goals. Investments in culturally relevant programming will draw families and residents to the area by highlighting cultural vibrancy.

All of this hinges on our ability to foster strong resident partnerships with a diverse assortment of for-profit businesses, community-based organizations, artists and city entities. Their collective activity is what needs to be harnessed to create a cultural brand for the neighborhood. We’ll begin with an evaluation process that aims to more deeply understand what draws people and generates economic activity in the neighborhood. Informed by those findings, residents will lead and develop a series of planned events that are widely publicized — and enhance them with unexpected performances to build lasting interest in the neighborhood. As one of our many partners, Uphams Corner Main Street will enrich this work by creating partnerships that yield a healthy business environment. Collectively, these arts, cultural and business elements will establish Uphams Corner as a destination for residents and others seeking a unique, vibrant experience; while ensuring we keep residents in their neighborhood and don’t displace them.

Throughout the process, we will incorporate learning opportunities and use best practices to generate an adaptive model that continues to learn, grow and share knowledge to inform cultural development along the entire 9-mile Fairmount Corridor.

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