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The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is leading an ArtPlace-funded 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. The Fairmount Corridor is a nine-mile stretch of commuter rail line that runs through some of Boston’s most challenged and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Focusing on the Uphams Corner section of the city’s Dorchester neighborhood, the project 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.

ArtPlace recently connected with F. Javier Torres, Senior Program Officer at the Boston Foundation, and asked him to talk more about what he sees as evidence of success and lasting change.

ARTPLACE: What do you have to do really (really) well to achieve success with your initiative?

TORRES: We are spending a lot of time looking at the long-term goals for the project and the neighborhood. Our ArtPlace grant gives us a great opportunity to have an immediate impact by elevating the resources that give Uphams Corner and the Fairmount Corridor their unique cultural identities, but we must also think about the relationships and partnerships we are helping to build for lasting impact.

That is why we are so keenly focused on engagement and relationship building among for-profit businesses, community-based organizations, artists and city entities. We need to create an environment where their work will self-sustain beyond the jumpstart that the grant provides. The initiative’s long-term success depends on the willingness and ability of the partners to work together after the initial grant period is over.

ARTPLACE: How do you expect the community to change as a result?

TORRES: In the immediate term, our indicators of success will be able to be measured in the numbers of residents and businesses involved in the planning process, the number of events, participants and attendees at culturally-relevant events at the Strand Theatre and other locales and so on.

But the change must be more fundamental for this initiative to succeed long-term. Deep local resident and business engagement is critical to ensuring collective ownership, the hallmark of any sustainable change that doesn’t lead to complete gentrification.  Our work in engagement, programming and planning will leverage residents and local businesses as experts and build a dynamic vision with shared, actionable goals. Student-teams and local organizers working with non-Western communities will engage residents typically disengaged from public processes.  By giving those who call Uphams Corner home the ownership of the plan, we see an incredible opportunity for cross-sector partnerships among community organizations, public agencies, businesses, artists and residents that will sustain the effort.

There has to be some level of economic benefit as well – a healthy business environment and the ability to draw people from outside the neighborhood into Uphams Corner to experience the cultural offerings being developed adds a critical element to the lasting change for the community. It is an open invitation to a unique cultural experience that asks you to become a part of it (through the sharing of history and the building of relationships) and not just a voyuer or spectator.

 

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