Leadership Council survey – My answers

1. Your Name

Loreto P. Ansaldo

2. In your opinion, what makes Boston’s cultural life special? What do you especially like about it?

There is so much happening locally; there are people skilled at and passionate about everything and anything. People work hard and want to be resilient. I can always find folks who are willing to engage, push the limits of our local society and ourselves, learn from each other and work together.

3. What would you like to be different about Boston’s arts and cultural life ten years from now?

I would like art not to be transactional – in a city filled with startups, we can often think of the arts as something to be bought and sold: Cultural Capital, Creative Economy, Tourism. Relating arts and culture to money-making models and thinking of how arts can bolster the economy.

In ten years I hope we can intentionally think of arts and culture as both having intrinsic value AND as intrinsically linked to the work of achieving a just world. Arts and culture are incompatible with our capitalist system yet must function within it given our current realities. In ten years I hope we can support creatives (i.e. everyone) to nurture our individual and collective creativity and humanity while building systems where basic needs are met if doing work that benefits communities. Creatives must not live in poverty relying on micro grants, last-minute calls for art, or feeling pressured to say yes to predatory opportunities. It is difficult when folks are just working to survive (in all sense of the word), but if we want to be creatives, this is the work right now. It should not be.

Specifically, I’d like for us to address race with clear language and plans – not carefully walk around racism and inequality in general – and how artists of color, specifically those who are community artists (i.e. their work is for benefit of community and for social justice) are left out of the conversation. When we have “open meetings where all are invited,” focus on brand over deep community outreach, and have no place where we intentionally center artists of color, then, by the nature of our systemic oppressions, we leave them out, because those who show up when there is lack of sincere and true inclusion are those with most privilege. We just have to look at the meetings for #BostonCreates and our Leadership Council itself: I attended several #BostonCreates meetings this summer and fall, and the most diverse was the East Boston meeting (on the day where all meetings were concurrent). The rest were mostly white or white-passing folks with formal education.

Last, another cautionary note is that if we are to learn how to be more inclusive, we must not rely on folks of color to do the teaching. In our capitalist system, we should think of this work as consulting and must be compensated. Artists of color who are struggling to pay their bills do not have the time nor energy to teach society about racism or how to be good allies, nor should they be expected to. There is a wealth of writings to learn more about this.

Here are two articles for entry points:

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-do-white-people-think-people-color-are-obligated-teach-them-about-race

http://the-toast.net/2015/07/13/emotional-labor/2/

4. What do you think are the three most important issues to address in Boston’s cultural plan?

  1. Erasure of artists of color, POC in general, low-income folks: While some #BostonCreates meetings have been diverse, many have not. Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury were the three neighborhoods under-represented in the survey. Are we surprised?
  1. Not centering artists themselves: The creatives who actually make the art are often left out, especially those with less access, those who are struggling to pay their bills. These folks do not have the time to volunteer for #BostonCreates and are skeptical that this process will do anything positive.
  1. Displacement and well-intentioned ideas of “providing opportunities” are related: Let us not be complacent that gentrification is inevitable and therefore the related displacement. Let us not fall into the narrative that we need to provide “the poor folks” with more opportunity. Both are part of our hierarchical and patriarchal systems of oppression. Supporting each other to remain in our homes, celebrate our cultures, be creative, and share (sharing with awareness and respect, not as appropriation) is what we need to figure out.

5. What would be a bold, “stretch” goal for Boston’s cultural future?

I think my answer to 4 is bold.

6. Are there any barriers or obstacles to consider in developing the cultural plan?

Yes. A mentality of privatization (current trend nationally and locally citywide) and a lack of connection to social justice models (in general outside of social justice spaces).

One of many writings that can be an entry point: http://www.indigenousaction.org/accomplices-not-allies-abolishing-the-ally-industrial-complex/

7. Do you have any individual concerns or particular issues you want us to be aware of at the start of the process?

I have outlined them here and in my initial letter to CPG. Thank you for this space to write more and for the amplified opportunity to speak openly as part of the Leadership Council.
I write all this with a lot of love for Boston and as a white-passing teacher/artist/activist POC with a lot of privileges that allow me the bandwidth to engage in #BostonCreates. I moved here from Chile at age nine and have lived in Dorchester, West Roxbury, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Allston and Hyde Park. Boston is home, and I will keep working.

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