Cambridge Arts Forum 2/25/21

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Use the power of your voice to create systemic change and support for arts in Central Square Cambridge.

Sign our Petition

Cambridge Arts COVID-19 Impact Petition

In partnership with arts and cultural leaders in the city of Cambridge, MASSCreative is hosting a petition to Mayor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Mallon, City Manager DePasquale, and esteemed members of the Cambridge City Council to advocate for protection and relief for arts and culture in Cambridge.
Learn more about the Central Square Arts Network leading the petition and local advocacy.

If you reside, work, or perform in Cambridge, add your name to the petition.

Dear Honorable Mayor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Mallon, City Manager DePasquale, esteemed members of the Cambridge City Council, and Cambridge Arts Council:

With COVID-19 hitting us hard on all sides, our arts and cultural organizations are no exception. Due to necessary public space closures and capacity caps on venues, many organizations are facing displacement and rent default in addition to furloughing their staff due to lost earned and contributed revenue.  The arts and cultural community is an essential  component of the  funky, cutting edge, exciting and lively ecosystem we call the Central Square Cultural District.  The patrons who come to see our artists at our venues frequent Cambridge’s restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and businesses during their visits. The arts nourish the city of Cambridge. The City of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Cultural Council recognized this fact when the Central Square Cultural District was established in 2013.

Unfortunately, beyond the cultural district designation, little has been done to systemically nourish and sustain arts and cultural organizations in the heart of Cambridge.  Already we have witnessed how increased real estate prices have driven many arts and cultural organizations out of our neighborhood. Unchecked allowances for the construction of luxury condo high rises throughout the cultural district have snatched buildings away from the arts. And in the pandemic, a lack of mandated rent abatement has left many performance spaces without any bargaining power to reduce the high cost of their vacant stages, threatening their survival. Without support from the City, there is nothing to incentivize landlords, property owners, and stakeholders to keep the arts alive in the Square. We are deeply concerned that the arts and cultural workers, organizations, and landmarks that animate and connect our cultural district will not recover from the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis. The identity and vibrancy of Central Square and Cambridge are at risk. 

Our cherished core Central Square Cultural District and arts across the City are significantly endangered now.  Please consider the following policy recommendations to protect arts and culture in Cambridge:

  • Immediately vote in favor of the City Manager’s amendment to the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund to give arts organizations access to the same relief that has already been provided to residents, other small businesses, and nonprofits.

  • Create and amend policy which will help artists and cultural organizations remain in Cambridge well beyond the pandemic:
    • Enact a property tax abatement for landlords and owners who lease to non-profit artists and arts and cultural organizations, provided the landlord agrees to pass on the savings to our non-profit artists and arts and culture organizations through water-tight provisions and vetted oversight. 
    • Require designated arts spaces within new developments at affordable costs (modelled after affordable housing requirements) so that more of our arts money can be used to support artists and our community. Designate a cultural community development corporation to ensure that these spaces are accessible, usable and of significant value to the arts and cultural community as well as the communities they are in.

    • The immediate hiring of the Director of Cultural Planning as outlined in the policy orders of the Arts Task Force recommendations from 2019. Subsequently, the reexamining and approval of remaining outstanding orders from the Arts Task Force recommendations.

    • Move discussions forward with local arts leaders, the newly appointed Director of Cultural Planning, Community Development Department and outside consultants to construct a “cultural plan” for the City to keep the legacy of Central Square Arts alive for years to come.
    • Explore ways to create new, permanent art spaces and secure existing facilities (including through the issuance of a municipal bond to support the acquisition and dedication of a municipal building for arts use).

During these times of COVID-19, Cambridge’s arts venues were among the first businesses to close and will be the last to reopen. Cambridge’s artists were among the first to lose their workplaces and will be among the last to be able to return. Without immediate, decisive, and sustained action from the city displaying a recognition of and commitment to the value that the arts bring to our community, this facet of Cambridge–our cultural heart–may never recover. 


ImprovBoston: Kristie LaSalle, Chair; and Josh Garneau, Managing Director
Studio@550: Callie Chapman
The Dance Complex: Peter DiMuro, Executive Artistic Director
Central Square Theater: Catherine Carr Kelly, Executive Director 
Cambridge Community Television: Susan Fleischman, Executive Director
Dana Jay Bein, Comedian, Resident

If you reside, work, or perform in Cambridge please add your name and support. Please use your Cambridge address.

This petition is a partnership between MASSCreative and Arts and Cultural Leaders of Cambridge. MASSCreative will share contact information of petition signers with the coalition as part of the partnership for follow up on this advocacy. To contact the Central Square Arts Network directly, email info (at) centralsqarts (dot) org



Submit your voice to advocate for the arts!

We are initializing an ongoing advocacy campaign to be projected on to the side of the Dance Complex. Content can range from your words in advocating for the systemic support for the arts to video and images of art itself! Stay tuned for the submission link to be published soon!