Creativity is powerful. We know that it generates nearly $1 billion of economic activity annually in the city of Boston. We also know that it enhances academic achievement.
But art does something else that is impossible to put a price on: it builds community. Even here in Massachusetts, the birthplace of marriage rights for same-sex couples, we need vehicles to build connections within the LGBT community. And music is a powerful one.
The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus is one of Boston’s premier arts organizations with an enviable artistic pedigree. It has performed internationally as cultural ambassadors for the city of Boston. With 175 members BGMC is one of the region’s largest community choruses and is the largest LGBT performing arts group in New England. Performances are seen live by more than 14,000 people each year. They have produced 11 CDs and their 110 videos have been seen by 375,000 people. But it is perhaps even more impressive for its collective power to move the hearts and minds of others.
During the legislative debates around civil marriage in 2005 and 2006, the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus delivered CDs of “Marry Us” to state lawmakers. It performs annually at dozens of churches, schools, and businesses through its outreach efforts. More recently, BGMC sent Russia’s gay community, stifled under stringent new persecutions, a video performance of “Everything Possible,” an outreach concert staple.
As members of the chorus understand better than most, music is a universal language. We all have a soundtrack to our lives. As we find that we have that in common, we can connect when other things aren’t able to get through.
This is one of the many reasons why we are working to elect a mayor of Boston who will be a champion of the arts. We support art not just for arts’ sake, but also for its ability to build connection and community. And that is why the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus has been an active member of the Create the Vote Coalition, a collaboration of Boston arts, cultural, and creative institutions working to ensure that the candidates for Mayor develop strong platforms to support the sector.
We want bold strategic planning from City Hall that will integrate the arts into other municipal priorities like economic development, education, housing, transportation, and public safety. Both of the finalists who will face off on November 5 have pledged to be arts champions. John Connolly and Marty Walsh have each said that they will hire a cabinet-level arts czar to his administration, invest in arts and cultural initiatives, and create a strategic plan for the arts.
It is up to voters to make sure that the next Mayor lives up to this promise. We will have a better Boston as a result.
Matt Wilson is the executive director of MASSCreative, the convening member of the Create the Vote Coalition.Craig Coogan is the executive director of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus.