The Arlington Arts and Culture Action Plan was initiated by the Arlington Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) and the Arlington Commission on Arts and Culture (ACAC) to strengthen and grow arts and cultural opportunities in Arlington, Massachusetts. The plan outlined six goals oriented toward bolstering the arts and cultural sector, improving infrastructure for arts and culture, and expanding access to opportunities for creative engagement and expression. It also included an asset and needs assessment of Arlington’s arts and cultural community as well as a detailed implementation strategy. Drawing inspiration from the Arlington’s concentration of locally-owned arts and cultural businesses and organizations, the Plan outlined a vision for supporting cultural life by fostering collaborations among local and regional public, private, and nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, institutions, businesses, and other stakeholders.
The cultural planning process built on momentum generated by residents and grassroots groups in Arlington over the course of a decade. In 2013, these efforts coalesced when Arlington’s Town Manager appointed members to the Arlington Commission on Arts and Culture, formerly the Arlington Cultural Commission. Three years later, town staff and community leaders from the Arlington DPCD and the ACAC joined forces to initiate the Arlington Arts and Culture Action Plan.
The Arts and Culture Action Plan offered a strategy for integrating local arts and culture life with other civic priorities, such as economic development and social cohesion, and other planning efforts, including the Arlington Master Plan and cultural district planning. It also clearly articulated how arts and cultural planning could support other facets of community development, including public space management, municipal construction, transportation initiatives, and education and youth development. Ultimately, the Action Plan outlined six goals to support the town’s vision for cultural planning and policy:
- Strengthen Arlington’s infrastructure for arts and culture, with a focus on implementing public and private funding programs and management models to support the Town’s arts and cultural activities
- Improve policy conditions and administrative procedures to help the arts and cultural sector thrive. These included updating local zoning codes to support a greater variety of arts and cultural uses, revising local bylaws that impose restrictions on public cultural life, and easing restrictions on the use of public facilities and open spaces by the arts and cultural community
- Pursue interdisciplinary planning initiatives that engage arts, culture, and creativity as vital to implementing the master plan vision, including an ongoing cultural asset inventory, measuring the impact of arts and cultural on Arlington’s planning and community development priorities.
- Expand public access to opportunities for creative development, participation, and expression, including opportunities for partnerships among arts and cultural organizations that are responsive to civic priorities around diversity and inclusion, arts-based youth development programming, and collaborations among arts and cultural community, libraries, and schools.
- Strengthen the organizational infrastructure of Arlington arts and cultural institutions, including efforts to support local arts and cultural organizations with aspects of strategic planning such as audience development, marketing, and income generation.
- Elevate the social infrastructure and connectivity of Arlington’s artists and creative professionals, including Town-initiated opportunities for artists to network, perform, and share their work, and recruitment of members from the local arts and cultural community to the Arlington Cultural Council.
MAPC’s Arts & Culture Department led the planning process in partnership with an ad hoc advisory group, the Arlington Cultural Planning Working Group. This group included representatives from various Town boards, committees, commissions, and organizations in Arlington including ACAC, Arlington Public Art, the Arlington Cultural Council, the Board of Selectmen, and Arlington Center for the Arts.
This project was supported by approximately $20,000 in funding from MAPC’s Planning for MetroFuture Technical Assistance (PMTA) Program, approximately $20,000 in arts and cultural planning resources provided by the Barr Foundation, as well as an in-kind contribution of approximately $6,000 from members of the ACAC.
MAPC collaborated with the Arlington Cultural Planning Working Group to conduct research and community engagement to assess the nature and quality of Arlington’s existing arts and cultural assets; challenges for Arlington’s arts and cultural sector (including individual artists, businesses, nonprofit cultural organizations, and others); and opportunities to strengthen arts and cultural life. The planning process was informed by a robust community engagement strategy, including eight focus groups with various segments of the arts and cultural community; a town-wide survey of arts and cultural assets and needs; two town-wide events to include members of the community in the planning process; and communications and publicity efforts.
Since completion of the Arts and Culture Action Plan, the ACAC has embarked on several initiatives and accomplishments, including:
- Creation of strategic and operations plans for the Commission.
- Providing support for local non-profits through collective promotion, calendaring, coordinated communications, collaboration, and volunteer recruitment.
- Launch of an artist in residence program in partnership with local advocacy groups and the Arlington public library.
- Planning for a percent for art program.
Metropolitan Area Planning Council. (August 2017.) Arlington Arts and Culture Action Plan. Retrieved April 10, 2020 from https://www.mapc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ArlingtonArtsandCultureActionPlanComplete_final.pdf.