Watertown Public Arts Master Plan
The Watertown Public Arts Master Plan was initiated by the Town of Watertown and the Watertown Public Arts and Culture Committee to synthesize lessons from prior initiatives into five core recommendations for administrative, financial, and programmatic strategies that can support a wide array of public arts projects and programs. The plan identifies four opportunities to integrate public arts into existing town priorities, and it documented the existing public arts leadership structure and selection process, identifying the existing collection as it relates to public arts in the public realm, public buildings, and privately-owned spaces. The plan identified five core values that were developed through an iterative process with the project team, Advisory Committee, and members of the public to support the implementation strategies. This iterative process unfolded through community engagement in meetings with the Advisory Committee, one-on-one informational interviews, surveys, pop-ups during summer events, and two public forums. Additionally, these engagements provided context for the development of case studies, as well as the outlining of funding opportunities, a transparent program management and administration structure, and action plans for the selection, development, installation, and maintenance of public art.
Since 2010 the Town of Watertown had produced five plans concerning the management and design of various elements of the public realm, and all of them contained multiple provisions that sought to promote public art. In the arts and culture and economic development sections of the 2015 Watertown Comprehensive Plan, goals were articulated to increase opportunities for artists, expand community building through public engagement, implement placemaking improvements, and expand arts and culture assets in town.
Early in these planning processes an ad hoc group of Watertown residents and other community members formed the Watertown Public Arts and Culture Committee (WPACC) to demonstrate the potential for public arts to foster new shared experiences and contribute to a more attractive and vibrant public realm. Between 2013 and 2015, this group led the design and implementation of three public art projects. These projects also revealed the need for more transparent public processes and robust funding for public arts in Watertown.
In 2019, the Watertown Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) engaged Greater Boston’s regional planning agency, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to develop a public arts master plan to synthesize lessons from past projects, evaluate existing processes for public arts management and funding, and identify new opportunities to integrate the arts into the public realm.
MAPC’s Arts & Culture Department led the planning process in partnership with the Town of Watertown and the Watertown Public Arts & Culture Committee, an ad hoc volunteer committee that was founded in 2013. This group included representatives from various Town boards, committees, commissions, and organizations in Watertown including the Watertown Cultural Council, Mosesian Center for the Arts, the New Repertory Theater, HATCH Makerspace, Watertown High School, and Watertown for Black Lives. The Master Plan was also brought to life through the generosity and participation of nearly 600 people who live and work in Watertown.
This project was supported by approximately $40,000 in funding from arts and cultural planning resources provided by the Barr Foundation, ($ from Kresge???) as well as an in-kind contribution of approximately $8,000 from the Town of Watertown.
At the outset of the project, MAPC worked with the Town Administrator and the WPACC to create an Advisory Committee that would inform the planning process. Advisory Committee members included Town staff from the Department of Community Development & Planning as well as the Department of Public Works, participants from WPACC and other relevant Town committees, and members from Watertown’s established and emerging arts and culture organizations.
These stakeholders devised the plan development process and engagement strategy and helped lead engagement efforts with the public. Additionally, MAPC project team members conducted informational interviews with leaders and members of local cultural organizations, civic groups, small businesses, recreational facilities, and foundations to gain insight into Watertown’s civic infrastructure and community life.
This outreach informed the plan development process, which culminated in three main touchpoints with Watertown community members: a Public Arts Interest survey available in four languages as an online or paper survey that stimulated interest in the plan and gauged public interest in different types of public art; pop-up events where Advisory Committee members engaged with residents; and two public forums, where participants shaped the plan’s vision and values, identified potential locations, and weighed in on programmatic priorities and potential management and staffing structures.
The values that were devised through this iterative engagement strategy and will continue to guide future implementation of action items in the plan include:
• Foster Diversity and Interaction
• Bolster Creativity in Community Life
• Center Local Context and Identities in Engaging with Watertown’s Past, Present, and Future
• Make Connections to Nature + Sustainability
• Solidify Commitments to the Public Arts through Stable Funding Investments and Partnerships
The implementation strategies for launching a Watertown Public Arts and Culture Program were developed and refined prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the pandemic has caused significant disruption to municipal governance and civic life, initial steps toward plan implementation are still possible and encouraged. The need for shared meaning and connections among residents has grown under the constraints of social distancing. Increasing coordination among the Town and local arts and culture anchor organizations through implementation strategies three, four, and five below will ensure that the arts and culture assets in Watertown remain strong and viable throughout the pandemic.
Five core recommendations or implementation strategies include:
1. Integrate Arts into Planning and Community Development; establish a staffed position in the Department of Planning and Community Development
2. Establish Policies and Metrics that Align with Program Values; establish a Public Art Policy
3. Build Lasting Partnerships Among Municipal and Civic Stakeholders; foster relationships and partnerships among Town Departments, public and private entities.
4. Support and Strengthen Community Ties: Mobilize and strengthen core arts and culture networks and organizations
5. Ensure a Variety of Funding Sources for Arts and Culture: Cultivate funding streams that can support an array of public arts initiatives.
[>>Link to full report<<]