Please note: The data and analyses contained in this section are no longer being updated and are presented here solely as an archive of Boston Indicators’ work on this Indicators Framework between the years 2000 and 2015.


Cultural Life and the Arts

2.1 Metro Boston's Competitive Edge in Cultural Life & the Arts





Economic Impact of Creative Cluster Industries

  • Total Arts-Related Businesses by County
  • Total Arts-Related Employment by County

The Creative Economy plays a critical role in economic as well as cultural vitality.  For-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations and institutions help to brand the region as an exciting place to live and work, create jobs across a broad range of skills, talents and areas of interest, generate tax revenues for the Commonwealth, attract tourists, and help to develop and retain “Creative Class” talent for the knowledge economy on which the region depends for future growth. 

The nonprofit cultural sector also contributes to the state’s economy.  According to the New England Foundation for the Arts, total direct and indirect employment stemming from nonprofit arts organizations was 42,378 with a total economic impact of $4.765 billion as of 2009.


Cultural Sector Funding by State

  • National Endowment for Arts Grants by State




Cultural organizations and institutions act as catalysts for the local and regional economy. To achieve this, Boston’s cultural organizations—from world-class institutions to the smallest community-based groups—rely on a mix of public, private and philanthropic contributions in addition to earned income.  The National Endowment for the Arts provides significant support to Massachusetts’ and Boston’s cultural communities.  Insufficient investment from these sources prevents Boston’s cultural institutions from realizing their potential and, at worst, threatens their survival.

In FY2012 Massachusetts received $9,199,866 in funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, about $3 million more than the Massachusetts Cultural Council received from the state legislature.  In total dollar amount, this was the 5th highest allocation of funding to states behind New York, Minnesota, New Jersey and Maryland.  However, this equates to $1.41 in funding per resident, ranking Massachusetts 12th in per capita funding, well behind leaders Washington DC at $6.68 and Minnesota at $5.59 per capita in FY12.  Overall, Massachusetts was just one of 14 states to have an increase in NEA funding between FY11 and FY12.


GOAL: 2.2 Boston as an Exciting Regional Destination





Impact on the Local and Regional Tourist Industry

Cultural tourism is a major impetus for those visiting the Greater Boston area, and it contributes significantly to the region’s “brand” as an exciting, educational, and enjoyable national and international destination.  As the state’s third largest industry, tourism generates a significant economic impact.  According to a study by the Travel Industry of America, travelers who visit historic and cultural sites spend nearly $200 more per person per trip than other travelers who do not, such as business travelers.

According to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, 27.4 million people visited Metro Boston in 2011, up 4.1% from 2010, with 21.2 million visiting Boston and Cambridge, up 3.9% from 2010.  The number of foreign travelers to Boston and Cambridge reached 1.25 million, up 5.6% from 2010 with a majority traveling to the region for leisure.  Some 9.9 million visitors attended a major museum or cultural attraction in 2011, up 8.6% from 2010.

GOAL: 2.3 Equitable Access to Cultural Participation





Distribution of Arts Organizations in Relation to Child Population

  • Location of Arts Facilities and Children, Boston Neighborhood

The location of cultural facilities has a direct impact on the people they attract and the ways in which they are utilized.  Boston, like all great cities, enjoys a concentration of world-class, major and mid-sized cultural facilities in or near its downtown center.  The distribution of neighborhood-scale facilities in proximity to the concentration of children —with most children unable or not permitted to travel great distances — indicates the potential for cultural enrichment closer to home.

Boston continues to have a higher concentration of arts and cultural facilities in the neighborhoods with fewer children.  Conversely, those areas of the city with more children and more families have fewer local options for arts appreciation and activities.

Boston’s children are highly concentrated in the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and East Boston.  However, according to the New England Foundation for the Arts, there are just 59 cultural organization in Roxbury, 115 in Dorchester, 39 in East Boston and 23 in Hyde Park.  By Comparison, there are nearly 300 in Back Bay and the South End and more than 230 in Fenway/Kenmore which are home to fewer of Boston's children

Free or Reduced Price Events or Tickets


The availability of free and reduced-price tickets indicates the responsiveness of cultural institutions to the challenge of making art programming and activities accessible to all Bostonians, irrespective of their ability to pay.  It is also a measure of the level of commitment institutions have to attracting and serving new and underserved audiences.

The City of Boston continues to increase access to free and reduced price arts and cultural facilities, organizations and celebrations across all neighborhoods.  The department of Arts, Tourism & Special Events continues to increase awareness of cultural activities in the performing arts, visual arts, parades, feasts and festivals as well as Boston Open Studios with events in twelve of the city's neighborhoods.  

ArtsBoston also provides a comprehensive calendar of free arts and cultural events around Greater Boston and hosts BosTix where discounted tickets to visual and performing arts can be purchased.

ArtsBoston also supported the ArtsBoston Audience Initiative which provided comprehensive data on cultural participants and audience members which helped ensure that residents from all neighborhoods have equal opportunity to access the arts.

Universal Access to Arts & Culture

Inclusive designs that make venues accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities are a sign that Boston’s cultural institutions are responsive to diverse needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes guidelines for national building codes and facilities receiving public funding, and Massachusetts state regulations extend these guidelines to groups receiving state funding.  Compliance is determined not only by established guidelines but in some cases by the date that a structure was built or by the dates of additions.  Older facilities may provide assistive devices to meet the guidelines. 

Universal Design of the city and its buildings is essential to ensuring quality of life for the roughly 12% of Bostonians (about 70,000) with audio, visual, cognitive, ambulatory or self-care difficulties with consideration of needs across life stages.  In the same time, some 5% of children under 18, 9% of the working-age population aged 18 to 64 and 43% of those 65 years and older had some disability.

VSA Massachusetts provides programming and advocacy to promote the involvement of people of all abilities in arts and cultural activities.  Programs include Cool Schools to promote inclusive learning strategies for arts participation in the classroom, Open Door Gallery for artists of all abilities to premiere their work, and Cultural Inclusion that is currently helping 12 organizations to develop inclusive programming.

GOAL: 2.4 Impact of Arts Organizations on Community Life





Diversity of Arts Organizations by Neighborhood

  • Arts Organizations by Type, Boston Neighborhoods

The location of cultural facilities has a direct impact on the people they attract and the ways in which they are utilized.  Boston, like all great cities, enjoys a concentration of world-class, major and mid-sized cultural facilities in or near its downtown center.

While Downtown and Central Boston have the most arts and cultural destinations, neighborhoods such East Boston, Dochester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Roslindale, and West Roxbury have far fewer.  However, different types of organizations are distributed differently across the city.  The largest number of museums and visual arts organizations are located in Central Boston neighborhoods such as Beacon Hill, the North End and the West End as well as Back Bay and Fenway.  However, ethnic arts organizations and performing arts organizations are well concentrated in the neighborhoods of Boston such as Dorchester, Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.

GOAL: 2.5 Vibrant Expressions of Cultural Diversity





Demographically Representative Leadership of Arts Organizations

Measuring demographically representative leadership in Boston’s major cultural institutions enables us to assess their openness to new leadership and ideas; their responsiveness to new populations and audiences; avenues for the expression of Boston’s increasingly rich cultural heritage; and the capacity of diverse constituencies to influence the cultural landscape of the city.  Leaders recruited from diverse sectors of Boston can help to grow and attract new audiences, enrich Boston’s cultural menu with both traditional expressions of culture and new hybrid forms of expression, and broaden participation in the arts.  Representative leadership also ensures that dynamic and talented young people, such as those who attend the city’s visual and performing arts colleges, will not be lost to other, more welcoming cities.

The most recent data on diversity in the cultural sector comes from a 2007 study by UMASS-Boston’s McCormack Graduate School for Policy Studies that showed racial and gender diversity is high among the 526 Board of Director positions of Massachusetts’ major cultural institutions, and quite closely reflects statewide demographics.  Of those identified, 79% of board members are white, 15% are African American and 3.4% are Asian.  However, Latinos represent only 1.6% of cultural institution board members.  Gender representation on cultural boards is nearly equitable, with men holding 59% of the seats and women with 41% of board positions.


Public Ethnic Celebrations in Boston Neighborhoods

Boston’s neighborhood festivals and parades contribute to the cultural vibrancy and economic life of the city.  Often beginning as spontaneous local events, many of these festivities have blossomed into celebrations attracting people from all over the city and the region.  Representing neighborhoods across the city and ethnicities across the globe, these festivals create opportunities to experience and share new cultural traditions.

GOAL: 2.6 Opportunities for Arts Education





Teachers Dedicated to the Arts in Boston Public Schools

  •  BPS Arts Teachers


The number of teachers dedicated to the visual arts, music and theater in Boston’s public schools is a measure of the City’s ability to ensure direct participation in and access to quality art as a basic part of learning for all children.

As of 2010-11, Boston Public Schools employed 170 full-time equivalent arts teachers up from 146 in 2007-08 and 143 in 1009-10.  A majority of BPS schools have fewer than 3 full-time equivalent arts teachers, however Orchard Gardens employed 5 arts teachers, the Curley K-8 employed 6, and Boston Arts Academy--the city's only public high school dedicated to the arts--employed 12 full-time equivalent arts teachers.


Students Receiving In-School Arts Instruction

  • Percent of Students Receiving Weekly Arts Education
Arts education has been shown to increase creative problem solving and improve academic outcomes for children and youth.  However, weekly year-long arts instruction is often scaled back or eliminated in times of budget constraints.

Since the launch of the Arts Expansion Initiative in 2009, more than 9,000 additional Boston Public School students received weekly in-school arts education.  As of 2011, 81% of students in kindergarten through grade eight had weekly, year-long arts classes, up from 67% in 2009, and nearly half of all high school students received arts instruction of any kind, up from 26% in 2009.

Children and Youth Participation in Afterschool Arts Programming


While in-school arts are vital to a complete and well-rounded education, out-of-school arts offer opportunities for learning and engagement during the crucial hours following school dismissal and before parents or other care-givers are available.  According to research by the City of Boston’s Boston 2:00-to-6:00 After-School Initiative, now part of Boston After School & Beyond, quality after-school programming enhances children’s intellectual and emotional growth and peer relationship skills. Children are less likely to make irresponsible decisions with supervised after-school support. Arts activities expand the range of offerings available, providing a highly popular and important counterbalance to training for success on standardized tests.


Though data on participation does is not currently available, there are more than 100 organizations providing after school arts and cultural programming to youth of all ages according to BostoNavigator.  The greatest number of organizations are located in Dorchester, with nearly 40, followed by a combined 29 in Central Boston, Back Bay and the South End, there were 13 organizations listed in Roxbury, and less than 10 in all other neighborhoods of Boston.  BostoNavigator provides detailed programming information for all of Boston's out-of-school time programs and opportunities.

GOAL: 2.7 Public Support and Funding for the Arts





Designated Funding for the Arts in MA

  • Massachusetts Cultural Council Funding
  • Cultural Facilities Fund

Legislative funding for the arts represents a community’s strength of commitment in supporting the arts. At the same time, government-designated allocations represent a significant source of funding for cultural institutions, non-profits and even individual artists. Legislative appropriations to state arts agencies and councils – which act as grant maker –clearly mark the level of support for the cultural sector.

In FY2012 the Massachusetts legislature appropriated $6.2 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council—the fourth consecutive year of funding cuts which has fallen by 52% from the most recent high of $13 million in FY2009.  At its peak, the legislature allocated more than $16 million to the MCC in FY2002.

Funding for the Cultural Facilities Fund was zeroed out in FY2012 for the third consecutive year.  At its inception, the CFF received $13 million from the legislature and it was last funded at $6 million in FY2009.