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Mayor Walsh appoints cabinet-level arts chief

Julie Burros will be the first person in 20 years to fill the position of Chief of Arts and Culture in Boston. PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF BOSTON
Julie Burros will be the first person in 20 years to fill the position of Chief of Arts and Culture in Boston. PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF BOSTON

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh appointed the City’s first cabinet-level Chief of Arts and Culture in more than 20 years on Tuesday. Julie Burros, the current director of cultural planning for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, will step into her position this December.

“Boston has great potential in the arts world, and this is a unique opportunity to examine all of Boston’s cultural assets and align them with Mayor Walsh’s vision to make arts and culture a key piece across all City departments,” Burros said in an email. “I am so thrilled to be joining Mayor Walsh’s team and look forward to putting all my experience to work for the people of Boston.”

Burros is not only enthusiastic to help shape Boston’s art scene, but has significant experience in her field, Walsh’s spokeswoman Melina Schuler said. Burros’ 15 years of experience in Chicago as a City-level arts director will help her create a Cultural Plan for Boston.

“For the first time in more than 20 years, arts will now be a part of the conversation at the highest level of decision-making,” Schuler said in an email. “The Cultural Plan planning process will include a robust public conversation, and its result will build on Boston’s strong arts community to pave the way for a bright arts future.”

Burros will steer a 15-member committee tasked to develop the plan, Burros said.

“The Plan will create a new vision and roadmap for Boston, which is supportive of all its artists, enriched by its cultural diversity and known for the full breadth of its arts and culture,” she said.

Members of Boston’s art scene said they are looking forward to what Burros has to bring to the community.

“I’ve actually heard her speak, and from what I’ve seen about her, she seems like the right person to be coming in and working with the community,” said Ty Furman, managing director of the BU Arts Initiative. “You know, you want someone who is going to come in and build a cultural policy plan, not to come in and be heavy-handed, and she’s got that experience to work with a community, so it’s very exciting.”

Furman said Burros will likely partner with institutions like BU to help emerging student artists thrive in the city.

“Every year, we graduate hundreds, if not thousands of students who are creative individuals and want to stay in Boston,” he said. “Putting someone who is committed to supporting culture in Boston and working with institutions, my guess is that she will be very eager to work with high-end institutions.”

Several residents said they are looking positively to the start of Burros’ term, and they anticipate change within Boston’s arts and culture scene.

“I used to love [art] as a young adult, and I think it’s misplaced in the city right now,” said Gina Novelli, 50, of Fenway. “It’s a little neglected. I had it as a child in the household — art and music all the time. It enlightens you, it brings out your personality and it develops a community better.”

Though some residents are looking forward to a major reform in the art community, others said they are content with the status quo.

“Everybody loves art here,” said Satish Kotian, 35, of Back Bay. “Art is a major thing. I see lots of people with their different art and bring over their culture here, and it doesn’t matter which country they’re from or which language it is. Everybody supports art here.”

Kaitlyn Rahaim, 19, of Kenmore Square, said she is excited to see if Burros’ appointment will make Boston a more art-centric city.

“I think it’s great that Burros was appointed, especially since I’m an art major,” she said. “Arts is something that gets pushed back a little in Boston, and it’s not something that is always appreciated as much as it should be.”

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Editor-in-Chief. Bostonian by way of Indiana. Excessive Instagrammer. Seltzer addict. Journalism junkie, storytelling fiend.

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