Young Bostonians Cast a Ballot for Public Art

"The Giant of Boston," Boston's equally controversial and beloved Os Gemeos mural.

When Boston mayor Marty Walsh turned to citizens between the ages of 12 and 25, asking them how they would like to see a lump sum of money spent in their community, the answer he got was unequivocal: more public art.

After compiling a list of ways to spend $1 million, Walsh’s office set up voting booths in locations across the city. Over 1,500 young people showed up to cast their ballots, Boston Magazine reports. Choosing from a laundry list of possible improvements, including Chromebooks for students, security cameras in parks, and playground makeovers, one of the most requested items was for the creation of vacant walls where local artists could freely and legally express themselves, without the fear of getting arrested or cited for defacing public property.

The project, “Designated Free Wall Space,” will be supported by $60,000 of the city’s capital budget. Volunteers and local youth organizations will help find and designate the free wall spaces, as well as provide ongoing maintenance to the sites that are ultimately chosen. Public art projects have proven again and again their ability to both heal broken communities and improve thriving ones.

“This project is necessary because Boston’s inner city needs more public art on display. The wall will give young people a place to display their art in a positive space. It will bring light to areas of the city that aren’t aesthetically pleasing,” said a spokesperson for local organization Youth Lead the Change. “The entire community will benefit from this project. If the community is directly involved in making the place they live in a better place then there will be less vandalism in the area.” The young people of Boston, it seems, have excellent taste in ways to spend $1 million.


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