Two weeks ago city officials gathered to view a completed mural on the back of the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.
On Friday, the McDonough family, on behalf of the Myles & C. Jean McDonough Foundation, announced donations totaling $15.25 million to seven of the leading cultural institutions in Worcester and Central Mass.
At first these two seem only tangentially related. We see them as anything but.
These two gifts are part of the same invaluable idea: enhancing city life through the arts.
Much has been written, by this publication and others, about Worcester’s desire to retain college graduates and turn its city center into an 18-hour, liveable neighborhood that would help shape its economic development in a post-industrial age.
This push aligns well with the theories of Richard L. Florida. Florida is a University of Toronto and New York University professor who originated the theory of the Creative Class, which holds that a new generation of knowledge workers, artists, accountants, lawyers, musicians, etc., will spur economic development in the 21st century.
Florida’s theories have as many critics as proponents, and we will save for the future a more comprehensive examination of these ideas.
For now, the monetary support from the McDonough family — $4 million each to the American Antiquarian Society and the Worcester Art Museum, $2.5 million to Tower Hill Botanic Garden, $2 million to the EcoTarium, $1.5 million to the Worcester Historical Museum, $750,000 to Music Worcester and $500,000 to the Hanover Theatre — goes a long way toward ensuring the long-term sustainability of vital cultural institutions.
Meanwhile, the mural is the latest gift from the City of Worcester Public Art Working Group, created in 2013 to “to advocate for the creation and installation of public art that is accessible,” according to a Worcester Magazine article.
The Hanover mural is the latest piece of high-profile art, another being on the side of the Denholm Building, 484 Main St. The locations of all the murals, and other pieces of public art, can be found here.
While culture and art are not synonymous, the latter is at least the most outward display of the former.
Last Sunday, as many as 55,000 people attended the 10th anniversary of stART on the Street on Park Avenue, perhaps the definitive example of the enthusiasm area residents feel for sharing in the creative drives and energies of the community.” The Art in the Park sculptures in Elm Park many attendees strolled among is another example of how art and culture take hold, one endeavor at a time, lifting spirits and helping to define our time and place.
Worcester has wonderful cultural amenities. The two recent gifts — one a downtown mural, the other a multimillion-dollar investment in the area’s artistic future — give pause and gladden hearts. Over the years, that is what art and culture do, too.