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Art as barrier breaker discussed at Hub forum

Talia Whyte | 7/9/2008, 4:37 a.m.
(From left): City Councilor-at-Large Sam Yoon, Boston Connects Inc. Interim Executive Director Shirley Carrington, WBUR-FM producer Jose Masso,...
(From left): City Councilor-at-Large Sam Yoon, Boston Connects Inc. Interim Executive Director Shirley Carrington, WBUR-FM producer Jose Masso, and media executive Gerardo Villacres were among the participants at The Boston Foundation’s recent “Race, Class and Cultural Participation” forum, held at their offices in Boston. Don West

After the 2000 U.S. Census revealed that Boston had become a “majority-minority” city, many city agencies realized that they had to cater to a more multicultural landscape.

Though recent population estimates suggest the “majority-minority” distinction no longer applies, the call for Boston’s cultural institutions to celebrate the city’s rich diversity remains. The idea of a “new Boston” led nearly 200 local leaders and arts community representatives to convene at The Boston Foundation last month for a discussion on how the arts can help break down persisting racial and class barriers.

Robert Lewis, vice president for program at The Boston Foundation, grew up in East Boston and was a product of busing. As an African American man, he said that the arts, particularly music, played a major role in his development as a young man, and he sees them as tools that can help today’s youth deal more effectively with socioeconomic problems in their surroundings.

“We need to get together and learn from each other,” Lewis said. “This is a conversation I would like to have. We can use arts to bring youth together.”

Media executive Gerardo Villacres agrees with Lewis. He has over 20 years of experience overseeing media outlets directed toward the Spanish-speaking community, including the newspaper El Planeta and Spanish radio stations in Boston.