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Boston Common: Dorchester Arts Collaborative’s Junior Gustavo

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As part of our continued effort to foster strong communities, we’re rolling out a new interview series, called “Boston Common.” In it we will highlight the people and organizations that shape Boston and New England’s cultural sector by going straight to the source to find out who they are, what they are doing, and how and why they do it. We hope that the series will champion some of the exemplary work being done, shed light on neglected issues facing our arts scene and community, build connections among individuals and organizations, and expand the networks on which we’ve come to rely.
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Tell us about Dorchester Arts Collaborative. What’s its mission and focus? How does it differ from other organizations of its kind, and how does it operate?

The mission of Dorchester Arts Collaborative (DAC) is to help facilitate and develop the arts & culture scene in Dorchester for social and economic enrichment. Our edge lies in being experimental. We’re not afraid to marry the arts with something unconventional and/or do something that has yet to be done. DAC is a blank canvas! Wanna paint?

Junior Gustavo.

Tell us how you came to direct the organization, what you did prior to running DAC and how that equipped you for this current role.

My original involvement with DAC came by way of a friend who last year recruited me to help her run the performance/reception aspect of Dorchester Open Studios. Together we planned program ideas and were able to get all the pieces in place for a fantastic show. Andrea Kunst, who chaired the board, took notice of the time and effort I had put in wanted me to formally join the organization as she saw that I would be an asset. My original answer was no, but she persisted and I eventually said yes. Upon her exit, she asked if I would be willing to lead the organization, to which I said yes, and the board of directors later approved that decision.
Before DAC, I worked in business development and market research for a Cambridge-based tech company.

What are you working on currently? What are your plans for DAC in the coming year?

DAC is currently working on increasing the number of art-related programs available at our center, the Erick Jean Center for the Arts. We’re hoping to partner with area-based schools & local organizations to help increase youth involvement and participation. We’re also working closely with the city on a project to install permanent pieces of public art along the Dorchester Ave corridor as well as working with other organizations to help transform “Dot” into a cultural hub.

What are some challenges you face, and how are you working to address them? What’s your biggest need right now?

As of this moment, the biggest problem we face is available finance and finding the right piece(s) to help us into the next stage of our development. We’re growing very fast, but since this is a volunteer-run nonprofit that operates on charity and grants, money is always a topic concern. We’ve managed to do a lot with very little.

What advice do you have for someone looking to follow in your footsteps? What do you wish you knew when you first started out?

Volunteering your time and skill to a worthy cause will eventually compensate for itself. Proverbially true….
Most importantly, don’t mess up your first television interview like I did. Editing can only do so much.

Name one challenge that the Boston cultural sector faces, and how you’d suggest fixing it.

I’m not certain I’m qualified to speak on such a deep and complicated topic, but in my humble opinion, one challenge the cultural sector face are individuals in positions of power who negate the importance of art as a tool for leveraging social and economic change. As a city that loves to tout itself as world-class, remove the roadblocks that can help transform Boston into a thriving creative economy.

Tell us about one cultural event/exhibition or organization/individual (other than your own) that has exceeded your expectations recently. What work are they doing, and why is it important?

MASSCreative, of course. I’m the new kid on the block and they have welcomed me with arms wide open. In attending their “Create The Vote” events, I have been able to learn firsthand of the economic policies that affect the arts. It’s important because they have not only given a voice to a silent majority, but have empowered them as well. I say silent majority because everyone loves the arts but have yet to raise their voice on its behalf as a collective.

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