A spotlight shines on a stool in the dark

Ode to Boston and to the Arts’ Transformative Power 

By David Howse

Amid a pandemic’s chaos and a world brimming with confusion and anger, I wrote a plea to our community. It was a message that had risen, united in support of Black lives, in the wake of George Floyd’s brutal murder. The institutions, once dormant to the matters of Black lives, had awakened in a crescendo of voices. Black lives found an echoing chorus that declared their significance in our society. Words rang out like a symphony, and it felt both right and good. 

My hope then, as it is now, is that this wave of support extends beyond a mere moment and evolves into a lasting movement. 

Three years have passed since that tragic event, and the energy appears to be waning while the journey to equality and justice persists. We are on a journey where we must continue to center and amplify the voices of those who have been marginalized and oppressed. Through these voices, we must continue to unearth the true essence of who we are and who we can become in this country, in the city of Boston, and on this campus. Let us not rest in this fight; let us push forward, push harder, aim higher, striving for genuine inclusion and belonging through the art that we make. This is the path to crafting a beloved community. 

As I bid farewell to Boston, I do so with great pride in our accomplishments and great anticipation for what lies ahead. I am confident that new paths will be forged, and the transformative power of the arts will continue to guide us. This journey has brought us closer to ourselves and to one another. It is in the capable hands of those who understand the arts’ power to transcend boundaries and unite us in creativity and expression. 

This city owes me nothing, and as I take my leave, I owe a debt of gratitude to Boston and Emerson College. Both have been a place of growth, learning, and transformation. I carry with me the belief in the enduring power of the arts. They will continue to shape us, and the city will flourish. The arts will forever be a force for good, a beacon of hope, and an instrument of change. Don’t give up now. You’ve got this! 

David C. Howse is vice president for the Office of the Arts and executive director of ArtsEmerson. In October, he announced his departure from Emerson to become president of the California College of the Arts.