A Brilliant Mind Working for Fenway

by Shari Gaynes

For the past 16 years, Kelly Brilliant has served as the executive director of The Fenway Alliance, an organization that works together with other institutions in the Fenway to provide a cultural environment that merges both the historical and contemporary elements of the neighborhood into a welcoming and creative experience for residents and visitors alike.

The biggest event put on by The Fenway Alliance and all its members is “Opening Our Doors,” a yearly day full of opportunities to peek into many different cultural elements of the Fenway, including touring the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Fenway Studios, and many small artist galleries around the neighborhood.

The Fenway Alliance does a lot for an organization in the hands of two people. Brilliant herself and an assistant director keep the Fenway Alliance active and thriving year-round. “I tend to think of myself as a small business owner,” says Brilliant. “There’s a lot of responsibility involved.” When not organizing the “Opening Our Doors” event, Brilliant and The Fenway Alliance are working hard to make cultural, artistic, or improvement projects happen. The Fenway Alliance is responsible for the implementation of several public art pieces, the restoration of the Muddy River, improvements made to Huntington Avenue including new train tracks, street lights, and outdoor furniture, and several other projects that work to improve the area.

One of Brilliant’s main focuses is the accessibility of art and culture in Fenway. Before directing the Alliance, Brilliant worked in public health—a profession she believes undoubtedly connects to her work in Fenway. “Public health is always looking for ‘how do you benefit the public and groups of people? Not necessarily individual people, but how do you benefit everyone? How to we make the Fenway thriving for everybody and how do we open our doors farther and better for everyone?'"

To me culture is part of well-being and health; I don’t see it separate. To live to be a healthy person we need art, we need performance... whatever makes you sing inside.

As a community leader, Brilliant has not only learned about the people she serves, but about herself as well. “I’m much more mission driven than I like to admit to myself. It’s really important to me, even if its subconsciously important.” The Alliance’s mission to promote culture and arts and increase livability requires Brilliant and her assistant to be on and working all year long. Being a woman in this position of power only means more hard work. “It takes longer to be taken seriously. I have to fend for myself—there are all these layers as a woman. I’ve faced deep patronization in the wider world.”

It would be a mistake to talk about Kelly Brilliant without discussing The Fenway Alliance and vice versa. Her passion and dedication are now deeply embedded in Fenway itself. When asked about the future of the Alliance, Brilliant countered by asking "What's the future of membership organizations?" The Fenway Alliance will grow and evolve alongside its members in years to come. "Like minded people like to gather and that will continue in some way," she says. Brilliant is optimistic about increasing accessibility and continuing to enrich Fenway with the help of her membership board.

Her brilliance has created a lasting legacy in Fenway and the neighborhood will only improve as long as she's around.


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