Campaign Updates: Battle for State Arts Funding is On

“Almost everyone would agree that the arts are vital to creating thriving communities. The problem for lawmakers is that it can be hard to justify to constituents that arts programs deserve funds that otherwise might go to police departments or public schools. But arts advocates received some powerful ammunition on Dec. 5 in the form of a preliminary report that states that the arts and culture sector contributed a whopping $504 billion to the American economy in 2011. Leaders across the country … should take note.” 

—Boston Globe editorial, “Local Arts: It’s Big Business, After All,” Dec. 15, 2013. 

The only way the arts community is going to get the support it needs to thrive in Massachusetts is by letting lawmakers know what those needs are. And that campaign is on.

Last year, MASSCreative led a campaign to significantly increase the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) budget for the first time in seven years. Lawmakers and the governor responded by increasing the MCC budget 17% to $11.1 million.

This January, MASSCreative launched another campaign to increase the budget by another $5 million which would bring the MCC budget to $16.1 million, which is still behind where it was a little more than a decade ago. 

State arts funding from 2002–2014


MASSCreative launched a petition drive encouraging Gov. Deval Patrick to keep up the momentum on arts funding. The MASSCreative Action Network kicked into gear and spread the word on social media while also collecting more than 3,000 signatures.

Some highlights from our members:

  • Pat Hollenbeck at Boston Musicians Association recruited the most signatures, coming in at 273.
  • David Kuehn at Cotuit Center for the Arts brought in the second highest number, at 192.
  • Anne Norton at the Boston Center for the Arts recruited an impressive 139 signers to our petition.
  • Eve Bridburg at Grub StreetJulie & Dawn at StageSource; the team at ArtsBoston; and Ruth Birnberg at Boston Dance Alliance all accumulated over 50 signatures each!
  • Gabrielle Schaffner at Fort Point Arts CommunityRon Mallis at Boston APP/LabJenny Lecoq at Boston Youth Symphony OrchestraCraig Coogan at Boston Gay Men’s Chorus; and Marie-Helene Bernard at Handel & Haydn all made the Top 20 signature-gatherers’ list.

With more than 3,000 signatures in hand, we delivered the petition to the governor’s office, making the first move to ask for what the creative community needs. 

But the budget released by Gov. Patrick in January was a deep disappointment. He recommended cutting the MCC budget by 17%, which would roll back last year’s gains.

MASSCreative director Matt Wilson publicly reacted to the governor’s decision:

“We are disappointed with Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed allocation to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which cuts the state’s investment in arts and culture by $1.5 million. Massachusetts is home to large-scale museums, theaters, and orchestras, as well as numerous community-based playhouses and art centers that drive our economy, enhance the academic performance of our students, and build vibrant, connected communities. Core to the success of these cultural institutions is public investment in the arts through the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The budget released today by Governor Deval Patrick is a step in the wrong direction.” 

Our next move? We are bringing our battle for support to the House of Representatives. And we need your help!

We have already recruited more than 100 individuals who are interested in organizing meetings to encourage their local legislators to increase arts funding. If you would like to host a meeting with your state representative to share first-hand the impact that arts, culture, and creativity has on your community, click here.

State budget timeline


Despite Gov. Patrick’s proposal of funding cuts to the arts, it’s clear that not all politicians are ignoring the cultural sector’s potential. Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee proposed a $35 million investment in grants for local arts facilities, supporting his decision with a holistic appreciation for the impact of arts and culture:

“It’s already here. It’s all around us in this state,” he told The Associated Press. “It just needs a little recognition, a little help. When you look at what the arts can offer the economy, the community, our quality of life, it makes a lot of sense.”

Read our blog entry for more on Gov. Chafee’s support of arts, culture, and creativity. 

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