Americans for the Arts to honor MASSCreative founding executive director Matt Wilson with national advocacy award

June 14, 2019—MASSCreative announces today that Americans for the Arts has selected MASSCreative’s founding executive director, Matt Wilson, as this year’s recipient of the Alene Valkanas State Arts Advocacy Award. The award has been given out since 2009 and—as described on the Americans for the Arts website—“honors an individual at the state level whose arts advocacy efforts have dramatically affected the political landscape.”

Wilson will receive the award during Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, on Saturday, June 15.

“Matt has distinguished himself as a passionate advocate for the arts and arts education,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “He has implemented innovative and transformative programs to strengthen the Massachusetts communities they serve and build recognition for the important work of the arts. His unwavering commitment to local, state, and national support for the arts is deserving of this recognition.”

“We’re so pleased to see this national recognition for Matt’s political advocacy for artists and the creative sector in Massachusetts,” said MASSCreative Interim Executive Director Emily Ruddock.

Under Wilson’s leadership, MASSCreative grew to include more than 400 organizational members with 25,000 individuals taking part in public education and advocacy actions. Since 2013, MASSCreative’s campaigns have helped increase operational and capital investment into the Commonwealth’s arts and cultural community by 80 percent. MASSCreative’s advocacy work with the Arts for All Coalition supported the implementation of state policies to increase access and participation to quality arts education. It also helped bring pubic discussion of arts and culture in over 35 campaigns for political office in local and state elections.

Prior to MASSCreative, Wilson led campaigns for a cleaner environment, affordable and accessible health care, to fight corporate power, and to elect progressive government leaders. Wilson graduated from Dartmouth College in 1983 and also earned a Master of Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2008.

In addition to Wilson, Americans for the Arts will bestow five other leadership awards:

  • Roberto Bedoya – Public Art Network Award
  • Julie Garreau – Arts Education Award
  • Stephanie Johnson-Cunningham – American Express Emerging Leaders Award
  • Margie Johnson Reese – Selina Roberts Ottum Award
  • George Tzougros – Michael Newton Award

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Statement by MASSCreative Interim Executive Director Emily Ruddock on Funding of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (Mass Cultural Council) in the Senate’s Final FY2020 Budget

MASSCreative Statement on Senate FY2020 Budget

BOSTON, May 24, 2019—Statement by MASSCreative Interim Executive Director Emily Ruddock on Funding of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (Mass Cultural Council) in the Senate’s Final FY2020 Budget:

“We are grateful to the Senate for its proposal to fund the Mass Cultural Council at $18 million and its approval of an amendment to edit language in the Mass Cultural Council line item that will ensure that the state cultural agency will be able to continue to provide both grants and services to the creative community.

“We are also deeply encouraged that the FY2020 budgets proposed by both the House and Senate recommend increases for the Mass Cultural Council budget, with $500,000 proposed by the House and $2 million by the Senate. This is the first time in recent memory that both branches of the legislature have recommended increases in public investment in art, culture, and creativity.

“But we are not surprised to see such confidence in the sector. Equitable public funding of cultural organizations and artists throughout Massachusetts creates greater opportunities for all residents to experience creativity and to see their culture reflected in artistic expression. Public investment in cultural organizations is also a proven and reliable generator of economic activity, most noticeably in higher need areas of the state, such as our Gateway Cities and rural communities. All together cultural nonprofits in Massachusetts support more than 73,000 full-time jobs, generate over $2.2 billion in total spending, and bring in nearly $100 million in state tax revenues.

“None of these benefits to our communities occur incidentally. They are the result of strategic investments in Local Cultural Councils, working artists, cultural institutions, community groups, and youth programs by the Mass Cultural Council, which focuses on expanding equitable access to art for all residents.

“A House-Senate conference committee will soon be formed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate FY2020 budgets. We look forward to working with members of the state legislature as the budget process proceeds and sharing the ways that art, creativity, and culture impact all residents of the Commonwealth.”

 

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Senate Budget: Let's Keep Rallying

Over the past week, the creative community came together to tell the Senate that everyone in Massachusetts has the right to experience creativity and see their culture reflected in artistic expression. Together we sent the message that state investment in the Mass Cultural Council makes equitable public arts and culture funding of cultural organizations and artists possible.

Email your State Senator by 5PM TOMORROW to boost support for the creative community.

After the Senate Ways & Means Committee released their recommended state budget last week, Senator Ed Kennedy--Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development--filed two budget amendments in support of equitable state investment in the creative community. 

Amendment #686 supports increased state investment in the creative community by funding the Mass Cultural Council at $18 million.

Amendment #832 ensures the Mass Cultural Council is able to do its work as the state arts agency that provides both grants and services to the creative community.

So far 10 different Senators have signed onto the amendments. We still have work to do by 5PM tomorrow to get the rest of the Senate on our side. And to make an even bigger impact with Senate Leadership, we need at least a majority of senators to sign onto both amendments.

Ask your State Senator to cosponsor budget amendments #686 and #832 to boost the impact of the creative community through Mass Cultural Council grants and services.

Opportunities to experience arts and culture and creative expression and are just as integral to social well-being as adequate food, housing, income, and the pursuit of meaningful activities.

None of these benefits to our communities occur incidentally. They are the result of strategic investments in grants and services to Local Cultural Councils, working artists, cultural institutions, community groups, and youth programs by the Mass Cultural Council, which focuses on expanding equitable access to arts and culture for all residents.

Send an email to your State Senator by 5PM TOMORROW urging them to stand up for a more vibrant and creative Massachusetts.

So far, the creative community's emails have reached over 80% of all Senate offices, but we only have a handful of Senators signed on as cosponsors to both amendments. To make a real impact, we need to get a majority of cosponsors on each amendment.

Let’s make sure every Senate office gets the message that arts and culture builds healthy, vibrant, connected, and equitable communities across Massachusetts.

Invite your networks to take action by using our toolkit:

Send a message to your State Senator TODAY.

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Statement by MASSCreative Interim Executive Director Emily Ruddock on Recommended Funding of the Mass Cultural Council in Senate Ways & Means Committee Proposed FY2020 Budget

BOSTON, May 8, 2019—Statement by MASSCreative Interim Executive Director Emily Ruddock on Recommended Funding of the Mass Cultural Council in Senate Ways & Means Committee Proposed FY2020 Budget:

“The Senate Ways and Means Committee has proposed funding the Massachusetts Cultural Council (Mass Cultural Council) at $17 million, which would be a $1 million increase over last year’s allocation. Given the powerful impact that art, culture, and creativity have on our communities, we will continue to advocate for the previously requested $18 million.

“Equitable public funding of art organizations and artists throughout Massachusetts creates greater opportunities for all residents to experience creativity and to see their culture reflected in artistic expression. These opportunities are just as integral to social wellbeing as adequate food, housing, income, and the pursuit of meaningful activities. Public investment in cultural organizations has also proven to be a powerful generator of economic activity, most noticeably in higher need areas of the state, such as our Gateway Cities and rural communities. All together arts nonprofits in Massachusetts support more than 73,000 full-time jobs, generate over $2.2 billion in total spending, and bring in nearly $100 million in state tax revenues.

“None of these benefits to our communities occur incidentally. They are the result of strategic investments in Local Cultural Councils, working artists, cultural institutions, community groups, and youth programs by the Mass Cultural Council, which focuses on expanding equitable access to art for all residents. These funding priorities contrast greatly with corporate giving, which is often driven by marketing goals and focuses on blockbuster arts events or other highly commercialized activities. It also differs from giving by individual philanthropists, who are often motivated by personal goals. This results in narrow programming that limits the breadth and depth of representation and participation from all our communities.

“We look forward to working with members of the Senate as the FY2020 budget process proceeds and sharing the ways that art, creativity, and culture impacts their constituents.”

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Keep up the Great Work and Farewell

Dear MASSCreative Supporter,

Seven years ago, a group of arts funders and advocates took a big risk by hiring a veteran of the environmental and peace movements to build a new statewide grassroots arts advocacy group.

That group, of course, was MASSCreative, and that movement veteran was me.

Today, I’m writing to let you know that I am moving on from MASSCreative.

I’m incredibly proud of what we have built together. In 2012, MASSCreative consisted of me, a small founding Board of Directors, and a couple of flip charts. Today we have a staff of six, a Leadership Council of 60 strategic thinkers from around the state, and 400 member organizations. Most important, we have you—our not-so-secret weapon—tens of thousands of grassroots arts supporters who work daily to make art and creativity an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life.

We’ve accomplished a lot together.

  • State investment in the arts community has increased by 80 percent over the last six years with significant increases in the Mass Cultural Council budget and the Cultural Facilities Fund.
  • MASSCreative’s Create the Vote campaign, which elevates the voice of the arts community in local elections, has been so successful that organizations in other states have adopted the Create the Vote model.
  • With the inclusion of arts instruction on the new district report cards, arts education is now being recognized as a fundamental component of a well-rounded education by policymakers.

MASSCreative is well-positioned to continue and expand on this work. That is why I am taking this opportunity now to return to the broader movement for social justice. Much is at stake in the 2020 elections, and that is where I will be putting my time and talent over the next two years.

Later this year, MASSCreative will launch a search process for a new Executive Director. In the meantime, MASSCreative’s Board of Directors has appointed Emily Ruddock as Interim Executive Director. Emily joined MASSCreative in 2017 as our director of policy and government affairs. Under her leadership, MASSCreative’s legislative and policy work has greatly expanded and she has strong relationships with arts leaders around the state as well as MASSCreative’s staff and board. That, combined with her 14 years of experience working in strategic and management positions for non-profit arts organizations, will make her an excellent steward for MASSCreative in the months ahead.

My time with MASSCreative has been an incredible personal and professional journey and I’m grateful to you all for being a part of it.

Keep up the great work!

Matt Wilson

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Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on Recommended Funding of the Massachusetts Cultural Council in House of Representatives Proposed FY2020 Budget

BOSTON, April 19, 2019—Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on Recommended Funding of the Massachusetts Cultural Council in House of Representatives Proposed FY2020 Budget:

“The House Ways and Means Committee has proposed funding the Massachusetts Cultural Council (Mass Cultural Council) at $16.6 million, which would be a $533,000 increase over last year’s allocation.

“Equitable public funding of the Mass Cultural Council creates greater opportunities for all Massachusetts residents to experience creativity and to see their culture reflected in artistic expression. This contrasts greatly with corporate giving, which is often driven by marketing goals and focuses on blockbuster arts events or other highly commercialized activities while individual philanthropists are often motivated by personal goals. Private foundation support is highly concentrated with nearly half (46.4%) of all foundation giving going to a fraction of all recipients (2.1%). This results in narrow programming that limits the breadth and depth of representation and participation from all our communities.

“But the Mass Cultural Council awards grants to 329 Local Cultural Councils around the state. More than half of them serve regions with high rates of poverty. The Mass Cultural Council also gives over 6,000 grants annually to working artists, cultural institutions, community groups, and youth programs that are otherwise not served by private funders.

“Sharing creative experiences and expressing our creativity builds powerful connections with the people we’re closest to, with our community and the world around us. Research repeatedly shows that opportunities for cultural engagement and creative expression are just as integral to social wellbeing as adequate food, housing, income, and the opportunity to pursue meaningful activities. The Mass Cultural Council supports 45 cultural districts across the state that are building bridges across neighborhood, ethnic, and class divides in ways that other efforts at civic engagement cannot.

“None of these benefits to our communities and young people occur incidentally. We reap them when we deliberately choose to invest in artists, cultural organizations, and arts education. We look forward to working with members of the House and Senate as the FY2020 budget process proceeds.”

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MASSCreative praises Walsh Administration for Investment in Arts

BOSTON, April 12, 2019—MASSCreative applauds Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and his administration for affirming the city’s support of the Office of Arts and Culture and the necessity of public investment in art, creativity, and culture in the FY2020 budget released April 10. As significant private grants that once funded a portion of the Office of Arts and Culture budget have expired, the city of Boston has increased its funding for the office by 37 percent. The investment will ensure continuation of the important work that the Office of Arts and Culture oversees, including the development and implementation of policies and grants that support artists, public art installations, and the innovative artist-in-residence program. MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson issued the following statement in response:

“We’re excited to see this increase in funding for the Office of Arts and Culture by the city of Boston. Public funding of art, culture, and creativity means that more people of all ages, incomes, races, and backgrounds—including those from marginalized groups that are otherwise not served by private funders—will have opportunities to express themselves creatively, participate in arts activities, and to see their culture reflected in artistic expression.

“Boston’s artist-in-residence program is a striking example of the ways in which publicly-funded art can illuminate and enhance important public policy goals related to recovery from substance use, climate change, public safety, and racial equity. Other investments, including grants to artists and support for public art projects, strengthen communities by employing art to deepen relationships across neighborhood, ethnic, and class divides in ways that other efforts at civic engagement cannot.”

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Arts Advocacy Day draws 350 advocates to the State House

One trending hashtag, 80 meetings with Beacon Hill lawmakers, and countless stories shared.

These are just a few of the accomplishments pulled off by the 350 working artists and organizational leaders who attended Creativity Connects: Arts Advocacy Day March 26. The day began with speeches and performances at the Emerson Paramount Center in downtown Boston, continued with a honk band-led arts march across Boston Common, and ended with meetings on Beacon Hill.

“Artists carried the message to lawmakers that for Massachusetts to be the best place it can be for residents, then art and creativity must be an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life,” said Matt Wilson, executive director of MASSCreative. “That means investing in creativity and culture and enacting policies that support the creative workforce, ensure access across geography, income, physical ability, and other barriers, and also bring the arts to education, health and wellness, and economic development.”

Boston Arts Academy student Alexis Maxwell set the tone for the day with her joyful ode to the power of art to change the world, which she sang on stage while strumming a ukulele. When she finished, audience-goers throughout the packed theater stood to declare why they were advocates for the arts.

Mass Humanities Executive Director Brian Boyles observed that creativity “connects us with our past and helps us imagine our future” while artist Justina Crawford explained that creativity connected her with “communities that inspire me to be bold” and author Lauren Wolk said that creativity connects her “to my very best self.” ArtsEmerson Executive Director David Howse, who emceed the event, garnered applause when he gestured back and forth between himself and the audience as he repeated his reason for advocating for the arts: “creative connects us to our common humanity!”

Stories of art’s power to change lives, bring people together, and build community flowed from the stage along with the pointed message that art is serious business. Emerson College President Lee Pelton noted that “art and artists build bridges not walls” and Enchanted Circle Theater Executive Director Priscilla Kane Hellweg explained that “we bring joy back to learning.”

Mass Cultural Council Executive Director Anita Walker described the “ever present anxiety” many people feel in response to current politics. The cure for our collective angst? “Human contact,” she said. “That is your superpower. …. Artists speak with empathy connecting all of us.”

Both co-chairs of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development attended Creativity Connects and had advice for the crowd. State Sen. Edward Kennedy of Lowell credited artists and arts organizations with anchoring Lowell’s economic resurgence and for welcoming the city’s African and Cambodian diasporas. But he reminded audience-goers to share the creative sector’s impressive economic contributions to the Commonwealth when they met with lawmakers: more than 73,000 jobs and $1 billion to the state’s economy.

State Rep. Ed McMurtry of Dedham said that the work of advancing art policy and increasing state investment in creativity hinged on strong shows of support from the creativity community itself. “Today is an important day as you come up to Beacon Hill and advocate to your reps and senators and staff the significance that arts have to you and to the community,” McMurtry said.

Maurice Emmanuel Parent, co-founder of the Front Porch Arts Collective, led other artists in an entertaining and theater-worthy session about how to share personal stories about the impact of art with lawmakers. State Rep. Mary Keefe of Worcester who sits on the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development teamed up with Erin Williams, Worcester’s cultural development officer in leading a group of volunteers through a role play of how to ask lawmakers and staff for support.

Emily Ruddock, MASSCreative’s director of policy and government affairs, unveiled MASSCreative’s policy platform for the 2019-2020 legislative session, which provided the framework for organizing personal stories into policy prescriptions. Focusing on five realms in which the creative community makes unique and vital contributions to the state, Ruddock explained, the platform identifies what the creative community “needs to do better”: the well-being accessed through creative expression; broad opportunities for participation; community-based arts programs; sequential arts education; and respect and support for the creative workforce and economy.

Audience-goers then transformed into a lively and enthusiastic parade. Led by the Summer Street Brass Band, they marched across Boston Common to the State House where they met with lawmakers to share stories about the power of art and request legislative support for funding and policy reforms.

Additional resources:

Video of Howlround’s Livestream of Creativity Connects: Arts Advocacy Day

MASSCreative’s guide to the state budget

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Sarah MacIsaac on the Value of Art Therapy

At MASSCreative, we believe creative experiences help build powerful connections between people, communities, and the broader world. At Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day on March 26 (next week!), we will bring together hundreds of leaders and supporters of the creative community to connect with one another, advocate with lawmakers, and share their stories of arts and creativity.

As part of the lead-up to Arts Advocacy Day we want to take the opportunity to share some of those stories to illustrate why advocating for the arts is so important! Today we are featuring a guest blog post about the importance of art in achieving holistic health from Sarah MacIsaac. Sarah is a Tastefully Simple Independent Consultant who treasures her time writing, painting, regularly attending plays and enjoying her favorite music.

"Art has always been a major part of my life. It has been and continues to be a lifeline. It is a deep breath, a calming exhale, an escape, and my spark of joy. As a person with a physical disability, art was my outlet to express myself. It was a gift because it was something I was good at: my place to shine. Whether as a patron attending art museums, plays, musical theater, dance performances, the opera, and live music concerts--or as the one doing the creating or performing--art has been there for me through it all. It lifts me up.

I have only had formalized art therapy once in my life when in high school. My friend had just died, and I was dealing with my own mortality. I had what I can now describe as a psychotic break from reality. I was blessed that my high school offered resources like art therapists to help me cope with the uncertainties of my medical conditions. From a young age I was given messages intentionally or unintentionally that someone with my condition does not live long. Those are scary realities to face. Thankfully, I had loving, well-meaning family members, friends, and caregivers; I am so blessed. However, at the time I was confused, overwhelmed and I needed to find hope again. I needed something to help me sort through what may or may not happen to me at any given time in regards to my disease.

I do not remember the specifics of my high school art therapy--after all it has been 19 years since graduation! However I do fondly recall that time. I have tremendous gratitude toward all those who recognized my early love of art and used it get me through one of the darkest points in my life. Later I even had the opportunity to assist younger kids with some art therapy exercises as an intern. In fact, my art therapy experience was so impactful I even considered becoming an art therapist myself.

With the tools I have been given from art therapy and the experience I have gained I no longer see my so-called challenges as a disease; I am healthy and thriving. I attribute a great deal of my success and my ability to manage adversity to the skills I learned from my art therapist. Art is still such a force for good in my life. Art (some of which I created!) adorns the walls of my house, arts and crafts connect me with my nieces and nephew, coloring helps me find peace, and music soothes my soul. The list could go on and on. I find joy recounting the ways art did and continues to shapes my life."

RSVP now for Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day on March 26!

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Can We Stop Picking On The NEA?

As you read this, arts advocates across the nation are firing out emails and social media posts about President Trump’s proposal—for the third year in a row—to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Hopefully, Congress will once again reject the proposal, as it has twice now.

With any luck, this annual attack on arts and humanities will broaden the public’s understanding that opportunities for cultural engagement and creative expression are just as integral to social wellbeing as adequate food, housing, income, and the pursuit of meaningful work.

We are way past the point where we should be picking on the NEA.

Earlier this month, I helped organize a meeting in Washington D.C. between staffers from the state’s Congressional delegation and Massachusetts residents to share examples of the ways art is necessary for human happiness. A ninth grader from Arlington High School shared how her love of the cello helped her through a difficult time in middle school in ways that seeing a therapist could not. “Playing music allows you to express your feelings without words, when talking to someone is too much,” she said.

Cathy Edwards of the New England Foundation for the Arts described how she struggled to understand what it meant to be an American when she was growing up overseas as the daughter of a diplomat. “I’d watch the Brady Bunch and look for clues,” she told the staffers.

But it wasn’t until Edwards saw Revelations, performed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the foot of the Parthenon in an ancient amphitheater as an American teenager amid 4,000 Greek citizens, that she finally connected to the power of the American story, encountering the brilliance of Ailey’s genius and his telling of the African-American experience.

Access to these experiences is uneven and largely predicated on income and geography. Middle- and upper-income people who live in urban areas are far more likely to have the sorts of cultural experiences we talked about in Washington. Meanwhile, headlines about $90 million paintings reinforce the perception that art is a past time for the one percent with little relevance to everyday life.

Public investment in arts organizations and programs is the only way to ensure that everyone has access to their benefits, which include delaying the aging process by engaging in music, writing, and dance; building resilience among veterans and their families with community art projects and classes; and improving student performance across all academic disciplines with sequential arts education from K-12. Creative expression through writing and other dramatic activities can improve public health and even make the delivery of healthcare more efficient for patients and practitioners alike. Arts-based endeavors spur economic activity. Cultural districts in lower-income areas reduce poverty and connect people across neighborhood, ethnic, and class divides. Taken together, investments in art for whole communities can even pay off in higher property values.

None of this happens by accident. Half of all events funded by the NEA take place in communities where the median household income is less than $50,000 and 40 percent take place in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty. Over 35 percent of NEA grants go to organizations that serve veterans, people with disabilities, and people who are confined to institutions. These public dollars—just $155 million in fiscal year 2019, or .004 percent of the federal budget—ensure that children in school districts with no funding for arts classes still get to field trips to theaters and museums. They finance cultural districts in poverty-stricken neighborhoods and rural communities. And each public dollar granted to nonprofit arts organizations brings in another nine from private sources, sustaining the art sector’s base, which contributes $729 billion to the nation’s economy.

When access to cultural engagement and creative expression is restricted based on income and geography, we’re all made poorer for it.

 

See this article on WGBH's website.

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