BOSTON, May 10, 2018 - Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on Senate Ways & Means Committee Recommended Funding of the Mass Cultural Council in State Budget

“The Senate Ways and Means Committee’s recommendation to fund the Mass Cultural Council at $14 million would see the agency funded as the same amount as the previous three years, and is $500,000 less than the amount recommended by the House. This simply isn’t enough to support a cultural sector that plays such a central role in enriching our communities. 

“The local cultural councils and other nonprofit arts organizations funded by the Mass Cultural Council infuse our cities and towns with creative activities and events making our neighborhoods more connected, vibrant, and equitable. The benefits of these intentional investments in art and creativity can be seen in local economies, schools, and public health and safety.

“Arts education improves the learning of students of all ages and across varying fields of study. Addiction experts have long-recognized the value of art-based therapy in improving the health and resiliency of people recovering from addiction. And the nonprofit arts sector generated more than $2.2 billion in economic activity in 2015.

“The Mass Cultural Council ensures that these benefits are available to everyone regardless of where they live or how much money they make. Grants from the Mass Cultural Council also bring stature, attention, and additional private-sector investments to otherwise low-profile installations, exhibits, and performances which means that decisions about what kinds of creative endeavors get produced are not solely based on already-existing financial resources.

“The positive impact of creativity on our communities is undeniable and cannot be taken for granted. That is why we will continue to support a $3 million increase in the Mass Cultural Council, bringing its total funding to $17 million. We urge state senators to support State Senator Adam Hinds’ Mass Cultural Council amendment, calling for this $3 million increase.

“This will ensure that the Mass Cultural Council can carry out its work of promoting excellence, inclusion, education and diversity in the arts, humanities and sciences across the state.”


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Local District Meetings with Elected Officials


Looking for another opportunity to engage with your state elected officials around arts and culture? MASSCreative is holding a set of district meetings in May to bring together the public with local elected officials in several cities across the Commonwealth. These meetings will give residents and local elected officials an opportunity to discuss the strengths and challenges facing the creative community and the role arts and culture can play in addressing the needs of our cities and towns. Learn more about the upcoming district meetings here.

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House Increases Mass Cultural Council Budget


On Thursday, April 26, the Massachusetts House passed its budget plan and took a stand for arts, culture, humanities, and sciences. It voted to fund the Mass Cultural Council at $14.5 million in FY19. This represents a $500,000 increase over last year’s allocation to the Mass Cultural Council and the recommendation of the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this month.

Your advocacy effectively helped secure over 100 cosponsors (a majority) onto Representative Cory Atkins’ amendment to fund the Mass Cultural Council at $17 million. Backed by majority support on the amendment and an increase in funding from the House, the creative community is in a strong position to continue advocating for $17 million for the Mass Cultural Council from the Senate.

We thank Speaker Robert DeLeo, Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez, and Representative Cory Atkins for their leadership and choosing to step up its investment in the arts and cultural sector. We also thank the 103 cosponsors on the Mass Cultural Council amendment and Representative Stephen Kulik, an arts champion who cited the increase in funding for the Mass Cultural Council in his floor speech about the final House budget. To thank your Representatives for standing up for arts and culture, send them a quick email through our easy-to-use online tool here.

The Senate will release its budget in May. Once again, we'll need you to take action to send a clear message that arts matter and it’s time for increased support for creativity and culture.

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MASSCreative Advocacy Helps NEA and NEH Win Budget Increases


Overriding President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Congress passed the finalized 2018 federal funding bill on March 23 that includes $3 million increases to both organizations. These increases will fund each agency at $152.8 million through September 30, 2018.

This victory came on the heels of our work to Save the NEA and NEH and Americans for the Arts’ Annual Arts Advocacy Day. In March, Program Advocate, Emily Ruddock traveled to the nation’s capital to join passionate arts advocates from across the country to share why the arts matter with their elected officials. Emily was joined by Massachusetts arts advocates  Nick Bazo of The Theater Offensive, Robin Hayden of Country Dance and Song Society, Mark Murphy of The American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Rob Southworth of School Works Lab, and Ann Wicks of New England Foundation for the Arts. The MA team met with the offices of all 11 Massachusetts Members of Congress, including both Senators Markey and Warren. During each office visit, the team delivered thousands of signatures from MA residents on our Save the NEA/NEH petition and shared stories of impact from young people from our #ArtsMatter poster project.  

Win one congressional win under our belt, another fight looms for next year’s 2019 budget, as President Trump’s FY19 budget also proposed to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

“Shutting down these arts and humanities agencies isn’t about balancing the budget or cutting excess spending. These cuts are a direct attack on our values and all that arts, culture, and the humanities bring to building healthy, vibrant, and equitable communities across the country,” said MASSCreative Program Advocate Emily Ruddock.

MASSCreative will continue to follow the federal budget process and provide additional opportunities for members  to show the MA Congressional delegation that arts and culture are public good worthy of public investment.

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Essex County Community Foundation Launches its Creative Community Program


Bringing together more than 400 arts leaders and supporters, from the North Shore, the Essex County Community Foundation launched its Creative Community program to increase support and resources for the arts and creativity.

MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson led workshops to over 60 of the participants on how to build public will for the arts and creativity with city and state leaders in the county.

With support from the Barr Foundation and ECCF's donors, the Creative County Initiative will provide funding in three distinct areas over the next two years:

  • Local Cultural Plan Workshops/Toolkits - one-day workshops (offered in sub-regions of Essex County and in partnership with Metropolitan Area Planning Council and Merrimack Valley Planning Commision) to facilitate local cultural planning partnerships. We anticipate these will begin in the fall of 2018. Details available summer of 2018.
  • Creative Placemaking Grants - funding that encourages creative placemaking in communities. View Grant Guidelines.
  • Public Art Grants - funding for interactive public art projects that connect people through a shared experience. View Grant Guidelines.

The ECCF program is one of four regional programs funded by the Barr Foundation. Barr is also partnering with the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, the Worcester Community Foundation the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts


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Barry’s Blog: A two-part Interview with MASSCreative's Matt Wilson


Barry Hessenius, who writes a national blog about the arts and creative community published a two-part interview with MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on April 9 and 10.  The interview provides an in-depth look at MASSCreative’s six-year history and its groundbreaking approach to arts advocacy.

You can read Part One here and Part Two here.

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Franklin Cultural Council Holds Local Advocacy Day

 Franklin3.png  Franklin1.png                                                                   MASSCreative works with local cultural councils and arts leaders to conduct advocacy skills trainings.

Bringing together more than 50 local arts leaders from Franklin and nearby communities, the Franklin Cultural Council held a Community Arts Advocacy Day, a day-long program of workshops, panel discussions, and opportunities to advocate on behalf of arts and culture.

MASSCreative Program Advocate Emily Ruddock and MASSCreative Leadership Council Members Justin Springer and Nicky Enriquez led workshops on the skills and strategies local activists need to influence their elected leaders.

Lunch with elected officials including Rep. Roy (D-Franklin), Rep. Dykema (D-Holliston) and Rep. Murray (D-Milford) offered an opportunity for them to share their vision for more creative and vibrant Massachusetts and hear directly from arts supporters about why the arts and creativity matter.


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In the News

In_the_media_1.jpgChildren play under Mobile Suspension, by artist Erwin Redl, part of the city of Spartanburg’s public art project, “Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light.”


From Route Fifty:

Investments in the Arts Strengthen Local Economies and Communities Read More


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BOSTON, April 26, 2018— Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on House Budget for Funding of the Mass Cultural Council:

BOSTON, April 26, 2018— Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on House Budget for Funding of the Mass Cultural Council:

“We applaud House lawmakers who have approved an increase in funding for the Mass Cultural Council from $14 million to $14.5 million. We’re thankful to Speaker Robert DeLeo and Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez, the 103 cosponsors on state Rep. Cory Atkins’ Mass Cultural Council Amendment and Rep. Stephen Kulik, an arts champion who cited the increase in funding for the Mass Cultural Council in his floor speech about the final House budget.

“The Massachusetts economy would be diminished without the contributions of nonprofit arts organizations, who generated more than $2.2 billion in activity in 2015 alone. Our communities would be much poorer as well. Creativity and culture are the building blocks for vibrant, equitable and connected neighborhoods. Arts education benefits learners of all ages and across fields of study. Art-based therapy improves health and resiliency in people recovering from addiction or suffering from memory impairment and military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“None of these benefits occur incidentally. They come only by deliberately choosing to invest in arts education and field trips to museums, theatrical productions and musical performances. They happen when we fund local cultural councils that provide free opportunities for arts and cultural events and programs to all members of their communities. They happen when we nurture the development of the Commonwealth’s vast and diverse community of artists, who are driving the reinvigoration of the state’s gateway cities including Lynn, New Bedford and Springfield, and often through projects funded by Mass Cultural Council.

“We now look forward to working with arts leaders in the Massachusetts Senate as they build their budget. Given the many benefits that art, culture, and creativity imbue across industries and communities, we’ll continue to advocate for a total appropriation for the Mass Cultural Council of $17 million. This will ensure that it can carry out its work of promoting excellence, inclusion, education and diversity in the arts, humanities and sciences in our Commonwealth.”


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Matt Wilson to receive Leadership in Arts Advocacy Award

It’s exciting when the work of MASSCreative and our hardworking staff is publicly recognized in the media, or by political figures and other civic leaders. It’s truly special, though, to be recognized by one of the arts organizations with whom we work side by side in our advocacy efforts, because we have deep respect for each our coalition partners and the important creative and community-building work they do.

That’s why we’re so proud that Central Square Theater (CST) will honor our Executive Director Matt Wilson for his leadership in arts advocacy at its Dream It. Be It. Gala April 30.

Without a doubt, Matt’s leadership of MASSCreative over the last five years has helped make the Commonwealth’s arts and cultural community a potent political force. By bringing together a coalition of 400 arts and cultural institutions under MASSCreative’s banner to advocate for arts funding, organizing more than 50 arts leaders statewide through our Leadership Council; and blueprinting our Create the Vote Campaign model, Matt has spearheaded a movement. Not only has he convinced an increasing number of politicians and Massachusetts voters that arts and culture aren’t just nice, they’re necessary, other state arts organizations now look to Matt for ideas and advice on how to replicate MASSCreative’s success in their own states.

Matt has described his and MASSCreative’s work as creating the political and social “heat and friction” needed to produce a greater depth of support for arts and culture. 

“Saul Alinsky, one of the great political organizers from the ’60s and ’70s, says that to make change, you have got to create a little heat, a little friction, a little uncomfortable-ness,” he said in a recent interview. “Many in the arts community are uncomfortable with putting pressure on decision makers and creating tension. Leaders need to be able to say, ‘Yes, I like you, but you have got to do a little bit more. You cannot just say you like us; you have to be a champion.’ Through its public education and advocacy, MASSCreative works to create that heat and that friction.” 

Matt was initially a surprise pick to run MASSCreative when we formed in 2012. He was not a part of the arts community and his background is in grassroots political organization. Beginning in 1989, he became executive director of Toxics Action Center where he helped more than 300 neighborhood groups address toxic pollution in their own backyards, while growing the organization from a one-person operation working in Massachusetts to a regional operation with 11 staff members.

He left Toxics Action Center in 2005 for a job with the progressive political action group There, Matt led efforts to recruit and train more than 100,000 volunteers in 60 swing districts for the 2006 congressional elections—in which Democrats regained control of the U.S. House and Senate—in addition to working to expand the movement against the Iraq war.

From there, Matt worked on Health Care for All’s campaign to ensure consumer and community voices were heard when Caritas Christi Health Care was purchased by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.  

Since then, Matt has put his political organizing skills to work for the state’s arts sector. CST, which joined the MASSCreative Coalition in 2013, has been an important part of that work.

“Our partnership with MASSCreative is a logical extension of our mission to serve as a cultural anchor for the Cambridge community, which we take very seriously,” CST Executive Director Catherine Carr Kelly said recently.

Aside from staging acclaimed, affordable and accessible productions and running arts education and cultural enrichment programs, CST also participates “in broader discussions about how the arts benefit our economy, public safety, community cohesiveness, and overall quality of life—and what resources we’re willing to invest in maintaining and growing our arts infrastructure,” she said. “MASSCreative has been an important partner in helping create and bring people into this dialogue.”

The Dream It. Be It. Gala takes place Monday, April 30 at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Tickets are $250 and available online.


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