Create the Vote campaigns in 40 municipal elections raising awareness of arts and creative expression to cities and towns

BOSTON, September 20, 2017—MASSCreative announced today that nearly 40 municipalities are taking part in Create the Vote initiatives this fall. Organized by MASSCreative, a statewide arts advocacy group, in partnership with local arts groups and cultural councils, Create the Vote campaigns raise awareness of the ways that arts and creative expression improve schools, strengthen local business districts, and build vibrant neighborhoods in which people want to live, work, and play.

During the Create the Vote campaign, MASSCreative and local cultural councils will share with voters the answers candidates give to a questionnaire about the arts. In some districts, they will also meet with candidates for municipal office and host debates.

“Creative expression builds powerful connections among communities of people and strengthens educational offerings and local economies,” said Matt Wilson, executive director of MASSCreative. “Local initiatives, such as library reading programs, outdoor concerts, public mural projects, and cultural districts that encourage residents and visitors alike to patronize local businesses are among the most powerful examples. These programs and activities are successful and their impact scales dramatically when they enjoy the support of municipal leaders. That’s why it’s so important to talk about these issues with candidates.”

A recent analysis by the National League of Cities (NLC), shows that mayors across the country view arts and culture as an important economic driver that is worthy of investment. NLC’s 2017 State of the Cities report analyzes and catalogues the top issues articulated by U.S. mayors in their annual State of the City speeches. Predictably, economic development topped the list of the mayors’ priorities. Breaking down that issue, NLC noted that arts and culture was one of the top five economic subsets—along with job creation, business attraction, downtown development and employment—that mayors identified as important or of interest in the growth of their cities.

Arts and cultural organizations and local cultural councils have sent questionnaires to candidates for mayor and city council in Boston and Lynn; questionnaires have been sent to city council candidates in Cambridge, Springfield, and Barnstable; and questionnaires have been sent to candidates for state senate in the special election to be held in the Bristol Norfolk district.

Completed questionnaires are available online at Mass-creative.org/ctv2017.

The Create the Vote Cambridge coalition will hold a debate on the arts on October 12 at Central Square Theater.

The Newton Cultural Alliance will hold a debate on the arts on October 17 at the Boston Ballet School in Newton between mayoral candidates Scott F. Lennon and Ruthanne Schwartz Fuller, who have also filled out an arts questionnaire.

Other participating cities and towns will likely include Agawam, Amesbury, Attleboro, Beverly, Brockton, Chicopee, Easthampton, Everett, Fall River, Framingham, Franklin, Gardner, Gloucester, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Marlborough, Medford, Methuen, New Bedford, Newburyport, Northampton, Peabody, Salem, Taunton, , Westfield, West Springfield, Woburn, and Worcester.

Create the Vote was a significant presence during 2016 legislative races on the Cape and Islands and in the Berkshires, and in 2015 mayoral campaigns in Fitchburg, Gloucester, Medford, New Bedford, and Worcester. During the 2014 gubernatorial race, Create the Vote hosted six candidates at the first-ever Gubernatorial Forum on Arts, Culture, and Creativity; met with candidates; and publicized the answers to candidates’ Create the Vote questionnaires. In the 2013 Boston mayoral race, Create the Vote succeeded in securing a pledge from candidate Marty Walsh to create a cabinet level position for the arts, a promise he fulfilled after his election with the hiring of Julie Burros as Chief of Arts and Culture.

Follow the campaign on the MASSCreative Website Twitter with the hashtag #CreateTheVote. You can also “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @MASSCreative, and visit http://www.mass-creative.org/ctv2017.

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Arts and Culture in the 2017 Mayoral Race: A Community Conversation with Mayor Marty Walsh

With more than 40 mayoral and city council races happening across the Commonwealth this November, MASSCreative's Create the Vote 2017 Initiative is working with arts leaders to make sure that candidates and voters are talking about arts, culture and creativity in their local campaigns.

Kate Huffman, a member of MASSCreatives's Leadership Council, attended a forum with Boston Mayoral Candidate Marty Walsh on Wednesday June 20th.  Here is her report on what Walsh said about arts and culture:

On Thursday, July 20th, Mayor Marty Walsh sat down with JP Progressives for a community conversation as part of the organization’s endorsement process for the 2017 Mayoral election. A similar event was held on the previous Tuesday night with City Councilor and Mayoral candidate Tito Jackson. 

The gathering space at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain was full of folks who had come to hear the Mayor talk about his past three and a half years in office and his plans for the future if he were to be reelected. Mayor Walsh started off by introducing himself, talking about his upbringing in Dorchester by his Irish immigrant parents and his strong support of unions, having joined the Laborers Local 223 union when he was 21 and serving as the union’s president until he was elected Mayor. He spoke about his extensive experience in government, first in serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for 17 years, and as Mayor of Boston since 2014. 

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Bridging Political Gaps Over Handmade Mugs

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Growing up many of us are told that for the sake of civility we should avoid discussing politics or religion in polite company. Seems reasonable at first, but how do we learn how to actually talk about difficult subjects when they come up? What can art, craft, and design do to make this conversation start?

Good question, because as humans we instinctively view the world in terms of "Us vs Them". Seriously, our brains hate other people. But that doesn't mean we can't change it, even when it seems like an uphill battle. Today's politically charged storm of controversies creates a hostile atmosphere for many to find common ground. Across the nation Americans are seeking ways to bridge this difficult gap and, oftentimes, artists are at the forefront of this curation process. Artists can change people's perceptions, tell each others stories, and invite powerful conversations. So what better way to do that than with conversation over a cup of coffee or tea?

The Democratic Cup seeks to provide you with just the mug for the occasion! It is a "slow activism" project created by potters Ayumi Horie and Nick Moen that stimulates political conversation through imagery on handmade cups. Are you a potter? You too can join the project by receiving a free decal from their website to apply to your own mug. Why mugs? As their website states:

"We encourage person-to-person civil conversations about social and political issues. As a country, we need conversations and connections to reinforce the dignity and inclusivity of all Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, and culture."

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Protecting the Arts to Protect Our Freedoms

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As people continue the fights for social justice, artists and activists wonder whether arts advocacy should be put on the back burner. Why are we pushing for something that seems like a privilege when there are so many immediate struggles that need our attention?

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Arts Join the Conversation on Immigration

 

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“Immigration lawyers believe the State Department has been denying more artist visas after President Trump ordered heightened vetting for all visa applications earlier this year,” writes the ARTery’s Maria Garcia.

President Trump’s second executive order on immigration, called for "immediate implementation of additional heightened screening and vetting protocols and procedures for issuing visas." For international artists, this meant increased difficulty and uncertainty in an already highly subjective process.

Arts groups wishing to bring international artists to the U.S. must file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, must prove the artist will have contractual employment in the U.S., and must prove that the artist is "renowned".

It is the subjectivity of this last qualification which allowed federal authorities to deny entry to the Boreas Quartett Bremen this May - Garcia’s main example for the increased scrutiny on visa applications. The four female members of the German musical group were scheduled to perform at the Boston Early Music Festival and were forced to cancel because authorities deemed them inadequately renowned, despite much evidence to the contrary

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Arts Budget Threatened Again: Override Needed

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For the third time in three years, Governor Charlie Baker vetoed the Legislature’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget for the Mass Cultural Council and cut arts funding by 14%.

If lawmakers do not override this veto, the Mass Cultural Council’s budget will be cut to $12.1 million from $14 million.

With federal arts spending under attack from the Trump Administration, many states have recognized the need to strengthen their support for the creative sector. Thirty states have chosen to either increase their investment in the arts or maintain current spending levels even in the face of weak revenues. If this veto stands, Massachusetts would bear the third largest percentage cut to the arts in the nation, behind only Rhode Island and North Carolina. 

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MASSCreative to Highlight Arts and Culture During Mayoral and City Council Elections

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Over the next four months, MASSCreative will partner with local arts leaders and cultural institutions groups to run Create the Vote campaigns during their cities and town’s mayoral elections. The campaigns will highlight the important role that arts and culture play in making art accessible to local residents; building community; and strengthening local economies.

In November, more than 40 cities across the Commonwealth will hold Mayoral and City Council elections.  City-based non-partisan Create the Vote campaigns will meet with candidates and encourage them to develop dynamic cultural policies. Local cultural institutions will reach out to their networks to educate voters on the candidate’s positions and urge their networks to think about arts and culture in the voting booth. 

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MASSCreative and CDC’s Partner on Creative Placemaking Workshops

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How can artists best work with community developers to create and keep vibrant and livable neighborhoods and downtowns? 

To answer this, MASSCreative has partnered with the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) in a one-year program to build knowledge and advance creative placemaking across the Commonwealth.

Creative placemaking is a strategy to shape, reshape or preserve communities and local economies by intentionally leveraging the power of arts, culture, and creativity. 

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Massachusetts Public Art Program Passed in Massachusetts Senate

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As part of the FY18 budget, the Massachusetts Senate passed the Massachusetts Public Art Program (MPAP) legislation that would create a fund to invest in public art and design on state property.

Modeled after the nation’s first public art program in Hawaii, it would designate 1% of the total state money allocated capital money for building and construction and designate it for public art projects. 

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MASSCreative Hires Deputy Director to Lead Organizational and Development Efforts

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Betsy Groban, a seasoned leader in public and private sector cultural organizations, has joined MASSCreative as its new Deputy Director.

Betsy will oversee fundraising efforts to support the organization’s long-term sustainability, build out its administrative infrastructure, and increase its communications and political advocacy capacity.

Previously, Betsy was SVP & Publisher of Books for Young Readers at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where she oversaw the publication of 250 books annually.  Under her leadership, the division achieved the strongest financial performance in its 150-year history. Prior to that, she was the Managing Director of WGBH Enterprises, where she spent nearly a decade developing new sources of revenue for the acclaimed public broadcasting producer.

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