MASSCreative Statement on Question 3

November 6, 2018—Today, Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 3, which preserves a 2016 law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in public places. MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson offered the following statement in response:

“We congratulate transgender residents and their families, as well as the rest of the state, on this important electoral defense of the 2016 civil rights law. Transgender people must have the same basic protections enjoyed by everyone else in Massachusetts so they can live their lives with safety, privacy, and dignity. Although much of the focus on this law centered on access to public restrooms, the law also prohibits discrimination in museums, theaters, and art galleries.

“Creativity in all its forms helps build more vibrant, equitable and connected communities and every resident, regardless of gender identity, must be able to safely access the spaces in which we display, express, and showcase art. Today, the arts community joined others across the state in voting yes on Question 3, and we are proud of our participation in the coalition to preserve civil rights protections for transgender residents.”

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Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Jay Gonzalez Meets with Create the Vote Coalition

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez met with members of the Create the Vote 2018 Coalition at the American Repertory Theatre’s Loeb Drama Center on Monday, October 15. The discussion touched on a number of topics including education, how to increase investment in art and creativity, and the ways in which culture can strengthen community. The session was recorded and what follows is an edited transcript.  

Question from Matt Wilson, executive director of MASSCreative: In a time when our political leaders and our technology are working to pull us apart and isolate us, many of us are looking for community and a sense of belonging. Can you talk about the ways in which art, culture, and creative expression can do this?

Jay Gonzalez: I don’t have a creative bone in my body but know from personal experience what a positive impact arts can have on people. My dad, growing up, used to play his guitar in Spanish—Spanish songs—to us. It’s one of the most vivid childhood memories I have. It’s one of those experiences that brought our family closer together and it also connected me to my Spanish heritage in a way that is very special for me.

The arts connect us. They’re a vehicle for having a shared experience where when we go to watch a performance, it’s something we share that we can engage about. Take an art class or participating in making art with other person is another shared experience. It strengthens our bonds and keeps us sharp and uplifts us. It is a good antidote to social isolation. I think about my wife’s grandmother, who is this very sweet older woman, she has Parkinson’s and she lives in Holyoke. Every day she goes to Mercy Life for a day program and part of what they do every day, which is her favorite part of the day, is art. When she talks about it, she lights up, she would otherwise be staying home alone.

Question from Matt Wilson: Over the past 25 years, education reform has focused on the core subjects of English, math, and science while arts education has taken a back seat. Now policymakers are focused on the 21st century economy where creativity and innovation are core to success. Yet many of our students don’t have access to arts education What would you do to increase access to and participation in arts education in our schools?

Jay Gonzalez: Two things. Increase funding so schools have the resources to provide a well-rounded education, including arts. And de-emphasize the importance of MCAS and how we access student and teacher performance. One of my daughters just graduated from high school last year where she had joined the school newspaper and become the layout editor and found that she really loved graphic design. That put her on a team where she learned to collaborate to solve problems—which is an important 21st century skill that isn’t on the MCAS.

A great public education is about more about than basic literacy and numeracy skills. A great public education is also about preparing our students to be successful in a 21st century world, which includes being able to work collaboratively with others to solve problems, it includes having good communication skills and leadership skills. A great public education is also going to enable our young people to explore the world and to explore themselves and find who they are.

Question from Catherine Peterson, executive director of ArtsBoston: In Greater Boston, four times as many people go to the arts every year as go to the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, and Red Sox combined. There’s a wide base of support for the arts. Can you talk about what you would do to make sure that the money that goes to the Mass Cultural Council is increased and what would you do as governor to work with the legislature to make sure that the increase goes through.

Jay Gonzalez: Funding for the Mass Cultural Council is important—we need to support our creative community. I understand the governor has repeatedly tried to cut funding for the Mass Cultural Council. I know it’s now at $16 million—I will not make it worse, and I will try to make it better, I will try to add more to it. On the Cultural Facilities Fund—I oversaw the state’s capital budget when we first started investing in the Cultural Facilities Fund. During the Great Recession—the worst fiscal crisis we’ve faced—we had a lot of challenges and had to make a lot of tough decisions, including the Mass Cultural Council line-item. We knew we had more flexibility with capital projects, so we really ramped up the investment in the Cultural Facilities Fund because it was easier for us to do more there. And we were intentional about it—I have a record of being intentional in trying to do better. I think we can get to $15 million in the Cultural Facilities Fund, maybe better. I’m going to aspire to do that for you.

Question from Laura Mandel, executive director of the Jewish Arts Collaborative: Access for veterans, for the elderly, people with addiction—how do you see growing opportunities for arts therapies and arts opportunities for these communities?

Jay Gonzalez: I would ask my Secretary of Health and Human Services to do an inventory of our programming at the state level that are supporting all these populations that you mentioned to see whether we’re being intentional about including arts as part of the programming. Speaking of inclusivity and underserved communities—we’re one of the most expensive states in the country right now for childcare and most families can’t afford it. The evidence is clear—this is game changing for young kids—particularly from lower income communities. I have made it a huge priority of mine to make childcare and preschool affordable and high quality for every child and family in the state. That’s part of the reason why I’m being honest that we’re going need to raise more revenue from the wealthy in order to pay for that. I would see and expect that part of the programming for that would be exposing young people at the most formative period of their lives—where 90% of brain development happen—to arts. And education—properly funding our public schools—so that there aren’t public schools that are cutting or don’t have any art programs. This isn’t in Brookline, Lexington, or Wellesley where this is happening—it’s in lower income communities where disproportionally kids of color, immigrants, English language learners are being left out of all of this. I’m offering a very different approach than our current governor who has no plan for investing tax dollars in education or early childhood or Mass Cultural Council or any of these areas.

Question from Laura Reeder, Associate Professor of Art Education at MassArt: How will you get folks to come to the table—state education, union leaders, organization, businesses, cultural organizations?

Jay Gonzalez: It’s a really important role of government. Government is the one institution that represents all of us. It’s one of the things I love about it. And I think I philosophically have a difference of opinion from our current governor about the role of government. I see it as our instrument, not our enemy. It’s the vehicle through which we empower each other, support each other, and protect each other. And one of the ways we make it effective in representing all of us is being a convener, a collaborator, and bringing different stakeholders together.

One of the important roles of government to be a convener. In this area, I plan to appoint a high-level person who would report directly to the Secretary of Economic Development whose sole responsibility would be our creative economy and who would wake up every day and think about nothing but this. Part of his or her job responsibility will be to convene this community around what we can be doing to work with other stakeholders to support this community and to make sure we’re supporting our creative economy.

David Libbey, Digital Graphics and Design Fellow, A.R.T.: The A.R.T and its mainstage home, the Loeb Drama Center, are owned by Harvard. How will your plan on taxing large endowments of higher education institutions possibly affect arts institutions, especially since education is a big sponsor of the arts?

Jay Gonzalez: I made a proposal to impose a 1.6 percent tax on the endowments of the wealthiest universities in the state that have endowments over a $1 billion. It would affect nine universities, including Boston University and Harvard. It would generate $1 billion in new revenue each year for the state to invest in education and transportation. I believe this is a fair proposal because these institutions have been able to accumulate enormous wealth because of our public policy not to tax them.

I appreciate Harvard and Boston University—they are huge drivers of our economy, and really important assets for our innovation-oriented ecosystem here. It’s great that they provide financial aid to their low-income students but I believe they can afford this tax and still do everything they do today. I don’t want to hurt these institutions, but as important as they are to our economy, nothing is more important than our people. They are the most important asset to our economy and we are letting them down right now with a transportation system they can’t depend on to get to work on time, one of the worst in the country. And an education system that is failing way too many of our children in this state, so they are going to be my top priority. I believe this is a fair way to raise meaningful new revenue we desperately need to make sure our economy is working for everyone in this state and not just those at the top.

Melissa Nussbaum Freeman, artist and founder of Red Stage Stories: I’m a performing artist and a teaching artist and I barely make a living. I took my social security early, I get food stamps, I live in an apartment with three other people in Dorchester, but I manage to pay my artists, even for their rehearsals, because that’s their time, that is how they make the art. We all scramble as artists in this city doing public engagement work for a $2000, $5000, $10,000 grant or stipend. Whoever you have waking up thinking about art has to be an artist. I want artists at your table.

Jay Gonzalez: I think you’re right, we need to be informed by people who are living in this world. I want to speak to the broader point you made about the challenge artists have sustaining themselves. Unfortunately, it’s not unique to artists. My agenda is about helping not just artists but everyone who is facing the same challenges. Early ed providers who are supported by government make about $25,000 a year. Forty percent of them are on state assistance. Many people who work in our human service agencies, taking care of the most vulnerable among us who take home about the same amount. Twenty-nine percent of people in Massachusetts make less than 15 dollars an hour. I am running to make a difference for all of these people—the artists and everyone else—all the little guys who are being left behind by our economy.

By not only looking to increase the minimum wage and wages, but to make childcare and preschool affordable, to make housing more affordable, to make health care more affordable. All these costs that hold people back and make it harder. I’m not being shy or coy about saying I’m going to ask the wealthy to pay more in taxes. We need government to invest in our people. All these working families are being left behind and artists are among them. I often get asked—we need special programs or loan programs for artists or nurses or different people—we’re in this together. Artists are really important and we need to support them. There are lots of others who need support too.  As governor, you—artists and everyone else who are being left behind—are going to be my top priority.

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Earlier in 2018, members of the MASSCreative Leadership Council met with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez and his campaign manager to discuss arts and creativity. Read about the sit-down meeting here

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Artists, mayors, organizations to mark ‘Arts Matter Day’ Oct. 26

More than 600 artists, organizations, advocates, and leaders statewide will participate to celebrate creativity in our communities

October 3, 2018—MASSCreative announces that Arts Matter Day, an online celebration of arts, culture, and creative expression, will take place Friday, October 26. More than 600 artists, arts and cultural organizations, creative leaders, and advocates across the state will mark the day by holding events or participating in the #ArtsMatterDay social media campaign to celebrate creativity in our communities and show the power of art in our lives.

“With competitive campaigns underway for governor and the Massachusetts Legislature, this year’s Arts Matter Day is an opportunity for voters to share their passion for arts, culture, and creativity with the candidates, and for candidates to also share why art matters to them,” said Matt Wilson, executive director of MASSCreative.

On Arts Matter Day, the Jewish Arts Collaborative will present Arts Matter Shabbat, a celebration of Jewish journeys through the arts at local synagogues and organizations in Boston, Brookline, Needham, Newton, Sudbury, Swampscott, Wayland, and Wellesley.

In New Bedford, the New Bedford Art Museum, AHA! New Bedford, Destination New Bedford, and New Bedford Arts and Culture are organizing local artists and politicians to gather for a community photo.

“It’s hard to imagine community life without creativity. Concerts, plays, and even displays of student artwork in public places brighten our environments,” added Wilson. “Community-based arts organizations are integral to educating our children, growing local economies, and creating places and experiences that strengthen our neighborhoods and improve our quality of life.”

Last year, the creative community shared more than 15,000 photos, videos, and messages on social media showing why arts matter. Launched in October 2014, Arts Matter Days are an opportunity to educate the public and political leaders about the need to support artists and arts organizations. Past Arts Matter Days have featured a host of arts programming around the Commonwealth, as well as social media campaigns targeting candidates for gubernatorial, legislative, and municipal office with emails, videos, and posts demonstrating the impact of arts and culture in Massachusetts.

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#CreatetheVote: Candidates and Voters Talk Culture, Creativity, and Connection

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“Who do you see as the champion in the Massachusetts Congressional delegation for the arts?” Ayanna Pressley asked a group of artists, cultural sector leaders and advocates during a recent gathering. “Because I want to best them. This is important to me. I want this to be an ongoing dialogue.”  

The meeting with Ayanna Pressley was part of MASSCreative’s Create the Vote 2018, a statewide effort to connect candidates and voters and address the role the arts play in our communities. During two separate 90-minute  meetings - just days before the September 6th primary - Pressley and her opponent Michael Capuano listened and responded to the concerns and needs of artists and cultural leaders across the 7th district. At the top of the list were the financial obstacles working artists in Massachusetts face. As noted in For Artists, By Artists, a recent survey co-published by Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition and Artmorpheus, 75% of professional artists/creatives respondents cannot or do not earn their living entirely from their creative practice. The artists surveyed are highly educated, yet earn below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level — in most cases less than $40,000 a year.

Pressley, noted that she includes the needs of artists in all of her anti-poverty work, including affordable housing, education, and access to health care. “We need permanent housing stock for working artists,” she said, adding that many people think of artists as young, independent contractors, not realizing that many artists also have families.

Capuano pointed out that Congress has largely stopped funding housing initiatives and it will take new political leadership for it to get back on the agenda. If it does, he said that housing for artists should be included as a priority. Until then, it was up to local officials to come up with housing deals in economically depressed areas.

As part of the statewide campaign, a Create the Vote questionnaire was distributed to candidates running for Governor, Congress, and the State Legislature. These questionnaires seek information from candidates about the role that arts and culture currently plays in their district; ideas they have for using art to spur economic development and address social problems; and whether they support increased public investment in the arts through the Massachusetts Cultural Council and passage of a Percent for Art Program in the Commonwealth.

Here are 3 things you can do before you vote on November 6:

  1. Read what the candidates are saying about arts and culture and share with your networks. Don’t see a questionnaire response from a candidate you want to hear from? Reach out to them and ask them to fill it out.
  2. Show the candidates you care about arts and culture. Raise your hand, tweet at the candidates, email them, and post questions to their Facebook pages about their positions on arts, culture, and creativity.
  3. Sign on as a Create the Vote Partner and help us engage more candidates and voters.

The topic of championing the creative sector came up during meetings with candidates running to replace former Senate President Stan Rosenberg in Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester. Rosenberg, a long time arts champion used personal political capital to help increase the Mass Cultural Council budget over time, Given the historical leadership by former Senate President Stan Rosenberg for the creative sector, meeting participants were especially interested in how each candidate would approach increasing public support for community art and cultural exchange in the district.

Jo Comerford, the winner in the Democratic primary, acknowledged Rosenberg’s status as an arts champion. Rosenberg’s successor, Comerford said, will have to quickly build strategic relationships to continue delivering for the community.

In the Berkshires, affordable and reliable transportation was a focus of conversation with State Senator Adam Hinds.Hinds, who represents the largest geographic territory in the legislature and an area with a significant creative economy met with creative sector leaders at the Clark Art Institute. Hinds spoke about his vision to better connect the Berkshires and its cultural amenities, noting that infrastructure helps the creative sector thrive and emphasized the need to set up rail access to the region. Hinds co-chairs the legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, a post he said he requested because of what the arts and culture sector has done for his district: as its third largest industry, it brings money to the area, improves its reputation and attracts visitors. Senator Hinds won his primary race against challenger Thomas Wickham on September 6th and is unopposed in the general election.

As we turn our attention to Election Day, MASSCreative will continue to work with voters and candidates to elevate arts and culture on the campaign trail. Lookout for more completed Create the Vote questionnaires as well as candidate town halls and forums at Create the Vote partner organizations on our website.  

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Help Put Arts Education Front and Center for Our Kids

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Notebooks, lunch boxes, and sneakers aren't the only new things you'll find in school this year.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has been busy designing a new School Report Card to help families, teachers, and community members better understand how schools and districts are performing on a number of measures - including arts education.

Last year, the Arts for All Coalition was successful in advocating for arts education to be included on the new School Report Card. Before the Report Card gets finalized and launched later this year, we need to make sure that both access and participation in arts education is being measured and shared in a comprehensive, accessible, and transparent way.

With the support of educators, parents, and advocates, we can ensure arts education is available to every student in Massachusetts regardless of zip code.

Please take a moment to fill out this quick survey so that the arts are featured prominently in the Report Cards.

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Meet MASSCreative’s Campaign Organizer, Rachel Bird

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Rachel comes to MASSCreative through the JOIN for Justice fellowship, a Jewish social justice fellowship that trains community organizers at social justice organizations throughout the greater Boston area. At MASSCreative she will be working on a variety of campaigns in the arts sector, as well as managing MASSCreative’s social media and digital organizing presence.

Originally from Maryland, Rachel recently finished her undergraduate degree at Colby College, majoring in anthropology and Studio art and minoring in poetry. In college she worked in the Colby College Museum of Art and as a Studio Assistant in the printmaking department; she is passionate about accessible arts education for all. Her organizing experience includes participation in campaigns involving voter registration, women’s reproductive health, and community engagement with the outdoors. In her own art, Rachel employs a multi-media approach that combines printmaking and painting with textile work including embroidery and crochet.

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Celebrate #ArtsMatterDay: October 26

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Friday, October 26 is the 5th Annual #ArtsMatterDay and we’re excited for you to join this online celebration of arts, culture, and creative expression.

Last year, the creative community took social media by storm to celebrate #ArtsMatterDay, with more than 600 participating groups and individuals. By sharing hundreds of pictures and videos – and of course, art – we showed why arts matter to us.

With active races for Governor and the MA Legislature, this year’s #ArtsMatterDay gives us a unique opportunity to invite arts supporters, voters, and candidates to share why arts matter to them. With Election Day coming up on November 6, #ArtsMatterDay falls in the final stretch of ‘Get out the Vote’ efforts for candidates. Let’s show them that #ArtsMatter to us and that we vote!

Join us in celebrating #ArtsMatterDay on October 26!

 

P.S. Looking for extra #ArtsMatterDay Materials? Reach out to sdavies@mass-creative.org to order from the supplies below!

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Cultural Facilities Fund Update

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We may not have won our recent fight to increase the state’s funding of the Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF), but we’re winning the war to ensure that elected officials, policymakers, and voters understand the importance of providing funding to maintain the Commonwealth’s storied theaters, concert halls, dance studios, museums, and historical sites.  

Mayors, municipalities, arts leaders, and business leaders from across the state spoke out in favor of increasing CFF funding from $10 million annually over the next five years, to $15 million. In a letter urging legislative leaders to pass an economic bond bill with increased CFF funding, they emphasized the role that these cultural facilities play in their cities and towns: “Our cultural venues are often the anchor of a neighborhood, making our cities and towns exceptional places to live, work, play, and visit,” they wrote, adding that such investments create jobs and grow local economies.

Since 2007, CFF has awarded $110 million to 853 projects around the state that have benefited organizations of all sizes. As a requirement of their CFF funding, each organization has had to raise private funds to also contribute to their capital maintenance projects. Examples include waterproofing, lighting, plumbing and flooring upgrades to the Boston Children’s Museum exhibition hall; upgrades to the lighting, energy and security systems at the Worcester Center for Performing Arts; renovations, upgrades and repairs to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium; and the restoration of the Museum of African American History’s Boston-Higginbotham House on Nantucket. All told, the organizations receiving CFF funding employ more than 7,000 full-time workers and another 25,500 architects, engineers, contractors, and construction workers, generating more than $1.7 billion in economic activity.

Ultimately lawmakers chose to reauthorize the CFF at $10 million a year. It’s not nearly enough to meet demand. A 2017 survey of 164 arts and cultural organizations by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which administers the grants in partnership with MassDevelopment, cataloged $114 million in capital funding needs just through next year.

Still, we have already made tremendous progress. Until MASSCreative began its advocacy efforts in 2013, CFF funding was stuck at $5 million annually. Just as we have methodically worked to increase state and local investment in culture and creativity more broadly, we’re confident that we can continue to grow the state’s investment in its cultural infrastructure. In doing this, as always, we’ll be looking to you to contact your lawmakers and share your stories to build a Commonwealth where arts and creativity are an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life.

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Visit MASSCreative at HUBweek – October 12 

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Come visit the MASSCreative booth at HUBweek, a weeklong citywide festival on Boston City Hall Plaza that highlights the role arts, technology, and creativity play in the Commonwealth. Sponsored by The Boston Globe, Mass General Hospital, MIT and Harvard, HUBweek holds more than 100 events that “brings together innovators, artists, curious minds, and change makers to explore the ways in which we can shape a more inclusive and equitable future for all.” Last year, HUBweek had more than 50,000 visitors.

Along with the Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Society of Architects, the Design Museum, and Sasaki Associates, MASSCreative will take over part of the two-story glass enclosed Hall of the Future to engage visitors in advocacy and hands on experiences around arts and creativity. You can visit the MASSCreative booth on Friday October 12 from 11-9.

You can see the entire HUBweek agenda here and you can register for HUBweek here.

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Building Public Narratives to Support the Arts and Creativity

Helping the arts and creative sector broadcast their stories of impact to the public is a cornerstone of MASSCreative’s advocacy strategy. By telling the public narratives of working artists and cultural leaders, we can better engage and influence our political leaders to bring more support and resources to the sector.

This summer, MASSCreative’s Executive Director Matt Wilson conducted a half-day training with a set of museum curators from the Peabody Essex Museum’s (PEM) Native American Fellowship (NAF) program.

PEM houses the oldest ongoing collection of Native American art in the Western Hemisphere. Beyond stewarding the collection through exhibitions and publications, PEM furthers its commitment to it by fostering and advancing the next generation of Native American leaders in the cultural sector through its fellowship. Since 2010, the NAF has gathered talented emerging indigenous scholars and cultural heritage professionals for summer-long positions within the museum.

Wilson’s training with the fellows, helped them develop their own narrative on what brought them to their work as museum curators. Said Wilson, “Telling one’s personal narrative is a leadership practice. Through narrative, we can learn to access the moral resources we need to make choices we must in response to the challenges of an uncertain world – as individuals, as communities and as nations.”

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Because it engages the “head” and the “heart,” public narrative can instruct and inspire - teaching us not only why we should act but moving us to act. We can use public narrative to link our own calling to that of our community to a call to action. Leaders can use public narrative to interpret their values to others, enable one’s community to experience values it shares, and inspire others to act on challenges to their values.

If you are interested in scheduling a public narrative training for your organization, contact Selassie Davies at sdavies@mass-creative.org.

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