New State Arts Education Curricula Set for Public Comment

On February 12, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to release for public comment an updated set of guidelines for arts education in Massachusetts schools.

As stated in the Arts Curriculum Frameworks draft, the arts are an important component of a well-rounded education because they encourage collaboration, flexibility, concentration, and focus. Skills learned through arts education are necessary for future careers that will demand creativity and empathy as much as they require computation and engineering.

“An arts-rich education not only supports future professional success, it prepares young people for leadership in their communities and civic lives,” said Matt Wilson, MASSCreative’s Executive Director, who testified at the February 12th Board Meeting

The curriculum came out of a coordinated process which included Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) staff members, 75 art teachers and arts educator specialists, and the DESE Arts Education Advisory Council members. This group contributed over 500 hours of their time as well as discipline-specific expertise to come up with the plan. The curricula guideline review, the first in nearly 20 years, works to align the statewide standards to the current national guidelines.

For the past two years, MASSCreative and the statewide Arts for All Coalition have been working to encourage DESE to make increased access and participation in quality arts education a priority.

MASSCreative will provide its members with an analysis of the draft and the opportunities to comment of the new curricula over the coming weeks.



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MASSCreative Leadership Council Gathers for Annual Retreat

Emily Ruddock, MASSCreative's Director of Policy and Government Affairs,
leads a session at the retreat

In November, MASSCreative’s Leadership Council came together for its 4th Annual Leadership Council Retreat, bringing together 40 leaders from across the Commonwealth to help MASSCreative strengthen its statewide grassroots arts and cultural advocacy network.The Leadership Council consists of thought and advocacy leaders from all regions of the Commonwealth who not only engage their networks in action, but understand the potential of building a broad-based movement for arts, culture, and creativity. As regional leaders and connectors, the Council works to win bold campaigns for the larger arts and cultural community.

The Leadership Council Retreat, held at the Walker Center in Newton, was full of thoughtful discussions and workshops about how to deepen engagement in arts advocacy and increase the creative sector’s impact. MASSCreative staff led small group discussions to guide the Leadership Council in thinking bigger and bolder about arts advocacy and broadening the base of arts and cultural advocates beyond our core supporters.

In preparation for Creating Connection: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day on March 26, Program Director Tracie Konopinski led a discussion on how to deepen engagement and make sure our advocacy gathering is representative of the Massachusetts creativity community. Emily Ruddock, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at MASSCreative, shared updates to our Policy Platform, gathering feedback and insight on how to officially launch and share our priorities and increase impact with the sector. Leading the first of several strategic planning focus groups, Matt Wilson, Executive Director of MASSCreative, worked with consultant Diane Gordon to learn from the Leadership Council how best to strengthen our focus and priorities for the next three years.

We’re looking forward to highlighting our Leadership Council at our upcoming Arts Advocacy Day throughout the program at the Paramount Center and as captains who will guide attendees  through legislative meetings at the State House on issues including the state budget, arts education, and creative placemaking. MASSCreative supporters interested in joining the Leadership Council should contact Program Director Tracie Konopinski.

Andy Short, Co-Director, Outreach & Development Improbable Players
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Mapping Out MASSCreative’s Future

As we enter our seventh year, MASSCreative has embarked on an ambitious strategic planning process that will help guide the organization's work and priorities through 2022.

In the first stage of the process, our consultant, staff, and board are reaching out to our supporters and stakeholders to help us assess our work, the sector, and opportunities for the future. Our outreach is under way and we are receiving great feedback about our work and the hopes that the sector has for our advocacy and outreach. Thanks to all of our partners and supporters who have already participated in a survey, interview, and/or focus group.

In the spring and summer we will compile, synthesize, and analyze the data and feedback and will compile a draft plan with focused goals and strategies. The plan will bring renewed focus to our work to build a more healthy, vibrant, and connected Massachusetts by bringing more support and resources to the Commonwealth’s arts and creative community. We are proud about how far MASSCreative has come in its first six years and are excited to map out a bold and exciting future.

Thanks to the Barr Foundation for funding this important work and stay tuned!


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Bachrach Joins MASSCreative Staff as New Development Manager 


Elena Ruocco Bachrach, Ph.D. has joined MASSCreative as our new Development Manager, where she will oversee fundraising efforts to support MASSCreative’s growth and long-term sustainability.

Before joining MASSCreative, Bachrach was Executive Director of the Newburyport Art Association for eight years, growing the organization to 650 members and a hub of the North Shore creative community.  Under Bachrach’s leadership, outreach to the Greater Newburyport community expanded to include numerous collaborations with cultural and business partners. Other major projects implemented by Bachrach include the 2016 launch of the Range Lights Community Sculpture Garden, a 2880-square-foot outdoor exhibition in downtown Newburyport, fundraising for a new education space, and significant expansion of 2019 programming.

Prior to that she was a business partner to Jewett Farms Studio, helping the custom cabinet-making firm design, create, and manage its new studio arm and showroom location. Bachrach’s experience also includes two years as program director at the Center for Museum Education at South Carolina’s Greenville County Museum of Art and researching and writing grants for the Office of Institutional Advancement at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit.

As MASSCreative’s Development Manager, Bachrach will oversee development efforts to support MASSCreative’s arts advocacy and public education and awareness activities, as well as its long-term sustainability and growth.

“Elena is a dynamic, collaborative leader and skilled fundraiser who is passionate about the arts and its capacity strengthen our communities economically and socially,” said MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson. “She’s just the person we need to help MASSCreative and our coalition partners continue our work building a Commonwealth that is more vibrant, healthy, and equitable through investments in the creative sector.”

“Exposure to the arts and creativity improves our lives and our communities,” Bachrach said. “I’m thrilled to join an organization dedicated to educating the public and policy makers about the value of the arts, so that more of the Commonwealth’s residents can enjoy access to the benefits the arts contribute to our communities.”

Bachrach began her career in higher education, holding several domestic and international teaching positions, as well as administrative and managerial positions, including Dean of Admissions & the First Year at Bennington College.

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In the News

This month, in celebration of Black History Month, MASSCreative’s In the News section is recognizing the work of organizations and individuals that represent the diverse work and history which continues to enrich our sector today.


#HellaBlack Performance Celebrates Unapologetic Black Art Read More

Melissa Alexis (photo:Melissa Blackall)



O’Bryant School Students Honor Harlem Renaissance Read More

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff


Brookline Installs Martin Luther King Sculpture by Local Artist John Wilson Read More

Nathan Klima for the Boston Globe



Live Mural Tackles National Gun Violence at Isabella Stewart Gardner Read More

Nicolas Tepper/DFP File


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BOSTON, January 23, 2019—Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on Gov. Baker’s Recommended Funding of the Massachusetts Cultural Council in State Budget

“Today, Governor Baker proposed funding the Massachusetts Cultural Council (Mass Cultural Council) at $16.1 million, which is the same level as 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.

“Nonprofit creative organizations drive the state’s local economies from Boston to the Berkshires and every rural and coastal region in between. They generate over $2.3 billion dollars in economic activity annually, including $97 million in local and state tax revenue. They also support 73,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

“The requested $2 million increase will fund arts, humanities, and science programs for underserved youth and the 329 Local Cultural Councils located throughout the state. Last year, these councils helped fund approximately 6,000 projects that connected communities and residents throughout the state. Mass Cultural Council grantees also provided creative youth development and educational opportunities to 102,403 students.

“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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#ArtsMatterDay Across the Commonwealth: A Rousing Online Day of Action


On October 26 residents across Massachusetts celebrated the 5th annual #ArtsMatterDay. This year’s Arts Matter Day was the biggest one yet, with more than 750 participants creating and sharing more than 1,500 posts. The hashtags #ArtsMatterDay and #ArtsMatter both trended in Boston with 23,000 engagements and reached more than 1.5 million individuals.

Participants included 15 Massachusetts politicians, celebrities such as Saturday Night Live alumnus and Lexington native Rachel Dratch, and cultural institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Express Yourself, and the Boston Asian American Film Festival. In addition to the outpouring support from the Massachusetts arts community and its supporters, we also saw posts from as far away as California and Pakistan.

Arts Matter Day also generated live events across the state, from the 2nd annual JArts Shabbats to the New Bedford Cultural Council’s community group photo and BU Arts’ Polaroid photo booth in their student center. For social media highlights, check out a recap of the day.


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Massachusetts Votes Yes on Question 3 -- Upholds Dignity and Respect for All.



On Election Day, Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 3, preserving a 2016 law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in public places.

“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,” said MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson.

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.  

Wilson noted the cross sector coalition who endorsed Question 3, including private companies like Google and Fidelity, as well as all five New England major sports teams. “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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Arts and Creativity in the 2018 Election


On November 6, 110 million people went to the polls to vote--the highest turnout in a midterm election since 1966. Here in Massachusetts, voter turnout was the highest ever for a midterm election in the Commonwealth.

Over the past six months, MASSCreative's Create the Vote coalition brought together candidates and voters to discuss the ways that arts and creative expression connect and engage us, improve schools, strengthen local business districts, and build vibrant neighborhoods. Through candidate questionnaires, sit-down meetings, and forums, Create the Vote showed that arts matter in Massachusetts and in this election.   

MASSCreative kicked off the election season with seven kickoff parties across the Commonwealth at local breweries in North Adams, Easthampton, Worcester, Lynn, Somerville, Dorchester, and New Bedford. After crowdsourcing questions to ask those running for office, we reached out to candidates running for Congress, the Governor’s Office, and the State Legislature, receiving nearly 50 candidate responses to our questionnaire on Arts, Culture, and Creativity. With leaders from the creative community, we held nine sit-down meetings with candidates from across the Commonwealth and a forum with Democratic candidate for Governor Jay Gonzalez.

Congratulations to all the candidates on their campaigns! As we head into the new legislative session in 2019, we look forward to building on these relationships and working with elected officials to utilize the creative sector as they craft legislation and work to solve challenges in districts across the Commonwealth.

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On Arts Matter Day, Jewish Arts Collaborative Blended Online Activism with Community Programming


On Arts Matter Day, Congregation Or Atid in Wayland showcased the Guy Mendilow Ensemble as part of Arts Matter Shabbat, a celebration of Jewish journeys through the arts that took place during weekly Shabbat services at 15 synagogues around the state.

Mendilow, an Israeli native and world musician, leads a group that performs music in the Ladino tradition, a Judaeo-Spanish culture and language that is nearly extinct. “It was a rare opportunity for congregants to experience that music live and it’s something that Or Atid wouldn't bring in on an average day,” says Laura Conrad Mandel, executive director of the Jewish Arts Collaborative (JArts), which organized Arts Matter Shabbat.  

“I think it's gotten them thinking about what they can do on a more regular basis to bring art to Shabbat throughout the year,” says Mandel.

Showing the ways that art and creativity are—or can be—an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life and encouraging public investment in the arts is what Arts Matter Day is all about. This year’s online celebration of the arts drew participation from over 750 organizations, working artists, and arts supporters as they shared over 23,000 posts, pictures, videos, likes, and comments showing why arts matter to individuals, families, and communities. Altogether, the day of advocacy reached more than 1.5 million people.

But the brilliance of Mandel’s Arts Matter Shabbat was to take the online component of the day and blend it with JArts’ community programming. With each event drawing between 20 to 400 people, says Mandel, Arts Matter Shabbat reached a collective audience of up to 2,000 people. As a result the event was a perfect expression of the mission of JArts, which is to explore and present “the rich, diverse, and creative world of Jewish arts and culture—past, present, and future—to the widest possible audience, in venues across Greater Boston.”

At Boston’s Temple Israel, congregants and artists created works of art inspired by the service in real time during “Studio Shabbat.” Normally, congregants sit and listen as the rabbi or cantor speaks or prays, but Studio Shabbat gave them an instant outlet to process or reflect on the service.

“For those of us who are experiential or visual learners, it gave a really different way to engage with the service,” Mandel says. “They had painters up at the front of the room, painting throughout inspired by the service, and so for me it makes it a much more experiential, inclusive opportunity.”

Other Arts Matter Shabbat events included a performance by Aleph Beats, Brown University’s Jewish A Capella group, at Agudath Achim in Taunton. Jamaica Plain’s Congregation Nehar Shalom and Moishe Kavod House hosted the “Havdalah and Jewish Rhythm Workshop” with percussionist Yedidah Syd Smart. In Sudbury, actor Annette Miller and Boston College Professor Stuart Hecht performed the tribute “Simon Sez: Favorite Scenes from the Late Great Playwright Neil Simon,” at Congregation Beth El.

JArts inaugurated Arts Matter Shabbat last year as a way to expand the organization’s previous involvement with Arts Matter Day from the online realm to in person participation and to increase the broader Jewish community’s focus on the importance of arts and creativity. Because Arts Matter Day is always held on a Friday and therefore coincides with Shabbat, Judaism’s day of rest, it was “a no-brainer,” Mandel says, to marry arts and creativity with the religious observance.

“We loved the idea of a matchup between advocacy and a focus on the arts—something beautiful and interesting and exciting—coinciding with this day of rest,” she says.

JArts reached out to synagogues to ask how they could collaborate on promoting the arts in Jewish communities where art is not necessarily a central issue and there is limited awareness of the need to advocate for public investment in art. Last year’s events were such a success that JArts decided to expand this year and make Arts Matter Shabbat an annual endeavor.

Working with 15 enthusiastic partner synagogues this year, JArts encouraged each of them to create an experience that demonstrated to their entire community just how valuable they consider arts and creativity, while tailoring it to each of the congregations’ needs and wants. JArts helped by making introductions to appropriate artists for them.

Mandel credited MASSCreative’s reputation for stoking the enthusiasm of participating synagogues. “I think the reason this works so well is because MASSCreative has the backing and the stature for people to take it seriously,” says Mandel.

“They've given our organization and community the tools to understand the policy issues and to talk about them in a more concise and clear way,” Mandel says. “That's important because sometimes the biggest barrier to building community-wide support for the arts is a lack of effective language.”

After the success of this year’s Arts Matter Day Shabbat, Mandel also looks forward to seeing the event grow. She’ll be surprised if JArts doesn’t top 20 partners next year.

“I have synagogues saying, ‘I wish we had been a part of this this year,’” she said. “It's an opportunity for them to support the arts in their own community, but also to know and feel like they're part of the work of statewide arts advocates and MASSCreative and JArts, which is an unusual opportunity because it really is a partnership across communities and cultures.”

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