Arts, advocacy, and connection--David C. Howse, ArtsEmerson

As the Executive Director at ArtsEmerson, I’m thrilled to continue the partnership with MASSCreative to host Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day at the Emerson Paramount Center. And I’m excited that I’ll be with everyone on March 26 as your emcee for the gathering.

Arts Advocacy Day fits right into ArtsEmerson’s mission to engage all communities through stories that reveal and deepen our connection to each other. By cultivating diversity in the arts and in the audience, we ignite public conversation around our most vexing societal challenges as a catalyst for overcoming them.

That’s why I want to personally invite you to join me on March 26 for MASSCreative’s Arts Advocacy Day

Please join me at Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day on March 26 at the Paramount Center in Boston.

Back in 2017, when my colleagues at ArtsEmerson first sat down to talk about the partnership with MASSCreative, we all agreed that the attendees at Arts Advocacy Day would need to represent the full diversity of the broad arts community in Massachusetts, including those who have made significant contributions to the field but have felt unwelcomed at the arts/culture table.

At ArtsEmerson, we believe in the power of art to ignite our vision of a thriving world--one where all of its residents are seen and heard and life is better, richer, and fuller for everyone.

Right now, the Culture Wars have been revived in Washington and for the third year in a row, there’s talk of dismantling the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. We face the additional challenge of making a case that everyone has a right to creatively express themselves, see their culture reflected in their communities, and access the benefits of creative and cultural experiences.

Yet, if there was ever a place to use the labs of democracy to ensure arts and culture is respected, valued, and expected – it’s at home in Massachusetts. More than ever, we need to come together to share creative experiences with our neighbors and our local elected officials that spark transformation at the personal, community, and civic levels.

I look forward to being in the Emerson Paramount Center with you and MASSCreative on March 26 for Arts Advocacy Day. By inviting the glorious cultural diversity of our region into our theater, let’s create an environment where these shared experiences create opportunities for connection across our differences.

RSVP for Arts Advocacy Day here.

Onward and upward, 
David C. Howse
Executive Director, ArtsEmerson


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Being a musician and an advocate on March 26-- Christopher Schroeder, Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program


As the Executive Director of the Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program and Founder of the Summer Street Brass Band, my team and I are always working to provide performance and teaching opportunities for our youth musicians so they can develop their skills not only as as dynamic performers, but also as compassionate citizens.

That’s why I’m so thrilled that the Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program and Summer Street Brass Band will be performing at the Emerson Paramount Center for Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day.

Join me, our youth musicians, and advocates at Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day on March 26 at the Paramount Center in Boston.

In 2017, when my students and I stepped onto the stage at the Paramount, we were ready to give a fun performance. When I turned to the audience, I saw hundreds of people in the theater--everyday residents and students, renowned artists, and some of the most important arts leaders in Massachusetts. That’s when I knew it wasn’t just our music, but our collective advocacy that was going to make a big impact.

AMAD17-1Photo__by_Keith_Bedford_The_Boston_Globe_via_Getty_Images.pngAnd it wasn’t just me who felt the impact. Ever since Arts Advocacy Day in 2017 when our French horn player, Jordan, saw a front page photo of himself in The Boston Globe, he’s been asking me when we’re going to lead another march through the Boston Common to the State House.

I often tell my students that it’s important to show up for causes they care about. This means not just showing up once, but showing up again and again.

Our youth musicians and I look forward to playing for you and marching together to the State House –whether it’s your first MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day or your third. The Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program and the Summer Street Brass Band are excited to amplify our voices and show how we use music as a vehicle for social change.

RSVP for Arts Advocacy Day here.

March on,

Christopher Schroeder
Executive Director, Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program
Founder, Summer Street Brass Band

Images (1-3): Emerson College, Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe, Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe


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Artists, Arts and Cultural Leaders, and Supporters to March and Meet with Legislators on Arts Advocacy Day March 26

March 5, 2019―MASSCreative announces that Creativity Connects: Arts Advocacy Day will be held Tuesday, March 26 at Emerson Paramount Center in downtown Boston from 9am-1pm. Artists, cultural leaders, and supporters from around the state will gather for a fun and inspiring program featuring speakers, performers. and training in legislative advocacy. At 1pm, the group will hold an “Arts Matter March” to the State House and meet with lawmakers to advocate for political support of art, culture, and creativity.

Speakers at the Emerson Paramount Center will include state Rep. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester), who is Co-Chair of the Cultural Caucus, State Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Lowell0, Chair of the Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development Committee, Anita Walker, Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council, Erin Williams, Cultural Development Officer, City of Worcester, and David Howse, Executive Director, ArtsEmerson.

Creativity Connects: Arts Advocacy Day supports MASSCreative’s campaigns to build a Commonwealth where arts and creativity are an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life by:

  • increasing public investment in the Massachusetts Cultural Council
  • ensuring that every student from K-12 receives quality, sequential arts education
  • strengthening policies that support working artists, including access to affordable housing and healthcare and local zoning that permits live/work spaces
  • integrating art therapy in rehabilitation, recovery, anti-violence, and other wellness programs
  • revitalizing downtowns and main streets via public art, cultural districts, and creative placemaking

“Across the Commonwealth, artists, creative entrepreneurs, and nonprofit arts organizations strengthen communities, drive local economies, and change the lives of participants and audience-goers alike,” said MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson. “None of this happens by accident. It’s the result of planning, participation, and investment. It’s important that legislators understand all of the good work taking place in their districts as they work on the budget and policy proposals that shape the creative economy.”

On January 23, Gov. Baker released his FY 2020 budget with a recommendation to fund the state’s investment in arts and culture at $16.1 million, which is the same level as last year’s allocation. In the coming months, the House and Senate will release their respective budgets. Because of the positive impact that arts and culture has on the quality of life in every community across the Commonwealth, as the budget process proceeds to the Legislature, MASSCreative will urge lawmakers to support an $18 million allocation for the arts in Massachusetts.

More than 100 organizations and artists have signed up as co-sponsors of Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day.

Follow #ArtsMatter and #CreativityConnects on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to join the conversation.


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Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day on March 26


Creative experiences and creative expression help build powerful connections between people, communities, and the broader world.

That’s why MASSCreative is thrilled to invite you to channel your arts advocacy energy into Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day on March 26 in Boston to show our state political leaders that arts, culture, and creativity help build a more vibrant, healthy, and connected Massachusetts.

Join us for a morning at Emerson Paramount Center in downtown Boston and an early afternoon at the State House. After a morning of connecting with friends and colleagues, celebrating arts & culture, and sharpening our advocacy skills at the Paramount, we will march together to the State House. When we arrive, we will meet with our legislators about arts and cultural issues, including the state budget, arts education, and creative placemaking.

Learn more about Arts Advocacy Day and how you can make an impact by partnering, attending, and spreading the word.

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The Annual State Budget - What to Look for and When


Last month Governor Baker submitted his budget recommendations to the legislature and officially kicked off the annual budget debate in Massachusetts.

A quick look at the Governor’s budget reveals the vast difference in spending between departments and agencies. Of the nearly $50 billion budget, more than half is spent on Health and Human Services (55%) while less than 1% (.03% to be exact) is allocated for the Mass Cultural Council.  

While the Mass Cultural Council budget is comparatively small, maintaining--and even increasing--that amount requires constant and broad grassroots activism from now until the end of summer when the budget is passed. It can feel redundant having to make the same ask year after year, yet the budget process is an opportunity for us to tell our stories on the importance of arts and creativity in our communities.  Annually, lawmakers, advocates, and constituents need to consider the direction and priorities of the Commonwealth and where public support is needed most.

Many sectors and groups are deserving of public investment; however, with limited funds lawmakers have to make tough financial choices. They look to their constituents to help them consider what programs and agencies will have the most impact in their district. This is why regular personal communication with your Senator and Representative is crucial to increasing public investment in the creative community. Here are a few key things to look out for over the next few months:

February and March - Budget and public hearings

Following the release of the Governor’s budget in January, the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means begin to put together their respective budgets that reflect the priorities and vision of each chamber.  

Public Hearings allow the Ways and Means committees the opportunity to hear from the public about what agencies and programs are most important to them. They also hear from fellow lawmakers on what they most want to see included in the budget. With over 200 members representing every corner of the Commonwealth, distilling these various priorities takes a long time. Many advocacy groups, advocates, and organizations plan days at the State House to make sure their issues are being considered in the budget.

Join Creativity Connects Arts Advocacy Day to share with your legislators why the creative sector matters.

Mid April - The House Budget

Once the House Ways and Means Committee reports on the budget bill favorably, it is sent to the full House during the week of April 8th. This is a particularly important moment--and one where MASSCreative especially needs your help.  Members of the House can offer amendments to the budget which include specific increases for state agencies and programs. (The arts and creative community is fortunate to have Representatives who usually offer an amendment for an increase in the Mass Cultural Council budget.) Once a Representative offers an amendment, members of the House can sign on as co-sponsors to show their support for a specific spending area or priority. The more co-sponsors it gets, the more support that particular spending priority has. For the last six years, MASSCreative has worked with partner arts advocates and member organizations to reach out and ask members of the House to sign on a co-sponsor of amendments to increase the Mass Cultural Council budget. The more calls, emails, and meetings a representative receives regarding an amendment the high the chances are they will sign on as a co-sponsor. This is a great time to reach out and remind your Representative that arts and creativity matter to you.

A final version of the House budget, that includes many of the filed amendments is voted on and sent to the Senate--where the process begins again.

Mid May - The Senate Budget

Like the House, the Senate Ways and Mean Committee has the opportunity to develop their own budget. And like the House, the Senate debates amendments to the budget offered by Senators. Senators also seek co-sponsors to support their amendments. This is followed by a final vote on the budget.

Key components of work at the State House are caucuses which are open to both House and Senate members. The legislative caucuses are organized by a particular political party affiliation or area of social policy and help to build support for an issue or sector. These caucuses play a valuable role during the budget process by helping organize and increase support for a particular budget amendment. The newly reformed Cultural Caucus, co-chaired by Representative Mary Keefe and Senator Julian Cyr, will work with arts advocates and MASSCreative to build support for the Mass Cultural Council budget inside the State House. 

June - Reconciling the budget(s)

Following the passage of the Senate budget, a committee known as the Conference Committee is convened to create a single budget reflective of the House and Senate versions. The Conference Committee includes members of the both the House and the Senate. Once the Committee has reconciled the two versions of the budget they release a Committee Report that is presented to the House and Senate for a vote.

June (continued) - Vetoes and Overrides

Following the House and Senate passage of the budget the Governor has 10 days to review the new version. The Governor can then sign the budget into law, veto the budget, or make line item vetos. The line item veto means the Governor can specifically reduce the amount of a particular budget item. Last year, after successfully getting an increase to the Mass Cultural Council budget from the House and Senate, Governor Baker line item vetoed the increase and returned the budget amount to level funding.

However, the budget isn’t finished yet! The House and the Senate can chose to override any or all of the Governor's vetoes. Any veto override requires 2/3 of both the House and the Senate. This is another moment where lawmaker need to hear from you about the value of arts, culture and creativity. Once all the overrides are voted on the budget is final!

July - Thanking our champions

The fiscal year officially begins July 1st.  After many months of work advocating for the budget, lawmakers turn their attention to other legislation, but their efforts on behalf of the creative community should not go unacknowledged.  Regardless of the final budget amount for the Mass Cultural Council, July is a good time to reach out to thank your legislators for their work and efforts.


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#SaveTheNEA #SaveTheNEH - Back to D.C. to Fight for Arts, Culture and Creativity

In March, Emily Ruddock, MASSCreative’s Director of Policy and Government Affairs will lead a team of MA advocates and arts supporters to Washington, D.C. for the Americans for the Arts Annual National Arts Action Summit. The two day summit includes updates on arts policy and research, networking with advocates from across the nation and meetings with Senators and members of Congress to share the vital role the creative sector plays in making Massachusetts--and the nation--a stronger, healthier and more connected place to live.

A central focus of the trip will be advocating for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Since taking office, the President has twice attempted to defund and shut down these federal agencies. Each time, Congress has enthusiastically fought back, protecting both the NEA and NEH and providing modest budget increases to support artists and the creative sector across the country.  

Though the President has yet to release his budget recommendations for next year, there is good reason to suggest he will again attempt to dismantle both agencies. Part of the National Arts Summit is to demonstrate the broad and deep support the NEA and NEH enjoys and thank members of Congress for standing up for arts, culture, and creativity. Advocates who cannot attend the Summit are encouraged to participate from home by reaching out to their Senators and member of Congress via social media and email.


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The Rebirth of the State House Cultural Council

Mass Cultural Council Chair Anita Walker talked about the arts programming
happening across the state

In a standing room only event attended by over 75 lawmakers and staff, five statewide arts organizations representing artists, municipalities, creative entrepreneurs, and arts institutions both large and small, shared information on the state’s creative economy and the need for public investment in the sector.

The January 16 legislative briefing was organized by Cultural Caucus co-chairs Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro) and Rep. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester) and vice-chairs Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield) and Rep. Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown). Sen. Cyr opened the event with a story about how he got the bug for politics by successfully advocating for increased funding for his junior high school’s music program.

“Arts and culture are integral to the Commonwealth. We need to be stepping up and supporting it in a meaningful way,” Cyr said.

In addition to building support among members for a $2 million increase to the Mass Cultural Council budget, the Cultural Caucus will have the opportunity to back legislation designed to strengthen the Commonwealth’s creative sector, which has ripple effects throughout the state in terms of economic development, education, and social justice programs.

“As a new legislative session begins, it is vital that arts funding and related policies are backed by a robust Cultural Caucus. It is exciting to see Beacon Hill lawmakers relaunch the Caucus,” said MASSCreative Policy and Government Affairs Director Emily Ruddock who helped spearhead the effort in conjunction with the Mass Cultural Council, Massachusetts Arts Leadership Council (MALC), MassHumanities, Arts|Learning, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the .

Kathleen Bitteti of MALC thanked Joanne Muti, the Research Director for the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development for her support of the sector over the past decade. Muti, who recently announced her retirement, has worked closely with legislators and Committee Co-chair Rep. Corey Atkins to increase public support and investment in Massachusetts’ creative and cultural sector. Her contributions and collegiality will be missed by all who worked with her.


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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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