Sarah MacIsaac on the Value of Art Therapy

At MASSCreative, we believe creative experiences help build powerful connections between people, communities, and the broader world. At Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day on March 26 (next week!), we will bring together hundreds of leaders and supporters of the creative community to connect with one another, advocate with lawmakers, and share their stories of arts and creativity.

As part of the lead-up to Arts Advocacy Day we want to take the opportunity to share some of those stories to illustrate why advocating for the arts is so important! Today we are featuring a guest blog post about the importance of art in achieving holistic health from Sarah MacIsaac. Sarah is a Tastefully Simple Independent Consultant who treasures her time writing, painting, regularly attending plays and enjoying her favorite music.

"Art has always been a major part of my life. It has been and continues to be a lifeline. It is a deep breath, a calming exhale, an escape, and my spark of joy. As a person with a physical disability, art was my outlet to express myself. It was a gift because it was something I was good at: my place to shine. Whether as a patron attending art museums, plays, musical theater, dance performances, the opera, and live music concerts--or as the one doing the creating or performing--art has been there for me through it all. It lifts me up.

I have only had formalized art therapy once in my life when in high school. My friend had just died, and I was dealing with my own mortality. I had what I can now describe as a psychotic break from reality. I was blessed that my high school offered resources like art therapists to help me cope with the uncertainties of my medical conditions. From a young age I was given messages intentionally or unintentionally that someone with my condition does not live long. Those are scary realities to face. Thankfully, I had loving, well-meaning family members, friends, and caregivers; I am so blessed. However, at the time I was confused, overwhelmed and I needed to find hope again. I needed something to help me sort through what may or may not happen to me at any given time in regards to my disease.

I do not remember the specifics of my high school art therapy--after all it has been 19 years since graduation! However I do fondly recall that time. I have tremendous gratitude toward all those who recognized my early love of art and used it get me through one of the darkest points in my life. Later I even had the opportunity to assist younger kids with some art therapy exercises as an intern. In fact, my art therapy experience was so impactful I even considered becoming an art therapist myself.

With the tools I have been given from art therapy and the experience I have gained I no longer see my so-called challenges as a disease; I am healthy and thriving. I attribute a great deal of my success and my ability to manage adversity to the skills I learned from my art therapist. Art is still such a force for good in my life. Art (some of which I created!) adorns the walls of my house, arts and crafts connect me with my nieces and nephew, coloring helps me find peace, and music soothes my soul. The list could go on and on. I find joy recounting the ways art did and continues to shapes my life."

RSVP now for Creativity Connects: MASSCreative Arts Advocacy Day on March 26!

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Can We Stop Picking On The NEA?

As you read this, arts advocates across the nation are firing out emails and social media posts about President Trump’s proposal—for the third year in a row—to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Hopefully, Congress will once again reject the proposal, as it has twice now.

With any luck, this annual attack on arts and humanities will broaden the public’s understanding that opportunities for cultural engagement and creative expression are just as integral to social wellbeing as adequate food, housing, income, and the pursuit of meaningful work.

We are way past the point where we should be picking on the NEA.

Earlier this month, I helped organize a meeting in Washington D.C. between staffers from the state’s Congressional delegation and Massachusetts residents to share examples of the ways art is necessary for human happiness. A ninth grader from Arlington High School shared how her love of the cello helped her through a difficult time in middle school in ways that seeing a therapist could not. “Playing music allows you to express your feelings without words, when talking to someone is too much,” she said.

Cathy Edwards of the New England Foundation for the Arts described how she struggled to understand what it meant to be an American when she was growing up overseas as the daughter of a diplomat. “I’d watch the Brady Bunch and look for clues,” she told the staffers.

But it wasn’t until Edwards saw Revelations, performed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the foot of the Parthenon in an ancient amphitheater as an American teenager amid 4,000 Greek citizens, that she finally connected to the power of the American story, encountering the brilliance of Ailey’s genius and his telling of the African-American experience.

Access to these experiences is uneven and largely predicated on income and geography. Middle- and upper-income people who live in urban areas are far more likely to have the sorts of cultural experiences we talked about in Washington. Meanwhile, headlines about $90 million paintings reinforce the perception that art is a past time for the one percent with little relevance to everyday life.

Public investment in arts organizations and programs is the only way to ensure that everyone has access to their benefits, which include delaying the aging process by engaging in music, writing, and dance; building resilience among veterans and their families with community art projects and classes; and improving student performance across all academic disciplines with sequential arts education from K-12. Creative expression through writing and other dramatic activities can improve public health and even make the delivery of healthcare more efficient for patients and practitioners alike. Arts-based endeavors spur economic activity. Cultural districts in lower-income areas reduce poverty and connect people across neighborhood, ethnic, and class divides. Taken together, investments in art for whole communities can even pay off in higher property values.

None of this happens by accident. Half of all events funded by the NEA take place in communities where the median household income is less than $50,000 and 40 percent take place in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty. Over 35 percent of NEA grants go to organizations that serve veterans, people with disabilities, and people who are confined to institutions. These public dollars—just $155 million in fiscal year 2019, or .004 percent of the federal budget—ensure that children in school districts with no funding for arts classes still get to field trips to theaters and museums. They finance cultural districts in poverty-stricken neighborhoods and rural communities. And each public dollar granted to nonprofit arts organizations brings in another nine from private sources, sustaining the art sector’s base, which contributes $729 billion to the nation’s economy.

When access to cultural engagement and creative expression is restricted based on income and geography, we’re all made poorer for it.


See this article on WGBH's website.

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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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