Candidates Comerford, Connor, and Kline meet with Create the Vote Leading up to Primary for Hampshire, Franklin, and Worcester Senate Seat

Three candidates running in the Sept. 4 Democratic primary to represent the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District in the Massachusetts Senate met with members of the Create the Vote Coalition Aug. 24 at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to discuss their policies on arts, culture and the creative economy in Massachusetts.

The candidates—Jo Comerford, Steven Connor, and Chelsea Kline—are vying to succeed state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, who resigned earlier this year after holding the seat for more than 25 years. Kline is the only candidate whose name will appear on the ballot; Comerford and Connors are waging write-in campaigns.  Ryan O’Donnell, another Democratic candidate is also running a write-in campaign. With no Republican candidates running, the Democratic primary victor will effectively win the seat.

Each candidate met separately with the Create the Vote Coalition to discuss their views. The following is a summary of their comments and answers to coalition members’ questions. The discussions were moderated by MASSCreative Director of Policy and Government Affairs Emily Ruddock.

Jo Comerford

Comerford discussed her background in theatre and arts education. As an actor and educator in New York City, she developed a community outreach and schools program for the Pearl Theater Company, which enabled students in the city’s schools to see plays at the Pearl. The experience of receiving a ticket to access the theater and see a show was empowering for young people, said Comerford. She also saw the importance of the arts when she started a theater program at Peter’s Place, an NYC shelter for homeless seniors, in an effort to foster more communication between residents.

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“The arts allow people to be at the center of their own narratives,” said Comerford.

She also believes the arts can help illustrate issues and help people better understand policy better. The arts can “empower people to understand local, state and federal government,” Comerford said.

Comerford said her campaign platform is anchored in local economic development and encouraging small business growth, including leveraging the arts and supporting creative entrepreneurs. She sees a lack of easy access to Western Mass. by performers and musicians and inadequate public transportation in the district negatively impacting the growth of the creative economy in the district, and wants to work on solving such problems.  

Coming from an artistic background, Comerford is comfortable working across differences, she said. She has “out of the box thinking, listening skills and empathy” which she believes will help her be an effective lawmaker.

She also acknowledged that Rosenberg’s leadership on arts, culture and related policy would be a tough act to follow. She said she saw the former Senate president “exercise personal and political capital” on these issues. Rosenberg’s successor, she said, will have to quickly build strategic relationships to continue delivering for the community.

Comerford also expressed interest in forming an informal group of advisors who will use their expertise to guide her on policy. She said this group must include arts and cultural leaders.

You can read Comerford’s Create the Vote questionnaire here: http://www.mass-creative.org/ctv18comerford

Steven Connor

Connor also discussed his background in theater, performing, and arts education. He said he gravitated toward theater in high school and worked behind the scenes. After serving in the Navy, Connor wanted to pursue a more creative life. He worked as a chef, attended the Actors Workshop in Boston and made a living as a balloon delivery clown. Connor later made his way to California, where he provided arts education in a day program for institutionalized people.

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“The arts gave them a voice,” he said. One client with whom he worked, for example, was non-verbal, but was able to communicate through pen drawings.

He eventually returned to the area and enrolled at UMass Amherst, where he earned a BA in theater.

Connor has served as director of the Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services for more than 14 years. He called the VA’s arts festival “vital to recovery,” for some veterans. He spoke of the arts as a tool to help people heal from trauma.

Connor grew up when the Northampton area had a more industrial economy. As industry faded away, he watched how arts and culture helped transform Easthampton.

“Arts are an integral part of our lives, whether [people] acknowledge it or not,” he said.

Connor volunteered that he does not support the Massachusetts film tax credit, a measure designed to attract the film industry to shoot movies in Massachusetts.

Chelsea Kline

Kline said the arts “are deep in my DNA.” She was raised by sculptors who made their living with a patchwork of jobs. Her father lived in artist housing in Dorchester. She’s been surrounded by creative people and artists all of her life—including her husband, who is a sculptor and teaches at Hampshire College, and her daughter, who is studying film at the same institution. As such, Kline said she knows the realities of being a working artist.

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Kline, who relied on public assistance as a young single mother and went on to earn a degree from Harvard Divinity School, is very focused on helping low-income and otherwise vulnerable people. Seeing art through a social justice lens, she described it as a tool to lift up vulnerable people and said “it keeps people from being isolated and keeps us connected in a deep way.”

Kline said she wants to be an advocate for Western Mass. and find ways to invest in the area and in vulnerable communities.

She sees the arts as a public good that is worthy of more investment. “The more the community funds the arts, the more that there is ownership over the arts,” she said.

She also believes that the district needs greater broadband internet access, which would help artists sell their work, build community and share ideas.

Kline also wants art integrated throughout our school curriculum. She believes that Western Mass., a culturally-rich area, could take the lead in focusing on arts education. Moving away from high stakes testing, she said, would free up tens of millions in education funding that could be re-allocated to other educational initiatives.

You can read Kline’s Create the Vote questionnaire here: http://www.mass-creative.org/ctv18kline

Participants in one or more of the three meetings included Barbara Schaffer Bacon, Co-Director, Animating Democracy, Americans for the Arts; Dee Boyle-Clapp, Arts Extension Service, UMASS Amherst; Alexandra de Montrichard, Manager of Strategic Initiatives, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art; Jim Hicks, Executive Editor, Massachusetts Review; Erin Williams, Director of Cultural Development, City of Worcester; Emily Wojcik, Managing Editor, Massachusetts Review; Ellen Keiter, Chief Curator, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art; Andrea Powers, Director of Finance and Administration, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art; and Rebecca Miller Goggins, Director of Development, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Create the Vote 2018 is a nonpartisan campaign to raise awareness of the ways that arts and creative expression improve schools, strengthen local business districts, and build vibrant neighborhoods in which people want to live, work, and play. Members of the campaign are meeting with federal, state, and municipal political candidates to discuss the candidates’ views on the arts and cultural community and the role that culture, creativity, and the arts should play in state and local government.

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Seventh Congressional District Candidate Ayanna Pressley Meets with Create the Vote Coalition

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano in the Democratic primary to represent the 7th Congressional District, met with members of the Create the Vote 2018 Coalition on stage at the Huntington Theatre Company Aug. 29. As a 10-year veteran of the Boston City Council, Pressley had worked in some capacity with nearly everyone in attendance, so the format of the meeting differed from other Create the Vote sit-downs with candidates: Pressley gave an arts stump speech of sorts in which she offered her observations—both personal and political—about the way art and creativity impacts the education of young children, the health and well-being of adults as well as economic development, public safety, housing, and employment. Then she answered questions.

“I’m so delighted to be having this conversation with you,” Pressley said, noting that she hadn’t been asked about the arts during her six months campaigning. “How can you not talk about the arts at this moment in our history? When we are drinking from a fire hose of insult and assault?”

Pressley noted that she had “grown up in Chicago under some challenging circumstances.” Her father battled a 14-year addiction to opioids and was incarcerated for much of her childhood and her mother, a social justice activist, raised her on her own. She credits art—mostly in the form of books by James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Maya Angelou sent to her by her father, and access to a quality education that included instruction in the arts—with saving her life.

“When I first read ‘Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ I knew I wasn’t alone,” she said.

Today, she and her husband encourage their daughter to participate in arts activities both in and out of school.

As a Boston City Councilor, she partnered with community activists and the Massachusetts Cultural Council to create three new cultural districts in the city, the Fenway and Roxbury neighborhood cultural districts and a walkable literary cultural district from Copley Square to Downtown. The literary cultural district is the first of its kind in the country.

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Pressley also worked to reform the city’s zoning code, which prohibited art galleries from opening in some commercial districts in the city. The zoning code was rooted in past controversies around art that some people found objectionable, Pressley said.

She 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 artists have families.

At one point, Pressley asked the group to name who in the state’s Congressional delegation was the go-to person on arts issues. “Who do you see as the champion in the delegation for the arts because I want to best them. This is important to me. I want this to be an ongoing dialogue,” she said adding that projects led by the community and supported by the government are her “favorite kinds of projects.”

“I like that you use the word ‘champion.’ A lot of our representatives are allies,” answered Cathy Edwards of the New England Foundation for the Arts, adding that no one in the delegation was championing bold cultural policy.

As a member of Congress, Pressley said she would:

  • Ensure that a staffer in her office tracked funding opportunities for the arts in areas not typically seen as a source of arts funding such as education, economic development, and transportation.
  • Support on-going efforts, including a resolution by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, to add “art” to the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to increase access to arts training and education.
  • Support on-going efforts to make higher education more affordable and permit graduates with student debt to restructure repayment terms. She said she knew many young people who wanted to pursue creative careers “but their parents won’t let them” because of the limited earning potential of careers in art. The high costs of a college education are “crushing wallets and dreams” and constraining the economy.
  • Add artists as a category of those eligible for housing regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We have to have an integrated, innovative, comprehensive approach to solving issues of equity. We cannot deal with any of these things in silos,” she said. “We’ve been tinkering at the edges, but this is not the time to shrink or be divided. This is the time to be bold.”

The 7th Congressional District includes most of Boston, parts of Cambridge and Milton; and Chelsea, Everett, Randolph, and Somerville. Attendees at the meeting included: Matt Wilson and Emily Ruddock of MASSCreative, Akiba Abaka of ArtsEmerson, Eve Bridburg of Grub Street, Kelly Brilliant of the Fenway Alliance, J. Cottle of Dunamis, Alison Croney-Moses of The Eliot School, Emily Day of the Boston Center for the Arts, Gary Dunning of Celebrity Series of Boston, Cathy Edwards of the New England Foundation for the Arts, Michael Maso and Temple Gill of the Huntington Theatre Company, artist Elisa Hamilton, Kate Huffman of Encore Tours, Miguel Landestoy of the Community Music Center of Boston, Elsa Moquera Sterenberg of IBA, Catherine Peterson of ArtsBoston, artist activist Aziza Robinson-Goodnight, Sarah Shampnois of Company One, and Sara Stackhouse of Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

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The primary takes place this Tuesday, September 4. Polls will be open from 7am to 8pm.

You can read Pressley’s Create the Vote questionnaire here: http://www.mass-creative.org/ctv18pressley

Create the Vote 2018 is a nonpartisan campaign to raise awareness of the ways that arts and creative expression improve schools, strengthen local business districts, and build vibrant neighborhoods in which people want to live, work, and play. Members of the campaign are meeting with federal, state, and municipal political candidates to discuss the candidates’ views on the arts and cultural community and the role that culture, creativity, and the arts should play in state and local government.

 

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Congressman Michael Capuano meets with Create the Vote 2018

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, a 10-year veteran of Congress and a former mayor of Somerville, met with members of the Create the Vote 2018 Coalition for more than an hour Aug. 20. The group of 15 artists and arts leaders engaged in a wide-ranging discussion that covered everything from arts initiatives Capuano pushed in Somerville during his time as mayor, congressional funding for the arts versus state funding, the benefits of the arts and the creative economy, and how to better communicate those benefits to political leaders.

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Capuano is seeking election to an 11th term representing the 7th congressional district, which includes most of Boston, parts of Cambridge and Milton; and Chelsea, Everett, Randolph, and Somerville. Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley is challenging him in the Democratic primary election Sept. 4. With no Republicans running, the winner of the primary will effectively win the seat.

During the meeting, held at 826 Boston, Capuano described himself as a “a big proponent of the arts,” and expressed a firm belief that art is good for kids, economic development and solving urban problems. He noted that he tells mayors all the time that if they want to develop their downtowns, “you need to bring in artists.” Capuano said his administration worked to make art more accessible and less “stodgy” through initiatives like the Somerville Garden Tour, and a grant program to pay artists to paint the traffic light boxes that dot intersections across the city.

“It gave artists some work,” he said. “And it stopped the graffiti problem.”

He also noted that art was a key way to connect students with school. For some, it’s sports, he said. But for others, it’s the arts and all students should have options to participate.

The congressman acknowledged that in Washington, D.C., funding for the arts is “one of the whipping boys,” among his more conservative colleagues. He said the arts community must be highly organized—as the NRA is—and vote. “So many people don’t vote,” he said, noting that one of the reasons why Congress is so polarized is because moderate Americans have largely stopped participating in mid-term elections.

He said that arts advocates can push back against misperceptions that art is of interest only to the wealthy by making themselves known in Congress. “Most members of Congress will take note if you walk into their office with ten people from the district,” he said. Even more important is having constituents explain how the arts or a particular arts organization made a difference in their lives.

He cautioned, though, that the last thing arts groups needed was direction from Congress. “All you want from us is money and freedom,” he said, noting that local officials know better than federal ones how to deploy federal funding. He recalled that many of the arts initiatives he backed as a mayor were funded through community block grants.

He noted 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.

Participants in the Create the Vote meeting with Capuano included Matt Wilson and Emily Ruddock of MASSCreative, Matt Chapuran of Lyric Stage Company of Boston, Jess Drench of 826Boston, Temple Gill of Huntington Theatre Company, Kate Huffman of Encore Tours, Marinell Rousmaniere of EdVestors, Greg Ruffer of Boston Center for the Arts, Cliff Rust of the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Nicole Leonard of From the Top, Taylor Mortell of The Fenway Alliance, Sara Stackhouse of Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Kevin Becerra from ArtsEmerson, and Ken Tangvik of Hyde Square Task Force.

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Create the Vote 2018 is a nonpartisan campaign to raise awareness of the ways that arts and creative expression improve schools, strengthen local business districts, and build vibrant neighborhoods in which people want to live, work, and play. Members of the campaign are meeting with federal, state, and municipal political candidates to discuss the candidates’ views on the arts and cultural community and the role that culture, creativity, and the arts should play in state and local government.

You can read Capuano's Create the Vote questionnaire here: http://www.mass-creative.org/ctv18capuano

 

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State Sen. Adam Hinds meets with district arts leaders and submits Create the Vote questionnaire

BOSTON, August 27, 2018―Members of MASSCreative’s Leadership Council and creative leaders in the Berkshires met with state Sen. Adam Hinds Aug. 15 as part of its Create the Vote 2018 initiative. During the meeting, which was held at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Hinds addressed questions from leaders of the local creative community, including Lucis Castaldo, IS183 Art School; Michele Daly, Mass College of Art’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center; Adam Davis, Shakespeare and Company; Lisa Dorin, Williams College Museum of Art; Matthew Glassman, Double Edge Theatre; Jen Glockner, Office of Cultural Development for the City of Pittsfield; Sally and Fred Harris, Saint James Place, Donna Hassler, Chesterwood and Olivier Mesley, The Clark Art Institute.

Create the Vote 2018 is a nonpartisan campaign to raise awareness of the ways that arts and creative expression improve schools, strengthen local business districts, and build vibrant neighborhoods in which people want to live, work, and play. Members of the campaign are meeting with state and municipal political candidates to discuss the candidates’ views on the arts and cultural community and the role that culture, creativity, and the arts should play in state and local government.

As part of the campaign, a Create the Vote questionnaire has been distributed to candidates running for state legislative office this year. It seeks 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.

Hinds’ questionnaire is available online here: http://www.mass-creative.org/ctv18hinds

Hinds is seeking a second term in the Massachusetts Senate representing the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden District—the largest geographic territory in the legislature and an area with a significant creative economy. Thomas Wickham, a Lee selectman, is challenging Hinds in the Democratic primary, which will be held Sept. 4.

Wickham has not yet returned his Create the Vote questionnaire or responded to requests for a meeting with the Create the Vote campaign.

In his questionnaire, Hinds noted that he had requested to chair the Senate’s Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development because of the central role that the creative economy plays in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden Senate District.

“Arts are central to most issues in the district. We have an economy that requires we support our arts institutions, utilize it to bolster the tourism economy,” he wrote. “A vibrant arts scene in northern Berkshire county has led to serious economic investment by outside investors. We have income levels that create pockets of at risk youth and arts have proven critical for accessing those youth.”

“Although creativity builds more vibrant, equitable and connected communities, political and policy support for the arts isn’t a given,” said MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson. “It comes from deliberate, strategic organizing and advocacy by the creative community, and cultivation of municipal and state leaders. We’re excited to work with community partners across the state to ensure that the benefits of our creative economy—and how to grow it—are part of the political discourse in this election season.”

MASSCreative has collaborated with community leaders on Create the Vote campaigns in communities across the Commonwealth since 2013, when its inaugural campaign secured a pledge from Boston mayoral candidate Marty Walsh to hire an arts commissioner, a promise he fulfilled after being elected. Create the Vote campaigns have also been instrumental in persuading municipal officials in Medford and Medfield to provide matching funds for their local cultural councils. In New Bedford, Create the Vote spearheaded the successful effort to establish a dedicated arts fund using revenue from the city’s lodging tax. The fund required the support of Mayor Jon Mitchell and the City Council, along with Gov. Charlie Baker’s approval of a home-rule petition.

Last year, MASSCreative partnered with local arts leaders, advocates, artists, creative entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in 13 cities and towns and three state senate districts. Participating municipalities included Barnstable, Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Framingham, Franklin, Holyoke, Lowell, Lynn, Newton, Springfield, Somerville, and Worcester. In 2014, Create the Vote hosted the Commonwealth’s first-ever gubernatorial arts debate, drawing more than 500 people to Worcester’s Hanover Theatre to hear candidates explain their vision for our creative economy.

“Elections are when we hear candidates’ best ideas for meeting the challenges our communities are facing,” Wilson added. “Given the important role that the arts play in educating our students, building strong neighborhoods, and generating economic activity, Create the Vote provides a valuable platform for candidates to share their ideas and policy positions on arts, culture and creativity.”

Follow the campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #CreateTheVote. You can also “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @MASSCreative, and visit http://www.mass-creative.org/ctv2018.

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BOSTON, August 27, 2018 - MASSCreative Announces New Policy and Government Affairs Director

BOSTON, August 27, 2018—MASSCreative announces today that it has named Emily Ruddock as its new Director of Policy and Government Affairs, where she will advance MASSCreative’s policy platform with government officials, opinion leaders, and advocacy partners. MASSCreative hired Ruddock in 2017 as a program advocate but promoted her in less than a year to direct the organization’s policy and government advocacy efforts. She brings 13 years of experience working in strategic and management positions for non-profit arts organizations, including government service as the first director of the City of Lynn’s Downtown Cultural District. In her role as director of policy and government affairs, Ruddock will continue this work on a broader scale.

“Emily is a skilled communicator and leader who can bring people together to get things done. Her passion for the arts and arts advocacy is palpable,” said Matt Wilson, MASSCreative’s executive director. “MASSCreative has made great gains at the State House and in the broader political realm, advocating for arts and creativity as a path to prosperity and better quality of life in the Commonwealth. But political and policy support for arts, culture, and creativity is never a given. It requires ongoing organizing and advocacy and the continued cultivation of municipal and state leaders. Emily is the perfect person to lead us in this work.”

Before joining MASSCreative, Ruddock was the artistic producer at Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT), where she managed the day-to-day operations of the Artistic Department, including all hiring, resource logistics, and budgeting for at least three annual theatrical productions. She also developed and supervised MRT’s first education department-focused effort, strengthening partnerships with local social service organizations and schools.

As director of Lynn’s Downtown Cultural District, Ruddock was highly regarded by city officials and local arts leaders for her leadership in coordinating arts and cultural organizations for neighborhood revitalization and economic development. Ruddock worked with elected city and state officials on a range of projects to promote downtown Lynn and the arts community, including drafting legislation establishing the city’s first Public Art Commission. She also organized and executed free public events featuring local arts and community groups.

Ruddock holds a BA in Critical Social Thought from Mount Holyoke College and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.

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State Sen. Adam Hinds Meets with Create the Vote 2018

Members of MASSCreative’s Leadership Council and creative leaders in the Berkshires met with state Sen. Adam Hinds Aug. 15 as part of its Create the Vote 2018 initiative.

Create the Vote 2018 is a nonpartisan campaign to raise awareness of the ways that arts and creative expression improve schools, strengthen local business districts, and build vibrant neighborhoods in which people want to live, work, and play. Members of the campaign are meeting with state and municipal political candidates to discuss the candidates’ views on the arts and cultural community and the role that culture, creativity, and the arts should play in state and local government.

Hinds is seeking a second term in the Massachusetts Senate representing the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden District—the largest geographic territory in the legislature and an area with a significant creative economy. Thomas Wickham, a Lee selectman, is challenging Hinds in the Democratic primary.

During the meeting, which was held at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Hinds addressed questions from leaders of the local creative community, including Lucis Castaldo, IS183 Art School; Michele Daly, Mass College of Art’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center; Adam Davis, Shakespeare and Company; Lisa Dorin, Williams College Museum of Art; Matthew Glassman, Double Edge Theatre; Jen Glockner, Office of Cultural Development for the City of Pittsfield; Sally and Fred Harris, Saint James Place, Donna Hassler, Chesterwood and Olivier Mesley, The Clark Art Institute.

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Asked about his interest in creating a county-wide cultural coalition/collaborative, Hinds said he believed that everyone at the table needed to be part of the ongoing conversation about how to create a community that was attractive to visitors and residents alike. He noted that infrastructure helps the creative sector thrive and emphasized the need to set up rail access to the region.

Hinds also acknowledged that he frequently hears from both the creative sector and residents about the dearth of affordable housing and workspace—an issue nearly every participant in our meeting raised, be it organizations that have had difficulty housing seasonal staff or artists that left the area because they cannot secure appropriate space in which to do their work. Hinds said he wants to work on a solution to this problem for his district.

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.

He expressed an interest in getting more money into arts education and creative sector workforce development as he sees how the issues dovetail in his district. Hinds, who lives in Pittsfield, said he has heard from students about the importance of arts education and given that the creative sector is the district’s third largest industry, arts education is a key to workforce development in the area.

Hinds touched on his membership in the Legislature’s Cultural Caucus, welcoming the opportunity it offers to build support for arts and culture throughout the State House. The caucus provides a helpful network of allies to call on when support is needed for important agenda items like funding for the Mass Cultural Council and the Cultural Facilities Fund, he said.

He discussed his legislative accomplishments on arts and cultural issues, including offering the amendment to re-authorize the Cultural Facilities Fund with an increased budget. While the budget expanding effort failed, Hinds said he understands how crucial the fund is for cultural organizations and will continue to work on it. With an eye toward securing more marketing dollars for his district, Hinds is working with Springfield State Rep. Michael J. Finn on a bill that would enable municipalities to designate a portion of local hotel taxes to marketing local tourism.

Hinds also wants to let his district’s arts and cultural sector speak for itself, by increasing investment in public art in the district. He pointed out that visitors to North Adams see murals adorning city buildings and realize, “Whoa, this place is open for art.” 

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Click here for Sen. Hinds’ answers to our Create the Vote 2018 candidate questionnaire.

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Jay Gonzalez – Candidate for Governor Talks Arts and Creativity

Members of the MASSCreative Leadership Council met with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez and his campaign manager on April 19 as part of its Create the Vote 2018 initiative.

Create the Vote 2018 is a nonpartisan campaign to raise awareness of the ways that arts and creative expression improve schools, strengthen local business districts, and build vibrant neighborhoods in which people want to live, work, and play. Members of the campaign are meeting with candidates for governor and other state and local legislative offices to talk about candidates’ views on the arts and cultural community and the role that culture, creativity, and the arts should play in state and local government. Create the Vote met with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Massie January 26.

“As governor, I would want to set an example as to how we can engage the arts community,” Gonzalez said, noting that art played a vital role in his life when he was growing up.

“My father was an immigrant to the US from Spain,” Gonzalez recalled. “He taught himself how to play Spanish guitar and played it often when I was young. Small moments of art experiences made an impact on my life and I’ve seen how they can make an impact on future generations.”

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(Members of MASSCreative's Leadership council and Gubernatorial Candidate meet for a Create the Vote 2018 sit down meeting)

MASS Creative Program Advocate Emily Ruddock asked how the creative community could be included in discussion of smart growth policy both for its greater contributions to economic development overall, but also for supporting working artists and the community-based organizations that bring so much vitality to cities and towns around the state.

Gonzalez responded that the arts leaders should play more of a role throughout government, given that creativity and culture is a force multiplier in education, public health and safety, and economic development.

MASSCreative Leadership Council member Craig Coogan, who is the executive director of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC) talked about the need for dedicated revenue sources for the arts. Referring to the BGMC’s budget, he said, “Every year we start at zero, and it is frustrating to have to worry about funding over our art.”

Gonzalez, who managed the state budget as the Secretary of Administration and Finance for former Gov. Deval Patrick, expressed skepticism about dedicated funding. “To be honest … there is no way to have a locked down dedicated funding source.”

Untitled_design_(1).png(From left to right: Matt Wilson, MASSCreative; Corey Depina, Zumix; Aziza Robinson Goodnight, Arts Advocate and Organizer; Jay Gonzalez, Gubernatorial Candidate; Craig Coogan, Boston Gay Men's Chorus; Emily Ruddock, MASSCreative)

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BOSTON, July 30 2018—Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on Legislature’s Override of Gov. Baker’s Veto of Mass Cultural Council Funding Increase:

“We applaud the Massachusetts Legislature―particularly House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Karen Spilka, House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, Sens. Harriette L. Chandler and Adam Hinds, Reps. Cory Atkins and Stephen Kulik, and Cultural Caucus Chairs Sen. Julian Cyr and Rep. Mary Keefe and Cultural Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Sarah Peake―for overriding Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of $2 million from the Mass Cultural Council’s $16.1 million budget.

“This is the fourth year in a row that that lawmakers have overridden vetoes of Mass Cultural Council funding by Gov. Charlie Baker, and the fourth year that they have done so by an overwhelming margin. The Mass Cultural Council is a model for how public funds can be invested for an outsize impact. Our state and local economies are made up of hundreds of downtown districts that rely upon the contributions of nonprofit arts organizations, who generated more than $2.2 billion in activity in 2015 alone. These organizations rely on support from the Mass Cultural Council which, in turn, is used to leverage additional, private investment. Taken together, these investments infuse our cities and towns with creative activities and events that make our neighborhoods more connected, vibrant, and equitable. We are incredibly grateful to our Legislature for recognizing this and for continuing to invest in art, culture, and creativity.”

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BOSTON, July 26, 2018—MASSCreative Urges State Legislature To Override Gov. Baker’s Veto of Spending on Art, Culture, and Creativity

BOSTON, July 26, 2018— Today, Governor Charlie Baker vetoed $2 million in funding for the Mass Cultural Council, reducing the recommended funding for the organization from $16.1 million to $14.1 million. MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson offered the following statement in response:

“We are deeply dismayed by Gov. Baker’s veto of funding for the Mass Cultural Council approved by lawmakers. This is the fourth year in a row that Gov. Baker has vetoed increased funding for the Mass Cultural Council. For the past three years, lawmakers have overridden his vetos by overwhelming margins. We are incredibly grateful to state lawmakers for their continued leadership and urge them to once again fully override Gov. Baker’s veto.

“The local cultural councils and other nonprofit arts organizations funded by the Mass Cultural Council infuse our cities and towns with creative activities and events making our neighborhoods more connected, vibrant, and equitable. The benefits of these intentional investments in art and creativity can be seen in our schools and communities. Our state and local economies are made up of hundreds of downtown districts that rely upon the contributions of nonprofit arts organizations, who generated more than $2.2 billion in activity in 2015 alone. These organizations rely on support from the Mass Cultural Council which, in turn, is used to leverage additional, private investment.”

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Lawmakers Pass Mass Cultural Council Budget

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On Wednesday, July 18, Massachusetts lawmakers passed the FY2019 state budget, which includes a $16 million investment in the state’s arts, cultural, and creative community. This is a $2M increase in funding over last year's $14 million Mass Cultural Council budget and the first approved increase from the full Legislature in 3 years.

Your advocacy has shown that arts and culture help build vibrant and connected communities across the Commonwealth. This increase in state arts funding would not have been possible without the collective voice of the creative community and strong leadership in the State House.

The creative community recruited 104 representatives and 23 senators, a total of 127 out of 200 state legislators to sign on to amendments calling for an increase to the Mass Cultural Council budget.

The budget now heads to Governor Baker’s desk, where he has 10 days to sign off on the plan.

Send your state legislators a note of thanks.

 

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