Building Statewide Support for State Arts Funding this Spring

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This budget season, when state leaders determine the level of the Commonwealth’s investment in the arts, MASSCreative will provide arts leaders the forum to tell their stories to their elected representative and senators.

Every spring, MASSCreative invites Massachusetts elected officials to meet with artists, arts leaders, and the public to discuss the strengths, challenges, and opportunities facing the creative community. Perhaps you or a friend attended MASSCreative’s Arts Matter Advocacy Day at the State House in 2015 or 2017, or a district meeting or regional training in 2014 or 2016.

This spring, MASSCreative is planning six Local Arts Advocacy District Meetings to be held in the Berkshires, Pioneer Valley, Worcester, Northeastern MA, Boston, and Southeastern MA in late April and May.

As a statewide collaborator to ArtWeek MA, we’re excited to inject arts advocacy into hundreds of events happening statewide April 27-May 6 and invite thousands of arts supporters to engage with their local elected officials during our district meetings following the 10-day creative festival for all.

Stay tuned for more details and dates in the next couple of weeks. Our staff is excited to provide another opportunity for artists, arts leaders, and supporters to share your stories, ask for what you need as members of the creative community, and engage with your local elected officials for local impact.

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Using Public Art and Design to Build Vibrant and Creative Places

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MASSCreative has partnered with MassDevelopment and Patronicity to encourage applications to the Commonwealth Places, a matching grant program for towns and nonprofits to use public art and design to transform neighborhood and downtown areas into creative places to meet and connect.

Commonwealth Places is currently investing in more than 20 projects statewide and is looking for more applications to tap into its $1 million pool.

On February 22, MASSCreative co-sponsored an info session with two successful Commonwealth Places grant recipients: The Corner Spot in Ashland, MA and Beyond Walls in Lynn, MA.  After hearing about both projects, attendees had an opportunity to ask questions and learn tips and tricks for gathering community support for placemaking projects. Check out a recording of the session on our Facebook page.

Thanks to the overwhelming number of applications, Commonwealth Places has announced a new submission deadline of April 1.

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Member Profile: Central Square Theater in Cambridge

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Antony and Cleopatra. Louis and Prior. George and Martha. Porgy and Bess. Rena and Youngblood. Nina and Benny. Elphaba and Fiyero.

The history of the theater is rife with iconic couples who alternately live happily ever after, are torn apart by death, live and make each other miserable, or are simply fated to fall apart. Fortunately for theater lovers and the city of Cambridge, the coupling that gave rise to Central Square Theater (CST) falls into the first category.

CST was created in 2002 when two long-running theater companies, The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater (URT), joined forces in a strategic partnership that enabled them to construct a state-of-the-art facility, share administrative staff, split operating costs, and of course, collaborate artistically while maintaining their distinct but complementary identities. Its vision, “Artists & Audiences Creating Theater Vital to our Communities” announces CST’s mission to do more than merely entertain audiences. Rather, the organization aims to engage with people and strengthen the fabric of the city through the medium of theater.

Founded in 1987, the Nora produces modern works “that speak with a feminine voice on human concerns and endeavors” and “jostle our hearts and minds, and reveal our common humanity.” In a similar vein, URT, founded in 1978, “creates accessible theater of great beauty and social content—theater that challenges and delights, informs and celebrates.” Clearly, this couple is built to last.

Together, these two companies provide the foundation for CST’s array of educational programming—from a Summer Stage Program for kids aged 6-13 to Youth Underground, tailored for aspiring actors aged 13-25—to partnerships like the Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, a collaboration that explores the intersection of science and theater. They also host community events like Working Titles (URT) and That’s What She Said (The Nora), which are opportunities for community partners, audience members, artists and staff members to attend readings of scripts being considered for production to discuss whether and why the play should be staged by considering such factors as its relevance to the community in the current moment.

CST is also the current home of The Front Porch Arts Collective, a group of black and brown artists that explore the intersection of race, economics, culture, gender and sexuality from the perspective of people of color.

Given its commitment to engaging and strengthening the community, CST’s membership in MASSCreative was also a natural fit. The theater joined the coalition in 2013.

“Our partnership with MASSCreative is a logical extension of our mission to serve as a cultural anchor for the Cambridge community, which we take very seriously,” says Catherine Carr Kelly. “So in addition to staging top-notch productions that are affordable and accessible, collaborating with neighboring groups and institutions, running arts education and other cultural enrichment programs, we have to engage political and civic leaders as well as average Cantabrigians. We participate in broader discussions about how the arts benefit our economy, public safety, community cohesiveness, and overall quality of life—and what resources we’re willing to invest in maintaining and growing our arts infrastructure. MASSCreative has been an important partner in helping create and bring people into this dialogue.”

For example, as part of Create the Vote Cambridge, an advocacy campaign to inject arts and culture issues into the 2017 Cambridge City Council election, CST hosted “Arts Activism with MASSCreative” in October. The event, one of CST’s “Central Conversations,” brought MASSCreative’s Executive Director Matt Wilson and Deputy Director Betsy Groban to the Nora after a performance of “The Revolutionists” for a talk on arts advocacy and activism and what audience members could do to make a difference. The play, written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Courtney O’Connor, examines how one goes about making political and social change, and the role of art in achieving such goals.

“Central Conversations” is CST’s signature series of pre- and post-performance events that give audiences a deeper look into the subject matter and themes of the play. As Carr Kelly explains: “They’re one way we keep in touch with our audiences and build community around arts and culture. Usually, the curtain goes down and audience members head out into the night to reflect on and process what they’ve seen on their own. By creating space for them to do that with others, they get much more out of the experience.”

Pairing “The Revolutionists” with MASSCreative’s arts activism event spurred conversation around “arts advocacy opportunities and the tangible difference” audience members could make by speaking up, Carr Kelly adds.

Create the Vote Cambridge also collected and published candidate questionnaires from a majority of the candidates expressing their views on arts and culture issues and hosted an October candidate forum that drew a large crowd to the Multicultural Arts Center to hear many of the 27 candidates’ views on arts, culture, and creativity in Cambridge. Carr Kelly and Wilson also published a letter in the Cambridge Chronicle & TAB emphasizing the need to elect strong arts and culture advocates to the city council.

The campaign, said Carr Kelly, was both an important show of political strength and a critical opportunity to highlight the positive contributions that Cambridge’s robust arts and cultural community has on the city.

“As Matt and I wrote in our letter to the Chronicle, the city is home to roughly 800 creative enterprises that support over 6,000 jobs and generate more than $7 million in local tax revenue. The city and the state need us—just as we need them. And MASSCreative is the vehicle through which the creative community in—Cambridge and across the state—is effectively making the case for a strong arts infrastructure that is adequately funded.”

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Bob Massie – Candidate for Governor Talks Arts and Creativity

Members of the MASSCreative Leadership Council kicked off Create the Vote 2018 on January 26 with a meeting with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Massie and his campaign manager.

Create the Vote 2018 is a nonpartisan initiative of MASSCreative 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 of Massachusetts to talk about their views on the arts and cultural community and the role that culture, creativity, and the arts should play in a gubernatorial administration. Create the Vote met with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez April 19.

“We don’t have much time here—we should be doing the things we love and not thinking incrementally!” said Massie of the approach a governor should have to the arts. He expressed his understanding of the arts as a vital part of the fabric of our everyday lives, as well as a way to connect with one another and to talk with others about our beliefs.

As a long-time Somerville resident, Massie talked about the transformation he has seen in the community and the role the arts have played with events such as Somerville Open StudiosArtBeatPorchfest, and the Mystic Mural Project. Being a progressive leader is a central component of his campaign and his identity. He expressed the same sentiment toward arts and culture, saying that he aims to be the strongest pro-arts Governor Massachusetts has ever had and wants to make Massachusetts one of the strongest states in the country for state support of the arts.

Massie holds a degree in Divinity from Yale and a doctorate from Harvard Business School. He is an activist and author who addresses issues of corporate accountability, social justice, and climate change. Massie is one of three candidates campaigning to be the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, who will face incumbent Republican Governor Charlie Baker in the general election. The other Democratic candidates are Setti Warren, former Mayor of Newton and candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012, and Jay Gonzales, former State Secretary of Administration and Finance.

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(From left to right: Emily Ruddock, MASSCreative; Nicky Enriquez, MassArt; Matt Wilson, MASSCreative; Jason McCool, Aeronaut Brewery; Bob Massie, Gubernatorial Candidate; Kate Huffman, Encore Tours; Gary Dunning, Celebrity Series of Boston; Amy Neill, Cultural Center of Cape Cod; and Karen Ristuben, Rocky Neck Art Colony)

During Create the Vote 2017, MASSCreative and arts leaders around the state raised awareness of the arts and creative expression in 118 races, including 13 mayoral and city council elections and three special elections. They helped organized two forums for candidates and voters and published five op-eds in media outlets in Springfield, Cambridge, Fitchburg, Framingham, and Barnstable.

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Thank you, MASSCreative Member Organizations!

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Shout out to the organizations that recently joined and renewed their memberships with MASSCreative to support arts advocacy in Massachusetts. Thanks for all you do to build healthy, vibrant, and equitable communities through arts and culture. Our membership now represents nearly 400 arts and cultural organizations, and individual artists and sector supporters. If you have not done so, please consider joining MASSCreative as a member organization or individual advocate

 

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Meet our Interns!

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Teagan Felton-Linnell, a senior at Simmons College is working with Tracie to build and mobilize MASSCreative's grassroots network of arts leaders and supporters by designing, curating, and analyzing social media content.

Mary-Ling Gregory, a graduate of Emerson College is working with Tracie to recruit and mobilize MASSCreative's grassroots network of arts leaders and supporters to participate in MASSCreative’s six Local Arts Advocacy District Meetings being held April 30-May 18.

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Jameson Johnson, is working on a state agency policy consulting project for MASSCreative as part of her Capstone work at Northeastern University. Taking a previous policy audit done over the summer, she is deepening the research and creating a methodology for MASSCreative to examine various State Agencies and any opportunities for arts policy and programming within them. Her work will include research, interviews and a final presentation with recommendations on which State Agencies and programs MASSCreative should build stronger relationships.

 

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Authors Join #Marchforourlives

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From Publishers Weekly:

Authors Mobilize Children's Book Community to March on March 24 Read More

 

From American Theatre magazine:

Surprised That ‘Never Again’ Leaders Are Theatre Kids? I’m Not Read More

 

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Create the Vote 2018: Gubernatorial Candidate Bob Massie Meets with MASSCreative Leadership Council

By Kate Huffman, MASSCreative Leadership Council

Members of the MASSCreative Leadership Council kicked off Create the Vote 2018 on January 26 with a meeting with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Massie and his campaign manager.

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 of Massachusetts to talk about their views on the arts and cultural community and the role that culture, creativity, and the arts should play in a gubernatorial administration.

“We don’t have much time here—we should be doing the things we love and not thinking incrementally!” said Massie of the approach a governor should have to the arts.

“My job as an artist is to help people see what isn’t there,” Massie added, quoting his wife, Anne Tate, who is a professor of architecture at Rhode Island College of Design.

Massie said he applies Tate’s philosophy in his approach to politics and civic engagement. He expressed his understanding of the arts as a vital part of the fabric of our everyday lives, as well as a way to connect with one another and to talk with others about our beliefs.

Massie’s campaign manager and former Mayor of Seattle, Michael McGinn, emphasized Massie’s point, noting that art isn’t just a nice additive to civic life, but is integral to people's lives.

“Art isn’t what we do, it's how we do our work,” McGinn said.

Massie said that he wants artists to be actively involved in his campaign, as well as in his platform creation process. He is currently working with artists and musicians across the state to create songs for his campaign. As the caucuses to determine the Democratic candidate approach, Massie said he wants to put out an overarching statement for his support of the arts and quickly get to work on concrete policies and steps to achieve them. He invited members of the public to contribute ideas by contacting his campaign.

As a long-time Somerville resident, Massie also talked about the transformation he has seen in the community and the role the arts has played with events such as Somerville Open Studios, ArtBeat, Porchfest, and the Mystic Mural Project. Being a progressive leader is something that Massie holds as a central component to his campaign and his identity. He expressed the same sentiment toward the arts and culture, saying that he aims to be the strongest pro-arts Governor Massachusetts has ever had and wants to make Massachusetts one of the strongest states in the country for state support of the arts.

Massie holds a degree in Divinity from Yale and a doctorate from Harvard Business School. He is an activist and author who addresses issues of corporate accountability, social justice, and climate change. Massie is one of three candidates campaigning to be the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, who will face incumbent Republican Governor Charlie Baker in the general election. The other Democratic candidates are Setti Warren, former Mayor of Newton and candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012, and Jay Gonzales, former State Secretary of Administration and Finance.

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(From left to right: Emily Ruddock, MASSCreative; Nicky Enriquez, MassArt; Matt Wilson, MASSCreative; Jason McCool, Aeronaut Brewery; Bob Massie, Gubernatorial Candidate; Kate Huffman, Encore Tours; Gary Dunning, Celebrity Series of Boston; Amy Neill, Cultural Center of Cape Cod; and Karen Ristuben, Rocky Neck Art Colony)

During Create the Vote 2017, MASSCreative and arts leaders around the state raised awareness of the arts in 118 races, including 13 mayoral and city council elections and three special elections. They helped organized two forums for candidates and voters and published five opeds in media outlets in Springfield, Cambridge, Fitchburg, Framingham, and Barnstable.

Create the Vote was also a significant presence during 2016 legislative races on the Cape and Islands and in the Berkshires, and in 2015 mayoral campaigns in Fitchburg, Gloucester, Medford, New Bedford, and Worcester. During the 2014 gubernatorial race, Create the Vote hosted six candidates at the first-ever Gubernatorial Forum on Arts, Culture, and Creativity; met with candidates; and publicized the answers to candidates’ Create the Vote questionnaires. In the 2013 Boston mayoral race, Create the Vote succeeded in securing a pledge from candidate Marty Walsh to create a cabinet level position for the arts, a promise he fulfilled after his election with the hiring of Julie Burros as Chief of Arts and Culture.

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

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BOSTON, February 14, 2018—Statement in response to President Trump’s FY2019 Budget Proposal to Eliminate Funding for NEA and NEH

This week, President Donald Trump released his budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which proposes the complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The budget was released just one week after the NEA announced its 2018 grants, with more than $1 million going to 40 arts and cultural nonprofits in Massachusetts. It is the second attempt by the Trump Administration to eliminate both agencies; last year’s budget from the Trump Administration also proposed zero funding for the NEA and NEH, but Congress rejected the proposal.

“For 50 years, funding from the NEA and NEH has supported small, medium, and large cultural institutions across the Commonwealth. They’ve helped develop and showcase new and innovative art forms and to bring vibrancy and creativity to our neighborhoods,” said MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson. “Eliminating the these national cultural organizations would destroy successful efforts that have long benefitted the public good. ”

The NEA budget is approximately $150 million and represents less than one-half of one percent of the entire federal budget. But NEA funding is unique among many public programs in that it generates additional investment from local and state governments and private entities. Two of the NEA’s four grant-making programs—Art Works and Challenge America—require matching funds. The other two—Our Town and Research: Art Works—offer matching grants to investments made by others, including research institutions and local and state governments. As a result, for every dollar granted by the NEA, an additional $9 are contributed from other sources. This out-sized impact means that NEA-funded projects contribute significantly to the $730 billion arts economy, which supports 4.8 million jobs and represents 4.2 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product.

“It’s always tempting to make our case for investing in the arts based purely on the economic impact,” Wilson added. “But this is about so much more. The Challenge America program of the NEA exists solely to ensure that everyone has access to the arts, not just people of means or those who live in urban areas.”

Recent NEA-funded projects and organizations in Massachusetts have touched every region of the state, and range from nurturing an interest in writing among Roxbury-area youth by funding a collection of stories by youth participants of 826 Boston to installing lighting and public art along a highway underpass to build a safe walking route between the Springdale neighborhood of Holyoke and the city’s downtown.

“We really need to ask ourselves whether we see creativity as something worth investing in as a public good, or if it should be left to the private, monied sector,” Wilson said. “This fight over funding isn’t about money. It’s about who we are.”

MASSCreative is circulating a petition among its members and supporters to ask Massachusetts members of Congress to support continued funding for the NEA and NEH. It will share the petition March 12, during Americans for the Arts Annual Arts Advocacy Day.

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BOSTON, January 24, 2018—Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on Gov. Baker’s Recommended Funding of the Massachusetts Cultural Council in State Budget

“Governor Baker’s proposed funding of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (Mass Cultural Council) at $14 million is a good starting point in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget process. Given that the arts sector is a significant economic driver and community building block in municipalities across the state, we will continue to support a $3 million increased investment in the Mass Cultural Council.

Recent reports by Americans for the Arts and the New England Foundation for the Arts show that in 2015, the nonprofit arts industry generated more than $2.2 billion in economic activity in Massachusetts, while cultural institutions overall generated more than $159 million in tax revenue.

“Aside from economic benefits, arts and culture have been shown to help build more vibrant, equitable and connected communities, reducing crime and improving quality of life for residents. They also bring educational benefits to learners of all ages and varying fields of study, and have been used to improve health and resiliency in people recovering from addiction or suffering from memory impairment and military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“None of these benefits occur incidentally. We reap them when we deliberately choose to invest in arts education and field trips to museums, theatrical productions and musical performances. They happen when we fund local cultural councils that provide free opportunities for arts and cultural events and programs to all members of their communities. They happen when we nurture the development of the Commonwealth’s vast and diverse community of artists, who are driving the reinvigoration of the state’s gateway cities including Lynn, New Bedford and Springfield, and often through projects funded by Mass Cultural Council.

“The arts community is seeking a modest $3 million budget increase to ensure Mass Cultural Council can better carry out its work of promoting excellence, inclusion, education and diversity in the arts, humanities and sciences in our Commonwealth. In the coming months, we will work closely with our legislative allies and a broad, diverse constituency of Massachusetts residents to ensure that Mass Cultural Council receives appropriate funding.”

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