Essex County Community Foundation Launches its Creative Community Program

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Bringing together more than 400 arts leaders and supporters, from the North Shore, the Essex County Community Foundation launched its Creative Community program to increase support and resources for the arts and creativity.

MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson led workshops to over 60 of the participants on how to build public will for the arts and creativity with city and state leaders in the county.

With support from the Barr Foundation and ECCF's donors, the Creative County Initiative will provide funding in three distinct areas over the next two years:

  • Local Cultural Plan Workshops/Toolkits - one-day workshops (offered in sub-regions of Essex County and in partnership with Metropolitan Area Planning Council and Merrimack Valley Planning Commision) to facilitate local cultural planning partnerships. We anticipate these will begin in the fall of 2018. Details available summer of 2018.
  • Creative Placemaking Grants - funding that encourages creative placemaking in communities. View Grant Guidelines.
  • Public Art Grants - funding for interactive public art projects that connect people through a shared experience. View Grant Guidelines.

The ECCF program is one of four regional programs funded by the Barr Foundation. Barr is also partnering with the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, the Worcester Community Foundation the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts

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In_the_media_1.jpgChildren play under Mobile Suspension, by artist Erwin Redl, part of the city of Spartanburg’s public art project, “Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light.”

 

From Route Fifty:

Investments in the Arts Strengthen Local Economies and Communities Read More

 

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BOSTON, April 26, 2018— Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on House Budget for Funding of the Mass Cultural Council:

BOSTON, April 26, 2018— Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on House Budget for Funding of the Mass Cultural Council:

“We applaud House lawmakers who have approved an increase in funding for the Mass Cultural Council from $14 million to $14.5 million. We’re thankful to Speaker Robert DeLeo and Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez, the 103 cosponsors on state Rep. Cory Atkins’ Mass Cultural Council Amendment and Rep. Stephen Kulik, an arts champion who cited the increase in funding for the Mass Cultural Council in his floor speech about the final House budget.

“The Massachusetts economy would be diminished without the contributions of nonprofit arts organizations, who generated more than $2.2 billion in activity in 2015 alone. Our communities would be much poorer as well. Creativity and culture are the building blocks for vibrant, equitable and connected neighborhoods. Arts education benefits learners of all ages and across fields of study. Art-based therapy improves 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. They come only by deliberately choosing 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.

“We now look forward to working with arts leaders in the Massachusetts Senate as they build their budget. Given the many benefits that art, culture, and creativity imbue across industries and communities, we’ll continue to advocate for a total appropriation for the Mass Cultural Council of $17 million. This will ensure that it can carry out its work of promoting excellence, inclusion, education and diversity in the arts, humanities and sciences in our Commonwealth.”

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Matt Wilson to receive Leadership in Arts Advocacy Award

It’s exciting when the work of MASSCreative and our hardworking staff is publicly recognized in the media, or by political figures and other civic leaders. It’s truly special, though, to be recognized by one of the arts organizations with whom we work side by side in our advocacy efforts, because we have deep respect for each our coalition partners and the important creative and community-building work they do.

That’s why we’re so proud that Central Square Theater (CST) will honor our Executive Director Matt Wilson for his leadership in arts advocacy at its Dream It. Be It. Gala April 30.

Without a doubt, Matt’s leadership of MASSCreative over the last five years has helped make the Commonwealth’s arts and cultural community a potent political force. By bringing together a coalition of 400 arts and cultural institutions under MASSCreative’s banner to advocate for arts funding, organizing more than 50 arts leaders statewide through our Leadership Council; and blueprinting our Create the Vote Campaign model, Matt has spearheaded a movement. Not only has he convinced an increasing number of politicians and Massachusetts voters that arts and culture aren’t just nice, they’re necessary, other state arts organizations now look to Matt for ideas and advice on how to replicate MASSCreative’s success in their own states.

Matt has described his and MASSCreative’s work as creating the political and social “heat and friction” needed to produce a greater depth of support for arts and culture. 

“Saul Alinsky, one of the great political organizers from the ’60s and ’70s, says that to make change, you have got to create a little heat, a little friction, a little uncomfortable-ness,” he said in a recent interview. “Many in the arts community are uncomfortable with putting pressure on decision makers and creating tension. Leaders need to be able to say, ‘Yes, I like you, but you have got to do a little bit more. You cannot just say you like us; you have to be a champion.’ Through its public education and advocacy, MASSCreative works to create that heat and that friction.” 

Matt was initially a surprise pick to run MASSCreative when we formed in 2012. He was not a part of the arts community and his background is in grassroots political organization. Beginning in 1989, he became executive director of Toxics Action Center where he helped more than 300 neighborhood groups address toxic pollution in their own backyards, while growing the organization from a one-person operation working in Massachusetts to a regional operation with 11 staff members.

He left Toxics Action Center in 2005 for a job with the progressive political action group MoveOn.org. There, Matt led efforts to recruit and train more than 100,000 volunteers in 60 swing districts for the 2006 congressional elections—in which Democrats regained control of the U.S. House and Senate—in addition to working to expand the movement against the Iraq war.

From there, Matt worked on Health Care for All’s campaign to ensure consumer and community voices were heard when Caritas Christi Health Care was purchased by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.  

Since then, Matt has put his political organizing skills to work for the state’s arts sector. CST, which joined the MASSCreative Coalition in 2013, has been an important part of that work.

“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,” CST Executive Director Catherine Carr Kelly said recently.

Aside from staging acclaimed, affordable and accessible productions and running arts education and cultural enrichment programs, CST also participates “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,” she said. “MASSCreative has been an important partner in helping create and bring people into this dialogue.”

The Dream It. Be It. Gala takes place Monday, April 30 at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Tickets are $250 and available online.

 

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BOSTON, April 11, 2018 - Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on House Ways & Means Committee Recommended Funding of the Mass Cultural Council in State Budget

BOSTON, April 11, 2018— Statement by MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson on House Ways & Means Committee Recommended Funding of the Mass Cultural Council in State Budget:

“The House Ways and Means Committee proposed funding the Mass Cultural Council at just under $14 million, matching last year’s funding level. It’s a good start, but it’s not enough. Given that art, culture, and creativity is an 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.

“Nonprofit arts organizations contribute significantly to the economy, generating more than $2.2 billion in economic activity in 2015 alone. Art, culture, and creativity also contribute in other ways by building more vibrant, equitable and connected communities. Arts education benefits learners of all ages and across varying fields of study. Art-based therapy improves 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. They come only by deliberately choosing 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.

“We urge lawmakers to show their support for all of the benefits accrued by cultural and creative endeavors in our communities by signing State Representative Cory Atkins’ Mass Cultural Council amendment, calling for a $3 million increased investment in the arts for a total appropriation of $17 million. This will ensure that the Mass Cultural Council can carry out its work of promoting excellence, inclusion, education and diversity in the arts, humanities and sciences in our Commonwealth. All of this is what makes our cities and towns more attractive to residents and visitors alike and assists in building; more vibrant, connected and equitable communities.”

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Fighting Back Against President Trump’s Drastic NEA Cuts

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In February, President Trump released his FY19 budget recommendations that would eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). For over 50 years, the NEA and NEH have provided significant funding across the country and Massachusetts to keep arts and culture accessible and vibrant.

A recent Boston Globe editorial pointed out that “without public support, arts funding tends to gravitate toward wealthier, established institutions. Smaller initiatives, which help support artists and the communities in which they live, often go hungry and underserved communities thereby get cut off from the arts.” The editorial also underlined both Massachusetts and Boston’s historically low investment in arts and culture compared to comparable states and cities.  After three years of flat funding to the Mass Cultural Council, it called on Governor Baker and the legislature to increase the state’s investments in the arts and creativity.

MASSCreative is leading the charge locally and nationally to fight the Trump cuts and increase funding for arts and culture. Next week, MASSCreative Program Advocate Emily Ruddock will join 1,000 other arts leaders in Washington DC at the Americans for the Arts Arts Advocacy Day. She will meet with members of Massachusetts’ Congressional delegation and deliver more than 2,000 signatures from Massachusetts residents in support of the NEA, urging the delegation to stand up to Trump’s shut down plan.  

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The Future is Full of Youth Arts Advocates

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On Wednesday, February 21, MASSCreative staff Tracie Konopinski and Selassie Davies joined over 100 young people for the Boch Center’s Youth Arts for Social Change Summit at Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square, Boston to talk about the importance of youth voice, arts, and advocacy.

The day was led by an inspiring group of teen leaders from the City Spotlights Teen Leadership Program who wear their role as artists and advocates with pride. These are teens to learn from -  they aren't afraid to ask for what they need as creative young people living in Massachusetts.

After coming up with working definition of advocacy to lead the day, the teens discussed ways they have successfully advocated for change and the challenges of advocating for what they need as young people. Turning discussion into action, the participants created performances showing how they would address some of the challenges they experience - pressure to succeed, gun violence, lack of access to affordable higher education and information they need to make healthy life choices.

Many of the young people had already heard about President Trump’s proposal to shut down the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and were ready to add their voices to our fight against it. Read why #ArtsMatter to them and why they're asking their members of Congress to stand up for arts and culture.

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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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