New Era Coming for Arts Education in the Commonwealth


Backpacks, sneakers, and haircuts aren't the only new things you'll find in school this year. The 2017-18 school year also marks the first-time districts across the state will be operating under new state education guidelines written in response to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan federal education law passed in 2015. 

Last year, a coalition of arts education advocates, including MASSCreative, successfully pushed proposals that broaden student access to "a well-rounded education." Its passage marks a much-welcomed embrace of the idea that the "whole child" should be educated after 20 years of an ever-narrowing curriculum.

The ESSA guidelines adopted by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) prioritize arts education for students across the Commonwealth. Under the new DESE plan, every school district will soon include data on access to arts education on their school and district "report cards." This will make it easier for parents, students, and other members of the community to see what their schools are doing, and compare them with other districts.

In the 2015-16 school year, less than half of high school students in Massachusetts took an arts class. This is discouraging given that an ever-growing body of research shows that arts education contributes to lower dropout rates, improved academic performance-including in math and reading-and higher SAT scores. And 2011's Reinvesting in Arts Education report of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities noted that arts engagement fosters better habits of mind such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and independence.

State education leaders have also committed to revising the Arts Curriculum Framework, which has not been updated since 1999. Curriculum frameworks are the guides districts and schools use to develop local curricula and to determine a quality education in each subject area. This is yet another step toward ensuring all Massachusetts students can reap the benefits of arts education.

Embracing the arts in this way does not mean that we are abandoning the quest to educate students at the highest academic levels. It means that we are furthering our mission to educate students to their highest potential.

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Mass Cultural Council Budget Restored


On Thursday afternoon September 28, the Massachusetts Senate voted to override Governor Charlie Baker’s summertime veto to the Mass Cultural Council budget, reversing a 13% cut to the creative community. This unanimous vote in the Senate and the earlier 138-14 vote in the House shows solid bipartisan support and makes a strong statement that arts and culture are public goods worthy of state investment. This vote officially brings the Mass Cultural Council FY18 budget back to $14 million and steers clear of devastating cuts to grants and programs.

Read the Boston Globe Editorial, which praises the override and urges political leaders to invest more in the arts.

This victory is a direct result of your advocacy and engagement. In March, 600 arts and cultural supporters marched to the State House on Arts Matter Advocacy Day to rally for more public investment in the arts. Over the past six months, arts advocates sent thousands of messages to state legislators requesting an override of the governor’s veto. Your engagement and outreach reached every member of the Legislature and resulted in 112 legislators signing onto the Mass Cultural Council Override Letter and committing to the override.

Your legislators need to know that their actions are appreciated. Send your legislators a note, thanking them for recommitting their support to arts and culture.

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MASSCreative statement on new report about economic contributions of the creative economy

BOSTON, September 25, 2017—Today, the Americans for the Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts, and Barr Foundation held a press conference calling attention to data showing the importance of the creative economy to the local region. MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson offered the following comments in response:

“This data confirms that arts matter in Massachusetts. The sector employs as many people as the construction industry. It spurs more than $2 billion of economic activity in Massachusetts alone. It is long past the time for our public officials to show the arts and creative sector the same levels of support given to healthcare, technology, and private industry.

“That means making public investments in creative projects, such as designated cultural districts that improve downtown economies, and local music festivals that bring neighbors together and build closer, more connected communities. It also means keeping the arts sector in mind when making important policy decisions. Our economy thrives when creative workers are trained and supported. Our downtowns and neighborhoods are healthier and more vibrant when public art and design are integrated into development and cultural institutions are well-resourced. Our students do better across all academic disciplines when schools offer sequential arts education from K-12.

“This fall, MASSCreative is running non-partisan Create the Vote campaigns in 20 cities across the state to raise awareness of these issues among the voting public and candidates for mayor and city council. The Commonwealth needs champions of the arts on city councils and mayor’s offices, because communities with vibrant arts scenes are places in which people want to live, work, and play.”


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Create the Vote campaigns in 40 municipal elections raising awareness of arts and creative expression to cities and towns

BOSTON, September 20, 2017—MASSCreative announced today that nearly 40 municipalities are taking part in Create the Vote initiatives this fall. Organized by MASSCreative, a statewide arts advocacy group, in partnership with local arts groups and cultural councils, Create the Vote campaigns 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.

During the Create the Vote campaign, MASSCreative and local cultural councils will share with voters the answers candidates give to a questionnaire about the arts. In some districts, they will also meet with candidates for municipal office and host debates.

“Creative expression builds powerful connections among communities of people and strengthens educational offerings and local economies,” said Matt Wilson, executive director of MASSCreative. “Local initiatives, such as library reading programs, outdoor concerts, public mural projects, and cultural districts that encourage residents and visitors alike to patronize local businesses are among the most powerful examples. These programs and activities are successful and their impact scales dramatically when they enjoy the support of municipal leaders. That’s why it’s so important to talk about these issues with candidates.”

A recent analysis by the National League of Cities (NLC), shows that mayors across the country view arts and culture as an important economic driver that is worthy of investment. NLC’s 2017 State of the Cities report analyzes and catalogues the top issues articulated by U.S. mayors in their annual State of the City speeches. Predictably, economic development topped the list of the mayors’ priorities. Breaking down that issue, NLC noted that arts and culture was one of the top five economic subsets—along with job creation, business attraction, downtown development and employment—that mayors identified as important or of interest in the growth of their cities.

Arts and cultural organizations and local cultural councils have sent questionnaires to candidates for mayor and city council in Boston and Lynn; questionnaires have been sent to city council candidates in Cambridge, Springfield, and Barnstable; and questionnaires have been sent to candidates for state senate in the special election to be held in the Bristol Norfolk district.

Completed questionnaires are available online at

The Create the Vote Cambridge coalition will hold a debate on the arts on October 12 at Central Square Theater.

The Newton Cultural Alliance will hold a debate on the arts on October 17 at the Boston Ballet School in Newton between mayoral candidates Scott F. Lennon and Ruthanne Schwartz Fuller, who have also filled out an arts questionnaire.

Other participating cities and towns will likely include Agawam, Amesbury, Attleboro, Beverly, Brockton, Chicopee, Easthampton, Everett, Fall River, Framingham, Franklin, Gardner, Gloucester, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Marlborough, Medford, Methuen, New Bedford, Newburyport, Northampton, Peabody, Salem, Taunton, , Westfield, West Springfield, Woburn, and Worcester.

Create the Vote was 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 the MASSCreative Website Twitter with the hashtag #CreateTheVote. You can also “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @MASSCreative, and visit


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Arts and Culture in the 2017 Mayoral Race: A Community Conversation with Mayor Marty Walsh

With more than 40 mayoral and city council races happening across the Commonwealth this November, MASSCreative's Create the Vote 2017 Initiative is working with arts leaders to make sure that candidates and voters are talking about arts, culture and creativity in their local campaigns.

Kate Huffman, a member of MASSCreatives's Leadership Council, attended a forum with Boston Mayoral Candidate Marty Walsh on Wednesday June 20th.  Here is her report on what Walsh said about arts and culture:

On Thursday, July 20th, Mayor Marty Walsh sat down with JP Progressives for a community conversation as part of the organization’s endorsement process for the 2017 Mayoral election. A similar event was held on the previous Tuesday night with City Councilor and Mayoral candidate Tito Jackson. 

The gathering space at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain was full of folks who had come to hear the Mayor talk about his past three and a half years in office and his plans for the future if he were to be reelected. Mayor Walsh started off by introducing himself, talking about his upbringing in Dorchester by his Irish immigrant parents and his strong support of unions, having joined the Laborers Local 223 union when he was 21 and serving as the union’s president until he was elected Mayor. He spoke about his extensive experience in government, first in serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for 17 years, and as Mayor of Boston since 2014. 

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Bridging Political Gaps Over Handmade Mugs

Growing up many of us are told that for the sake of civility we should avoid discussing politics or religion in polite company. Seems reasonable at first, but how do we learn how to actually talk about difficult subjects when they come up? What can art, craft, and design do to make this conversation start?

Good question, because as humans we instinctively view the world in terms of "Us vs Them". Seriously, our brains hate other people. But that doesn't mean we can't change it, even when it seems like an uphill battle. Today's politically charged storm of controversies creates a hostile atmosphere for many to find common ground. Across the nation Americans are seeking ways to bridge this difficult gap and, oftentimes, artists are at the forefront of this curation process. Artists can change people's perceptions, tell each others stories, and invite powerful conversations. So what better way to do that than with conversation over a cup of coffee or tea?

The Democratic Cup seeks to provide you with just the mug for the occasion! It is a "slow activism" project created by potters Ayumi Horie and Nick Moen that stimulates political conversation through imagery on handmade cups. Are you a potter? You too can join the project by receiving a free decal from their website to apply to your own mug. Why mugs? As their website states:

"We encourage person-to-person civil conversations about social and political issues. As a country, we need conversations and connections to reinforce the dignity and inclusivity of all Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, and culture."

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Protecting the Arts to Protect Our Freedoms


As people continue the fights for social justice, artists and activists wonder whether arts advocacy should be put on the back burner. Why are we pushing for something that seems like a privilege when there are so many immediate struggles that need our attention?

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Arts Join the Conversation on Immigration




“Immigration lawyers believe the State Department has been denying more artist visas after President Trump ordered heightened vetting for all visa applications earlier this year,” writes the ARTery’s Maria Garcia.

President Trump’s second executive order on immigration, called for "immediate implementation of additional heightened screening and vetting protocols and procedures for issuing visas." For international artists, this meant increased difficulty and uncertainty in an already highly subjective process.

Arts groups wishing to bring international artists to the U.S. must file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, must prove the artist will have contractual employment in the U.S., and must prove that the artist is "renowned".

It is the subjectivity of this last qualification which allowed federal authorities to deny entry to the Boreas Quartett Bremen this May - Garcia’s main example for the increased scrutiny on visa applications. The four female members of the German musical group were scheduled to perform at the Boston Early Music Festival and were forced to cancel because authorities deemed them inadequately renowned, despite much evidence to the contrary

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Arts Budget Threatened Again: Override Needed


For the third time in three years, Governor Charlie Baker vetoed the Legislature’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget for the Mass Cultural Council and cut arts funding by 14%.

If lawmakers do not override this veto, the Mass Cultural Council’s budget will be cut to $12.1 million from $14 million.

With federal arts spending under attack from the Trump Administration, many states have recognized the need to strengthen their support for the creative sector. Thirty states have chosen to either increase their investment in the arts or maintain current spending levels even in the face of weak revenues. If this veto stands, Massachusetts would bear the third largest percentage cut to the arts in the nation, behind only Rhode Island and North Carolina. 

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MASSCreative to Highlight Arts and Culture During Mayoral and City Council Elections


Over the next four months, MASSCreative will partner with local arts leaders and cultural institutions groups to run Create the Vote campaigns during their cities and town’s mayoral elections. The campaigns will highlight the important role that arts and culture play in making art accessible to local residents; building community; and strengthening local economies.

In November, more than 40 cities across the Commonwealth will hold Mayoral and City Council elections.  City-based non-partisan Create the Vote campaigns will meet with candidates and encourage them to develop dynamic cultural policies. Local cultural institutions will reach out to their networks to educate voters on the candidate’s positions and urge their networks to think about arts and culture in the voting booth. 

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