The time is almost here - the House will release the final budget for FY15 next week, and we will learn the status of the state funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Council. We at MASSCreative thought it would be good to take a step back and look at how far we have come over the past few weeks and share the overwhelming support the arts have received.
Let's start with the 14 successful district meetings held throughout Boston. These meetings attracted over 539 community leaders and artists and brought them to a meeting ground with 33 state legislators. The creative community used these opportunities to show how important the arts are to community development and why they need greater financial support to thrive and develop. These meetings also helped us create buzz in local newspapers and local television networks about what we as an organization hope to accomplish and how important the arts are to our communities. We hope to have a few more in the future, so if we haven't come to your district yet, don't worry and keep an eye out!
To all those who helped organize those meetings and the artists who came and shared their stories: thank you. You are the reason for their success. You are the reason legislators listen. You are helping to ensure a better future for the arts in Massachusetts.
Despite of all that positive activity, we were hit with a very unfortunate message on the day of the release of the proposed House FY15 budget, which suggested cutting state funding for the MCC from $11.1 million down to 5 million, which equates to about a 54% cut. This was not only a shock to the arts community in Boston, but also a significant disappointment after such positive feedback we had received all over the state from people and legislators alike.
Fortunately, with the support of local communities, we were able to mount an immediate response targeted at raising awareness of this dramatic cut and try to start a movement to reverse it. This reversal developed into amendment 357, submitted by Representative Cory Atkins, that proposed raising the budget up to $16 million.
So far, the response we have seen has been incredible. After the rapid initial response to our call to action the day the budget was released, and now, two weeks later, there have been a total of 2026 messages sent to 151 representatives in the House asking that the amendment be passed.
Those messages were heard. Representatives flooded in to support Atkins, and as of today, 113 House representatives have co-signed Atkins' amendment and are supportive of the budget increase.
Watching the response grow has been incredibly moving, seeing that so many people care about protecting funding for the arts in our communities and are fighting to prevent a further decrease to our already insufficient funds.
In particular, the Twitterverse and the rest of the social media world was abuzz with responses that varied from disbelief to frustration to outrage. To take a look at a few examples and see how we assisted in organizing a response, check out our summary on Storify!
Even though the community response has been phenomenal, there is still work to be done. First and foremost, contact your representative if you have not yet done so. We've managed to reach 151 of the house representatives, which is an incredible feat on its own, but don't let that stop you; the more people keep asking, the more likely they will respond. And we'd love to reach those last few representatives, too.
If you have already contacted your representatives, thank you for reaching out and showing him or her how important this amendment is to you. Also, now is a great to thank them for the support they have provided, and once again remind them to support the amendment. Representatives still have time to go before the House Ways and Means committee with this amendment as one of their priorities.
So let's push hard to the finish everyone! We have one weekend to garner any other support for this amendment we can. Thanks to everyone for their efforts thus far and let's continue to show our legislators that the arts matter in our lives. We are ready and willing to fight for them.