State Budget Victory: $14.16M for arts & culture

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Last week, the Massachusetts House and Senate passed the FY2016 budget for the Commonwealth, giving the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) $14.16 million – an 18% bump over last year. 

This boost is the latest in a series of recent steps to restore state investment in arts and culture to previous levels from over 25 years ago. In 1988, funding stood strong at $27 million. In three years, the Commonwealth has experienced a 49% increase, working its way up from $9.5 million in 2012 to $14.16 million today.

This victory was made possible through the collective advocacy by leaders and supporters of the arts and cultural community. This year, its impact was greater than ever:

  • More than 250 arts leaders and supporters met with over 70 representatives and senators during MASSCreative's Arts Matter Advocacy Day in March at the Citi Wang Theatre and the MA State House.
  • Arts and cultural supporters sent 5,231 emails to Gov. Baker and the State Legislature showing them that arts matter in Massachusetts.
  • The creative community recruited 103 representatives and 20 senators, a total of 123 out of 200 state legislators to sign on to amendments calling for an increase to the MCC budget.

Congratulations for making your voice heard in the state budget process.

Now, the budget sits on the governor’s desk and he is expected to sign the budget on Friday. Send a quick note to the governor voicing your support for the budget. 

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  Gov. Baker allocates $10M for cultural facilities following advocacy effort

On June 19, Governor Baker released his first capital spending plan, including $10 million for the Cultural Facilities Fund. This allocation comes on the heels of active statewide advocacy by the sector, mayors, and regional chambers of commerce, calling on the governor to invest in the repair and rebuilding of the Commonwealth’s cultural venues.

State cultural leaders stepped up to the plate, submitting videos of their facility projects and reaching out to municipal leaders for their support.

Check out The Hanover Theatre’s video to see how CFF grants have helped them revitalize downtown Worcester.

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  Outside the Box and out in your neighborhood

This summer, you have a unique opportunity to help shape the future of arts and culture in Boston.

Boston Creates, the Cultural Planning team led by the City Department of Arts and Culture, is the most recent example of Mayor Marty Walsh following through on his bold commitments that he made during the 2013 election. Through the public education efforts of the MASSCreative-led Create the Vote campaign, creating a long range plan to guide the growth of the arts and cultural community became a priority in the mayoral debates.

‘Boston Creates’, the Cultural Planning team led by the City Department of Arts and Culture, kicked off the cultural planning process in June and is now holding community meetings to hear from Boston residents. By participating in these discussions, residents can help identify the cultural gems in the neighborhoods and discuss opportunities for improvement. Make sure your ideas are part of the conversation – Sign up now.

Public involvement isn’t limited to these community meetings – the Boston Creates team welcomes resident input 24/7. You can help by taking the survey, sharing an idea, or adding to the map of arts and cultural experiences in Boston.

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  Hand in Hand: How art is being used to break down barriers in South Boston

On a Saturday morning, eight cautious young people and eight equally as wary Boston Police officers were brought together to work “Hand in Hand” on Southie’s latest community project. In light of the recent increase in tension between officers and civilians, specifically individuals of color, founder of Medicine Wheel Productions Michael Dowling felt compelled to act. Medicine Wheel is a group dedicated to using art and self-expression as a catalyst for social change and activism. Unfortunately, many of the young people who engage with Medicine Wheel have had bad history with the police; including one of the participants who at first refused to go into the meeting because one of the officers had “arrested [her] three times” (Boston Globe). Dowling saw this negative history as a barrier to be broken down—and what better tool to use than art?

In April, Dowling reached out to Boston Police Commissioner William Evans and pitched the idea of young people and police officers working together. Evens enthusiastically agreed, hoping that the groups would “meet outside their normal roles, and try to see one another as people, rather than simply as cops and perpetrators” (Boston Globe).

Just as Medicine Wheel has done in the past, by the end of the “Hand In Hand” art day, all sixteen individuals were talking, exchanging numbers, and promising to keep in touch—which they did. The projects they worked on included casting their clasped hands, literally setting the symbol of civilian and police unity in stone (or rather, plaster). Deputy Superintendent Nora Baston, who has worked on community engagement with BPD for years, stated she had “never seen anything connect like that. Everyone was down on the same level when it came to art. It really broke a wall down” (Boston Globe). Evans and Dowling would like to keep the program going, as neither has seen a civilian and police engagement activity affect its participants in a deeper way than “Hand in Hand.”

This amazing project is just one of the ways that art can be used as not just a beautiful image to be admired, but as a force for change and unity across the country.

Read more about this community project in the Boston Globe.

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  Public art blooms on Northeastern campus

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This summer, graffiti artist Jef Aérosol is transforming Northeastern’s urban campus into a public art destination. Joining the pieces created by previous visiting artists (El Mac, Daniel Anguilu, and Shepard Fairey) Aérosol’s work will be visible by passers-by, “creating art for the entire public community to enjoy—not just Northeastern but all of Boston” (Boston.com) President Joseph Aoun hopes that through this public art initiative, the campus will continue to bring life and excitement to an area already filled with creative venues. Within walking distance from the university are the Museum of Fine Arts, Mass College of Art and Design, and the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum. 

Aérosol has already created nearly ten pieces of stencil graffiti across Northeastern’s campus, and there are more to come. According to the university’s vice president of communications Renata Nyul, “it seems like the entire Northeastern community is very happy and excited about getting this art--” as they should be (Boston.com)! Currently, there are no plans to cover or remove any of the murals.

Northeastern’s public art initiative joins the growing trend of public art across Boston, adding to a multitude of works such as the Seven Moon Junction by Shinique Smith on the Greenway and the Stairs of Fabulousness by Liz LaManche at City Hall. This development is one that is very interesting to follow, as public art elevates the importance of the creative community by demonstrating the role of art as a public good.

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  MASSCreative meets its membership goal

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Thanks to the support and generosity of arts, cultural, and creative institutions and working artists across the state, MASSCreative beat its membership goal for the fiscal year.

Membership support increased by 53% over last year with 340 institutions and working artists joining as members of MASSCreative, contributing more than $69,000. This support helps MASSCreative build both the financial and political capacity to effectively advocate for increased resources and support for the arts, cultural, and creative community.

Didn't make it by the end of June? There's still time to make your contribution.

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Community Impact

The Drama Studio is one of a handful of youth theatres in the United States that offers quality, range, and depth in its acting training programs. For Springfield-area youth, the Studio's conservatory program offers an unusual opportunity for training that prepares its graduates (all of whom are college bound) to...