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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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.

“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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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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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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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...