Building Momentum On State Arts Funding
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Arts and cultural leaders meet in Pittsfield at the Lichenstein Center for the Arts. (iBerkshires.com)
When Governor Deval Patrick announced his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal back in January, he allocated only $9.6 million to the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC). That’s $1.5 million less than what was allocated to the MCC in fiscal year 2014.

Leaders in the creative community are getting ready for the House to release their version of the budget on Wednesday, April 9th and have been busy advocating for an increase in public investment to the creative community through a $16 million allocation to the MCC. Several leaders have organized community meetings with their state legislators and are poised for action when the House budget is released. Look out for our action alert on Wednesday, April 9th for how to ask your state representative to support a $16 million budget. 

The first meeting took place in Pittsfield on March 17 at the Lichtenstein Center for Arts with State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier. Nearly 20 arts and cultural community leaders spoke about the ways art and culture have made a positive impact on the community. The meeting was covered by the iBerkshire.com, which reported that Rep. Farley-Bouvier came away from the gathering having learned that arts matter: “This really is a way to change people's lives, and I am very inspired and grateful for what you all have done.” Kudos to Megan Whilden from Cultural Pittsfield and the team from Berkshire Creative for their strong leadership and organizing skills in making this meeting happen!

The Berkshire Eagle also covered the meeting, and reported that Rep. Farley-Bouvier “said members of the local cultural community have proven they are a worthy investment.” The paper later editorialized in favor of increased funding for the MCC: “One way to judge a government agency's worth during perpetually difficult economic times is by assessing how much it gives back to the community. In the case of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), through its support of Berkshire cultural organizations and youth groups, that give-back is considerable.”

Medford
On March 18, Susan Fairchild from CACHE in Medford and Maria Daniels from Medford Arts Council assembled the Medford creative community to meet with legislators at the Royall House and Slave Quarters. Senator Pat Jehlen and Representatives Paul Donato, Carl Sciortino, and Sean Garballey all heard from Medford residents making the case for more arts funding. After a strong array of presenters shared their stories of how arts matter, each of the lawmakers made a strong commitment to work to push for increased public investment in the MCC.

Jamaica Plain/Boston
Also on March 18, Anne Sasser of Stonybrook Fine Arts hosted the Jamaica Plain creative community for an engaging discussion about the impact of arts and culture in the neighborhood. Norah Dooley of Massmouth moderated the meeting, encouraging the audience to share their stories and add to the growing narrative of the larger community. State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez came out to hear from his constituents and present his own insight regarding arts and culture in the legislative process. Conversation between the legislator and the community was free flowing and helpful for both parties. By the end of the meeting, the state representative said that he would support an amendment to increase the MCC budget. You can read more about the meeting in the Jamaica Plain Gazette

Fenway/Boston
On March 19, the Fenway creative community flocked to the Mary Baker Eddy Library to meet with State Senator Will Brownsberger and State Representatives Byron Rushing, Gloria Fox, and Jay Livingstone. With the skillful moderation of Kelly Brilliant of Fenway Alliance, and the organizing efforts of Nicky Enriquez at the Library, the meeting went off without a hitch. Folks in the audience were treated to dynamic presentations from artists from a range of disciplines to help paint the cultural scene in the Fenway. By the time the legislators took the mike, each conveyed appreciation for the opportunity to hear from the arts and cultural community.

Stay tuned for more on the progress of increasing investment through the MCC budget!

Check out our website for upcoming district meetings to find one near you.

In Somerville, residents took a different approach with their project, “Hatch!” Organized by Greg Jenkins from Somerville Arts Council and hosted at Nave Gallery on March 23, the local creative community painted eggs to deliver to the legislature with a creative message in mind: "The idea being—if legislators take care of their eggs (i.e. fund the arts), creativity will hatch!" It’s this kind of activism that sets arts advocacy apart from other groups. Check out our blog post on “Hatch!” and get inspired to take your own creative approach to reach out to legislators. 

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