#ArtsMatterDay Across the Commonwealth: A Rousing Online Day of Action

 

On October 26 residents across Massachusetts celebrated the 5th annual #ArtsMatterDay. This year’s Arts Matter Day was the biggest one yet, with more than 750 participants creating and sharing more than 1,500 posts. The hashtags #ArtsMatterDay and #ArtsMatter both trended in Boston with 23,000 engagements and reached more than 1.5 million individuals.

Participants included 15 Massachusetts politicians, celebrities such as Saturday Night Live alumnus and Lexington native Rachel Dratch, and cultural institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Express Yourself, and the Boston Asian American Film Festival. In addition to the outpouring support from the Massachusetts arts community and its supporters, we also saw posts from as far away as California and Pakistan.

Arts Matter Day also generated live events across the state, from the 2nd annual JArts Shabbats to the New Bedford Cultural Council’s community group photo and BU Arts’ Polaroid photo booth in their student center. For social media highlights, check out a recap of the day.

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Massachusetts Votes Yes on Question 3 -- Upholds Dignity and Respect for All.

 

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On Election Day, Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 3, preserving a 2016 law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in public places.

“We congratulate transgender residents and their families, as well as the rest of the state, on this important electoral defense of the 2016 civil rights law. Transgender people must have the same basic protections enjoyed by everyone else in Massachusetts so they can live their lives with safety, privacy, and dignity,” said MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson.

Although much of the focus on this law centered on access to public restrooms, the law also prohibits discrimination in museums, theaters, and art galleries. Creativity in all its forms helps build more vibrant, equitable, and connected communities, and every resident, regardless of gender identity, must be able to safely access the spaces in which we display, express, and showcase art.  

Wilson noted the cross sector coalition who endorsed Question 3, including private companies like Google and Fidelity, as well as all five New England major sports teams. “The arts community joined others across the state in voting yes on Question 3, and we are proud of our participation in the coalition to preserve civil rights protections for transgender residents.”

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Arts and Creativity in the 2018 Election

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On November 6, 110 million people went to the polls to vote--the highest turnout in a midterm election since 1966. Here in Massachusetts, voter turnout was the highest ever for a midterm election in the Commonwealth.

Over the past six months, MASSCreative's Create the Vote coalition brought together candidates and voters to discuss the ways that arts and creative expression connect and engage us, improve schools, strengthen local business districts, and build vibrant neighborhoods. Through candidate questionnaires, sit-down meetings, and forums, Create the Vote showed that arts matter in Massachusetts and in this election.   

MASSCreative kicked off the election season with seven kickoff parties across the Commonwealth at local breweries in North Adams, Easthampton, Worcester, Lynn, Somerville, Dorchester, and New Bedford. After crowdsourcing questions to ask those running for office, we reached out to candidates running for Congress, the Governor’s Office, and the State Legislature, receiving nearly 50 candidate responses to our questionnaire on Arts, Culture, and Creativity. With leaders from the creative community, we held nine sit-down meetings with candidates from across the Commonwealth and a forum with Democratic candidate for Governor Jay Gonzalez.

Congratulations to all the candidates on their campaigns! As we head into the new legislative session in 2019, we look forward to building on these relationships and working with elected officials to utilize the creative sector as they craft legislation and work to solve challenges in districts across the Commonwealth.

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On Arts Matter Day, Jewish Arts Collaborative Blended Online Activism with Community Programming

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On Arts Matter Day, Congregation Or Atid in Wayland showcased the Guy Mendilow Ensemble as part of Arts Matter Shabbat, a celebration of Jewish journeys through the arts that took place during weekly Shabbat services at 15 synagogues around the state.

Mendilow, an Israeli native and world musician, leads a group that performs music in the Ladino tradition, a Judaeo-Spanish culture and language that is nearly extinct. “It was a rare opportunity for congregants to experience that music live and it’s something that Or Atid wouldn't bring in on an average day,” says Laura Conrad Mandel, executive director of the Jewish Arts Collaborative (JArts), which organized Arts Matter Shabbat.  

“I think it's gotten them thinking about what they can do on a more regular basis to bring art to Shabbat throughout the year,” says Mandel.

Showing the ways that art and creativity are—or can be—an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life and encouraging public investment in the arts is what Arts Matter Day is all about. This year’s online celebration of the arts drew participation from over 750 organizations, working artists, and arts supporters as they shared over 23,000 posts, pictures, videos, likes, and comments showing why arts matter to individuals, families, and communities. Altogether, the day of advocacy reached more than 1.5 million people.

But the brilliance of Mandel’s Arts Matter Shabbat was to take the online component of the day and blend it with JArts’ community programming. With each event drawing between 20 to 400 people, says Mandel, Arts Matter Shabbat reached a collective audience of up to 2,000 people. As a result the event was a perfect expression of the mission of JArts, which is to explore and present “the rich, diverse, and creative world of Jewish arts and culture—past, present, and future—to the widest possible audience, in venues across Greater Boston.”

At Boston’s Temple Israel, congregants and artists created works of art inspired by the service in real time during “Studio Shabbat.” Normally, congregants sit and listen as the rabbi or cantor speaks or prays, but Studio Shabbat gave them an instant outlet to process or reflect on the service.

“For those of us who are experiential or visual learners, it gave a really different way to engage with the service,” Mandel says. “They had painters up at the front of the room, painting throughout inspired by the service, and so for me it makes it a much more experiential, inclusive opportunity.”

Other Arts Matter Shabbat events included a performance by Aleph Beats, Brown University’s Jewish A Capella group, at Agudath Achim in Taunton. Jamaica Plain’s Congregation Nehar Shalom and Moishe Kavod House hosted the “Havdalah and Jewish Rhythm Workshop” with percussionist Yedidah Syd Smart. In Sudbury, actor Annette Miller and Boston College Professor Stuart Hecht performed the tribute “Simon Sez: Favorite Scenes from the Late Great Playwright Neil Simon,” at Congregation Beth El.

JArts inaugurated Arts Matter Shabbat last year as a way to expand the organization’s previous involvement with Arts Matter Day from the online realm to in person participation and to increase the broader Jewish community’s focus on the importance of arts and creativity. Because Arts Matter Day is always held on a Friday and therefore coincides with Shabbat, Judaism’s day of rest, it was “a no-brainer,” Mandel says, to marry arts and creativity with the religious observance.

“We loved the idea of a matchup between advocacy and a focus on the arts—something beautiful and interesting and exciting—coinciding with this day of rest,” she says.

JArts reached out to synagogues to ask how they could collaborate on promoting the arts in Jewish communities where art is not necessarily a central issue and there is limited awareness of the need to advocate for public investment in art. Last year’s events were such a success that JArts decided to expand this year and make Arts Matter Shabbat an annual endeavor.

Working with 15 enthusiastic partner synagogues this year, JArts encouraged each of them to create an experience that demonstrated to their entire community just how valuable they consider arts and creativity, while tailoring it to each of the congregations’ needs and wants. JArts helped by making introductions to appropriate artists for them.

Mandel credited MASSCreative’s reputation for stoking the enthusiasm of participating synagogues. “I think the reason this works so well is because MASSCreative has the backing and the stature for people to take it seriously,” says Mandel.

“They've given our organization and community the tools to understand the policy issues and to talk about them in a more concise and clear way,” Mandel says. “That's important because sometimes the biggest barrier to building community-wide support for the arts is a lack of effective language.”

After the success of this year’s Arts Matter Day Shabbat, Mandel also looks forward to seeing the event grow. She’ll be surprised if JArts doesn’t top 20 partners next year.

“I have synagogues saying, ‘I wish we had been a part of this this year,’” she said. “It's an opportunity for them to support the arts in their own community, but also to know and feel like they're part of the work of statewide arts advocates and MASSCreative and JArts, which is an unusual opportunity because it really is a partnership across communities and cultures.”

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Arts Education Gaining Traction in Baker Administration

Arts education in public schools will soon have a new champion! Thanks to the advocacy efforts of MASSCreative and its Arts for All Coalition partners, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has created a full time Arts Coordinator staff position--a first in the history of the department. The Arts Coordinator will help drive a statewide arts education that is rigorous, inclusive of multiple genres and cultures, and relevant to students’ lives in Massachusetts schools.

Commissioner Jeffrey Riley informed the DESE Board at their September board meeting that he had recently filed a request with Secretary James Peyser for a full-time arts education coordinator. At the same meeting, Emily Ruddock, MASSCreative’s Director of Policy and Government Affairs, testified in favor of hiring a full-time arts coordinator.

The arts curriculum frameworks, which have not been updated since 1999, will incorporate advances in artistic disciplines and include media arts curriculum. Since last spring over 75 arts educators worked with DESE staff to create new arts curriculum frameworks and volunteered nearly 600+ hours of expertise to the project.

“This is a big win for arts education in Massachusetts” said Ruddock. “For the first time, arts education will have a dedicated full time staff person at DESE. Not only will they help ensure students receive quality arts education, but they will have a hand in shaping the evaluation tools we use to measure the impact arts education has to overall student success.”

Ruddock also praised Dr. Lurline Munoz-Bennett who, until her recent retirement, served as the Arts Education & Equity Coordinator at DESE. “Dr. Munoz-Bennett’s depth of experience and contribution to arts education was significant, and  we thank her for her work.” As the Coordinator of Arts Education and Equity, Dr. Munoz-Bennett spent fifty percent of her time on arts education and equity efforts respectively.

Sources close to DESE expect a formal job description to be released on the MassCareers website November 19th. DESE will review applications after the job description has been posted for two weeks.

Updated 11/29/10: The position was posted November 27th and can be accessed here.

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48 Hours of Artistic Inspiration: My Trip to Seattle 

Emily Ruddock - MASSCreative Director of Policy and Government Affairs

In compiling a list of the country’s top 10 influential and arty cities, Seattle would make nearly everyone’s top five. It’s exported coffee, Jimi Hendrix, and Dale Chihuly to the rest of us.

But the emergence of a creative culture didn’t happen by accident. Faced with the Great Boeing Bust of the early 1970s and an unemployment rate of 17 percent, Seattle’s then Mayor Wes Uhlman revived a demoralized and out of work population by creating a citywide arts commission. His reason? “We have to give people hope.”

Since then, Seattle has become one of the leading U.S. cities when it comes to public investment in art and creativity. Last month, I travelled to Seattle for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Learning Journey. The two-day event drew 24 policy planners and local elected officials from around the country interested in learning how Seattle has been so successful in making art and creativity an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life.

Over the course of two days, we took tours, sat through presentations, and participated in panel discussions. Our first stop was the Luke Wing Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, located in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District.  Housed in a former community center built by members of the Chinese American community, the Museum takes a community-driven approach to its programming. Exhibits are created with input from the community, and this approach means that every nook and cranny of the museum makes the Asian-Pacific American communities of the area—and their lived experiences—visible.

Next, we learned about Seattle’s commitment to arts education during a panel discussion about The Creative Advantage, a public-private partnership working to make arts education available to every student in Seattle public schools by 2020. Driven by working artists, arts organizations, school leaders, and Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, the initiative is a strategic investment in the future of Seattle.

As Rebecca Lovell of the city’s Office of Economic Development put it during the panel discussion, “the future of work is creativity, empathy and computational thinking” and Creative Advantage is working to make sure each child is fully prepared for work and community leadership.

Next, we heard about the region’s approach to space, culture, and equity.  Seattle, like Boston, is experiencing a population boom. Every nine minutes someone moves to Seattle and every 28 minutes a new unit of housing is built. Supply is not meeting demand, and the housing crisis is real in Seattle.  Each panelist spoke about the struggle of simply keeping communities intact and preserving non-traditional cultural spaces.

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Escaping a Burning Culture, Baso Fibonnaci and Jean Nagi, part of the SODO Track @3414 4th Ave S.

Our first day ended with a walk along the SODO track—a two-mile stretch of murals painted by artists from across the world. Organized by 4 Culture, the cultural funding agency for King County, the SODO track was created over three summers and transformed the backside of the SODO business and warehouse district into a colorful, thought-provoking space that fires up the imagination. The SODO track is also the path for Seattle’s light rail connecting Seattle to the airport and southern region of King County. As a result, the SODO track is the welcoming portal for travelers and commuters into the city. For me, a highlight of the tour was seeing murals created in partnership with Urban Artworks that connected the mural artist with underserved youth in the area.

On our second day we travelled to Washington Hall where Duke Ellington, Afrika Bambaataa, and Bill T. Jones once performed and which was the site of 17-year-old Jimi Hendrix’s first public show. Years of neglect left the the building was in disrepair. Historic Seattle took on the renovation project and restored the space.  Historic Seattle’s Executive Director, Kji Kelly, pointed to the anchor tenants of Washington Hall as the reason the space continues to be of and for the community: 206 Zulu, Hidmo and Voices Rising all focus on connecting young people with artists, building coalitions, and developing the next generation of community leaders.

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The facade of Washington Hall

After the official program was complete, I took advantage of my remaining hours in Seattle to visit The Chihuly Garden and Glass museum next to Seattle’s Space Needle. As I wandered through the exhibits and saw examples of Dale Chihuly’s evolving artistic style, I reflected on the trip.

What sets Seattle apart from other cities of similar size is the care it takes to lift up cultures, encourage creativity, and create art that is accessible to everyone. As many others have pointed out, Seattle is a lot like Boston. It has a healthy private sector, a spirit of technical innovation, and storied cultural institutions. But where Seattle has distinguished itself is with its significant public investment in the creative sector. Artists, cultural leaders, and the creative community are a true partner in the design and implementation of the public policies that make Seattle a place where people are healthier and happier—and have “hope.”  

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View of the Space Needle from inside Chihuly Garden and Glass museum.



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Come Volunteer with MASSCreative!

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As MASSCreative gears up for Advocacy Day and other events in 2019, the staff is looking for volunteers to come into the office to help make these events a success. Please sign up here if you are interested in helping out.

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MASSCreative is Hiring

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MASSCreative is looking for a full time Development Manager to take a lead role in the organization’s foundation and donor outreach, solicitation, and stewardship. Come join our team to help build a more vibrant, healthy, connected, and equitable Massachusetts.

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In the News

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Take a look below to see what's trending on social media.

Where the Seats Have No Name: In Defense of Museum Benches Read More

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Swampscott Couple Gives 5 million to Youth Arts Organization Read More

Breaking Down Barriers in the Arts for People with Disabilities 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...