#CreatetheVote: Candidates and Voters Talk Culture, Creativity, and Connection

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“Who do you see as the champion in the Massachusetts Congressional delegation for the arts?” Ayanna Pressley asked a group of artists, cultural sector leaders and advocates during a recent gathering. “Because I want to best them. This is important to me. I want this to be an ongoing dialogue.”  

The meeting with Ayanna Pressley was part of MASSCreative’s Create the Vote 2018, a statewide effort to connect candidates and voters and address the role the arts play in our communities. During two separate 90-minute  meetings - just days before the September 6th primary - Pressley and her opponent Michael Capuano listened and responded to the concerns and needs of artists and cultural leaders across the 7th district. At the top of the list were the financial obstacles working artists in Massachusetts face. As noted in For Artists, By Artists, a recent survey co-published by Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition and Artmorpheus, 75% of professional artists/creatives respondents cannot or do not earn their living entirely from their creative practice. The artists surveyed are highly educated, yet earn below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level — in most cases less than $40,000 a year.

Pressley, noted that she includes the needs of artists in all of her anti-poverty work, including affordable housing, education, and access to health care. “We need permanent housing stock for working artists,” she said, adding that many people think of artists as young, independent contractors, not realizing that many artists also have families.

Capuano pointed out that Congress has largely stopped funding housing initiatives and it will take new political leadership for it to get back on the agenda. If it does, he said that housing for artists should be included as a priority. Until then, it was up to local officials to come up with housing deals in economically depressed areas.

As part of the statewide campaign, a Create the Vote questionnaire was distributed to candidates running for Governor, Congress, and the State Legislature. These questionnaires seek information from candidates about the role that arts and culture currently plays in their district; ideas they have for using art to spur economic development and address social problems; and whether they support increased public investment in the arts through the Massachusetts Cultural Council and passage of a Percent for Art Program in the Commonwealth.

Here are 3 things you can do before you vote on November 6:

  1. Read what the candidates are saying about arts and culture and share with your networks. Don’t see a questionnaire response from a candidate you want to hear from? Reach out to them and ask them to fill it out.
  2. Show the candidates you care about arts and culture. Raise your hand, tweet at the candidates, email them, and post questions to their Facebook pages about their positions on arts, culture, and creativity.
  3. Sign on as a Create the Vote Partner and help us engage more candidates and voters.

The topic of championing the creative sector came up during meetings with candidates running to replace former Senate President Stan Rosenberg in Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester. Rosenberg, a long time arts champion used personal political capital to help increase the Mass Cultural Council budget over time, Given the historical leadership by former Senate President Stan Rosenberg for the creative sector, meeting participants were especially interested in how each candidate would approach increasing public support for community art and cultural exchange in the district.

Jo Comerford, the winner in the Democratic primary, acknowledged Rosenberg’s status as an arts champion. Rosenberg’s successor, Comerford said, will have to quickly build strategic relationships to continue delivering for the community.

In the Berkshires, affordable and reliable transportation was a focus of conversation with State Senator Adam Hinds.Hinds, who represents the largest geographic territory in the legislature and an area with a significant creative economy met with creative sector leaders at the Clark Art Institute. Hinds spoke about his vision to better connect the Berkshires and its cultural amenities, noting that infrastructure helps the creative sector thrive and emphasized the need to set up rail access to the region. Hinds co-chairs the legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, a post he said he requested because of what the arts and culture sector has done for his district: as its third largest industry, it brings money to the area, improves its reputation and attracts visitors. Senator Hinds won his primary race against challenger Thomas Wickham on September 6th and is unopposed in the general election.

As we turn our attention to Election Day, MASSCreative will continue to work with voters and candidates to elevate arts and culture on the campaign trail. Lookout for more completed Create the Vote questionnaires as well as candidate town halls and forums at Create the Vote partner organizations on our website.  

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Help Put Arts Education Front and Center for Our Kids

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Notebooks, lunch boxes, and sneakers aren't the only new things you'll find in school this year.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has been busy designing a new School Report Card to help families, teachers, and community members better understand how schools and districts are performing on a number of measures - including arts education.

Last year, the Arts for All Coalition was successful in advocating for arts education to be included on the new School Report Card. Before the Report Card gets finalized and launched later this year, we need to make sure that both access and participation in arts education is being measured and shared in a comprehensive, accessible, and transparent way.

With the support of educators, parents, and advocates, we can ensure arts education is available to every student in Massachusetts regardless of zip code.

Please take a moment to fill out this quick survey so that the arts are featured prominently in the Report Cards.

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Meet MASSCreative’s Campaign Organizer, Rachel Bird

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Rachel comes to MASSCreative through the JOIN for Justice fellowship, a Jewish social justice fellowship that trains community organizers at social justice organizations throughout the greater Boston area. At MASSCreative she will be working on a variety of campaigns in the arts sector, as well as managing MASSCreative’s social media and digital organizing presence.

Originally from Maryland, Rachel recently finished her undergraduate degree at Colby College, majoring in anthropology and Studio art and minoring in poetry. In college she worked in the Colby College Museum of Art and as a Studio Assistant in the printmaking department; she is passionate about accessible arts education for all. Her organizing experience includes participation in campaigns involving voter registration, women’s reproductive health, and community engagement with the outdoors. In her own art, Rachel employs a multi-media approach that combines printmaking and painting with textile work including embroidery and crochet.

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Celebrate #ArtsMatterDay: October 26

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Friday, October 26 is the 5th Annual #ArtsMatterDay and we’re excited for you to join this online celebration of arts, culture, and creative expression.

Last year, the creative community took social media by storm to celebrate #ArtsMatterDay, with more than 600 participating groups and individuals. By sharing hundreds of pictures and videos – and of course, art – we showed why arts matter to us.

With active races for Governor and the MA Legislature, this year’s #ArtsMatterDay gives us a unique opportunity to invite arts supporters, voters, and candidates to share why arts matter to them. With Election Day coming up on November 6, #ArtsMatterDay falls in the final stretch of ‘Get out the Vote’ efforts for candidates. Let’s show them that #ArtsMatter to us and that we vote!

Join us in celebrating #ArtsMatterDay on October 26!

 

P.S. Looking for extra #ArtsMatterDay Materials? Reach out to sdavies@mass-creative.org to order from the supplies below!

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Cultural Facilities Fund Update

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We may not have won our recent fight to increase the state’s funding of the Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF), but we’re winning the war to ensure that elected officials, policymakers, and voters understand the importance of providing funding to maintain the Commonwealth’s storied theaters, concert halls, dance studios, museums, and historical sites.  

Mayors, municipalities, arts leaders, and business leaders from across the state spoke out in favor of increasing CFF funding from $10 million annually over the next five years, to $15 million. In a letter urging legislative leaders to pass an economic bond bill with increased CFF funding, they emphasized the role that these cultural facilities play in their cities and towns: “Our cultural venues are often the anchor of a neighborhood, making our cities and towns exceptional places to live, work, play, and visit,” they wrote, adding that such investments create jobs and grow local economies.

Since 2007, CFF has awarded $110 million to 853 projects around the state that have benefited organizations of all sizes. As a requirement of their CFF funding, each organization has had to raise private funds to also contribute to their capital maintenance projects. Examples include waterproofing, lighting, plumbing and flooring upgrades to the Boston Children’s Museum exhibition hall; upgrades to the lighting, energy and security systems at the Worcester Center for Performing Arts; renovations, upgrades and repairs to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium; and the restoration of the Museum of African American History’s Boston-Higginbotham House on Nantucket. All told, the organizations receiving CFF funding employ more than 7,000 full-time workers and another 25,500 architects, engineers, contractors, and construction workers, generating more than $1.7 billion in economic activity.

Ultimately lawmakers chose to reauthorize the CFF at $10 million a year. It’s not nearly enough to meet demand. A 2017 survey of 164 arts and cultural organizations by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which administers the grants in partnership with MassDevelopment, cataloged $114 million in capital funding needs just through next year.

Still, we have already made tremendous progress. Until MASSCreative began its advocacy efforts in 2013, CFF funding was stuck at $5 million annually. Just as we have methodically worked to increase state and local investment in culture and creativity more broadly, we’re confident that we can continue to grow the state’s investment in its cultural infrastructure. In doing this, as always, we’ll be looking to you to contact your lawmakers and share your stories to build a Commonwealth where arts and creativity are an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life.

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Visit MASSCreative at HUBweek – October 12 

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Come visit the MASSCreative booth at HUBweek, a weeklong citywide festival on Boston City Hall Plaza that highlights the role arts, technology, and creativity play in the Commonwealth. Sponsored by The Boston Globe, Mass General Hospital, MIT and Harvard, HUBweek holds more than 100 events that “brings together innovators, artists, curious minds, and change makers to explore the ways in which we can shape a more inclusive and equitable future for all.” Last year, HUBweek had more than 50,000 visitors.

Along with the Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Society of Architects, the Design Museum, and Sasaki Associates, MASSCreative will take over part of the two-story glass enclosed Hall of the Future to engage visitors in advocacy and hands on experiences around arts and creativity. You can visit the MASSCreative booth on Friday October 12 from 11-9.

You can see the entire HUBweek agenda here and you can register for HUBweek here.

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Building Public Narratives to Support the Arts and Creativity

Helping the arts and creative sector broadcast their stories of impact to the public is a cornerstone of MASSCreative’s advocacy strategy. By telling the public narratives of working artists and cultural leaders, we can better engage and influence our political leaders to bring more support and resources to the sector.

This summer, MASSCreative’s Executive Director Matt Wilson conducted a half-day training with a set of museum curators from the Peabody Essex Museum’s (PEM) Native American Fellowship (NAF) program.

PEM houses the oldest ongoing collection of Native American art in the Western Hemisphere. Beyond stewarding the collection through exhibitions and publications, PEM furthers its commitment to it by fostering and advancing the next generation of Native American leaders in the cultural sector through its fellowship. Since 2010, the NAF has gathered talented emerging indigenous scholars and cultural heritage professionals for summer-long positions within the museum.

Wilson’s training with the fellows, helped them develop their own narrative on what brought them to their work as museum curators. Said Wilson, “Telling one’s personal narrative is a leadership practice. Through narrative, we can learn to access the moral resources we need to make choices we must in response to the challenges of an uncertain world – as individuals, as communities and as nations.”

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Because it engages the “head” and the “heart,” public narrative can instruct and inspire - teaching us not only why we should act but moving us to act. We can use public narrative to link our own calling to that of our community to a call to action. Leaders can use public narrative to interpret their values to others, enable one’s community to experience values it shares, and inspire others to act on challenges to their values.

If you are interested in scheduling a public narrative training for your organization, contact Selassie Davies at sdavies@mass-creative.org.

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In the News

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Pilot Program is Paying Locals to Podcast Read More

Kara Elliott-Ortega Named Boston's New Chief Of Arts And Culture Read More

Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition to Honor and Celebrate the Life of Liora Beer,  November 14th 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...