MASSCreative Testimony to the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development, April 9, 2021

The Honorable Edward J. Kennedy
Senate Chair, Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development
24 Beacon Street
Room 513
Boston, MA 02133

The Honorable Carole Fiola
House Chair, Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development
24 Beacon Street
Room 236
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Chair Kennedy, Chair Fiola and members of the Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development Committee,

On behalf of MASSCreative’s members including 400 arts and cultural member organizations as well as artists, cultural workers, creatives and supporters, thank you for the opportunity to share our perspective on the impact of COVID-19 to the arts and cultural community as well as feedback on recovery strategies.

Thanks to the Mass Cultural Council’s COVID-19 impact survey, the devastation to the arts and cultural nonprofit sector is clear - nonprofit cultural organizations have lost $588,334,079 in revenue since March 2020, while 2,951 artists, teaching artists and creative workers reported $30,403,616 in lost person income. Additionally, according to a January 2021 report from the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University estimated that it will take 25.5 months to recover arts nonprofit jobs to pre-pandemic levels.

We want to emphasize that the impact of COVID-19 is not exclusive to the nonprofit cultural sector. Independent live venues and other for profit entertainment businesses have been impacted as well. The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) estimated that 90% of independent live venues anticipate closing without significant intervention.

A major contributor to the ongoing losses to the arts and cultural community is that our industry will be among the last to fully reopen.  While some destinations have been able to reopen at restricted capacity, it simply isn’t possible for some organizations. State visitor restrictions don’t allow for enough financial stability for some – others simply can’t modify historic sites or existing facilities to meet the state’s guidelines. And finally, for some, it isn’t simply a matter of opening the front doors – booking musical or theatrical acts, for example, requires many months’ notice and the likelihood of financial solvency. We absolutely support the common sense, public health based approach to reopening Massachusetts, however this reopening plan means our sector will be in financial freefall until full reopening is possible.

The impact of COVID-19 and bleak future of the creative sector as described in this data is concerning given the arts and cultural sector’s proven value to the Commonwealth as an economic driver and job provider.

This economic value isn’t the result of a few cultural institutions or tourist attractions - we are a diverse ecosystem that includes community anchor organizations like the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River and the Elevated Thought in Lawrence as well internationally renowned groups like the Museum of Fine Arts and Tanglewood.  We must protect the integrity and diversity of the arts and cultural sector so that we can resume our role as an economic engine and job creator.

The arts and cultural sector is a proven economic engine for Massachusetts.

It is important to note that organizations and individuals have worked hard to adapt during this last year of crisis. From pivoting programming to meet the needs of students struggling with remote learning to providing opportunities for people to gather virtually for creative pursuits and cultural experiences, residents throughout the Commonwealth have benefitted from the arts and cultural community over the last year as we combat the effects of long-term isolation and social distancing. But this isn’t sustainable and it’s not an appropriate long-term plan.

We have seen some bright spots in innovative recovery efforts over the last year. The talents of the creative workforce have been leveraged in various capacities throughout the pandemic to address immediate community needs. Last summer, the city of Salem hired Creative Collective to work with local artists to transform wooden benches and jersey barriers into public art for expanded outdoor dining areas for restaurants in the downtown. The recently announced Trust Transfer Project in Springfield compensates artists to create work that communicates public health information in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and increase immunization rates. These programs provide community benefit and keep creative workers employed. But these are isolated city specific efforts when we need a statewide response.

The arts and cultural sector requires significant and meaningful public support now to ensure its survival in the future.

We want to thank Chair Kennedy for his leadership in sponsoring SD.2105 An Act to Rebuild the Commonwealth’s Cultural Future. This bill will use $200M of the aid from the American Rescue Plan Act to create the COVID-19 Cultural Economy Recovery Fund.

The Commonwealth Cultural Future Act is bold in vision and comprehensive in scope. The grant fund would be available to individual artists, nonprofit cultural organizations and for-profit arts businesses and allowable uses include pay for artists and staff, rent or mortgage payments and other fixed costs.

Already nearly 200 individuals and organizations from across the Commonwealth have endorsed this bill. It will offer significant support and recovery to cultural institutions that are eager to get back to sharing their expertise and their passion. It will also help bolster organizations that are in imminent danger of permanent closure.

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, events over the last year have forced many of us to confront the legacy of our nation’s systemic and violent racism that has marginalized Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color. This is true within the arts and cultural sector where culturally specific arts and cultural organizations that have been impacted by the pandemic also face specific funding and capacity challenges. This is why it is especially important that the Commonwealth Cultural Future Act directs distribution of grants to consider racial diversity and equity, as well as geographic diversity, and programmatic diversity

MASSCreative urges the Committee to fully support this bill.

Looking beyond relief dollars, MASSCreative also supports:

  • Technology capacity funding to ensure arts and cultural businesses can deliver high quality virtual programming to residents across the Commonwealth - we join the Mass Cultural Council in advocating that Governor Baker include the $3 million authorized in last sessions economic Development bond bill for artists and cultural organizations technology instrature costs in the FY22 Capital Spending Plan.
  • Policies that scale up successful artist job programs across the Commonwealth.
  • As the Commonwealth approaches full reopening in the next year, we need funding and programs that get people back into our cultural spaces, restaurants and lodging establishments. We encourage the Committee to consider legislation that will support these efforts.

MASSCreative, our members and supporters stand ready to work with the Committee on any of these items in support of a vibrant, inclusive and sustainable arts and cultural sector for Massachusetts.  Thank you for your service to the residents of the Commonwealth and your consideration.


Emily Ruddock
Executive Director


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published this page in Action Alert: The Commonwealth Cultural Future Act 2021-04-09 13:10:10 -0400

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