Create the Vote (CTV) Fellowship Retreat

During the weekend of February 12th and 13th, MASSCreative hosted the Create the Vote (CTV) Fellowship at Essex Woods Meeting and Retreat Center. The retreat started a yearlong journey for the Fellows to develop their grassroots organizing knowledge and strengthen their professional network through sharing, learning, networking and mentorship, with the goal of co-designing a strategy to strengthen and support local and regional networks of arts and cultural advocates. The retreat was co-developed and co-led by Marian Taylor Brown, Co-Director of Collective Abundance at Arts Connective International

The nine CTV fellows and MASSCreative staff kicked off Day one of the retreat Saturday morning at 10:00am. Fellows joined from their geographically different locations in Massachusetts. Fellows came from places like Boston to Fitchburg to New Bedford to join in community with each other and engage in thought partnership. Throughout the day, the CTV fellows and MASSCreative staff joined together for workshops that dove into shared learning practices and advocacy 101. MASSCreative Executive Director, Emily Ruddock, directed a workshop that gave transparency to how as an arts and cultural leader to engage in policy work and she also explained the workings of the legislative cycle of the Massachusetts government. Many of the Fellows remarked how walking through the legislative process helped them rethink their own personal civic engagement as well as how to include it in their Create the Vote MA organizing plans.  

In addition to diving into educational workshops, the Fellows had the opportunity to connect informally with each other through fun activities. Such activities included exploring nature, sharing their creative and artistic talents and roasting s’mores. These casual activities allowed fellows to build rapport outside the development of their individual plans for advocacy work. 

On the second day of the retreat, sessions focused on the multiple and intersectional identities that we all hold. MASSCreative’s Director of Engagement and Organizing, Tri Vi Quach, led exercises to teach theories of Justice. As community organizers, each Fellow will convene diverse artists, culture bearers and arts supporters. By rooting shared organizing efforts in a justice framework, Create the Vote Fellows will ensure the arts and cultural advocacy they co-create in Massachusetts is focused on increasing resources for the entire creative community, strengthening a more diverse sector and addressing historic underinvestment in global majority cultures, communities and populations.  

During lunch, Fellows welcomed Arts and Culture sector leaders like Michael J Bobbit, Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council, Catherine Morris, Founder of BAMS Fest and Director of Arts + Culture for the Boston Foundation, and Harold Steward, Executive Director and Cultural Strategist of The Theater Offensive and MASSCreative Board member. After joining together for informal conversation and community building, the Fellows heard from each leader on the need for increased, inclusive and equitable advocacy for the arts and cultural community in Massachusetts.  

The retreat concluded on plenty of good vibes, dedication to the work ahead and a stronger sense of community among the Create the Vote Fellow Cohort.The Create the Vote Fellowship retreat makes a great step towards progress for building a community of support for the Fellows. MASSCreative is hopeful for the amazing work in the months to come.

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MASSCreative Announces Inaugural Cohort of Create the Vote Fellows

 Year-long learning community for grassroots organizers will focus on building and sustaining political power in Massachusetts’ arts and cultural sector

Boston, February 15, 2022―MASSCreative announces that nine artists and creative leaders have been selected to participate in the first class of Create the Vote Fellows. The Create the Vote Fellowship is a yearlong learning community for grassroots organizers focused on building advocacy, creating knowledge, and sustaining political power in Massachusetts’ arts and cultural sector.

“Art and culture are a public good deserving of public support. Yet politicians and other decision makers often take the contributions of cultural organizations, artists, their creations, and the nearly infinite ways in which they make life worth living for granted,” said Emily Ruddock, Executive Director of MASSCreative. “Create the Vote Fellows will be trained in the strategy and tactics of effective political advocacy and organizing. They will learn how to build and sustain political power to ensure public investment and attention to the arts and cultural organizations and people who contribute so much to the quality of our lives and the health of our communities.”

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February 11 MASSCreative Virtual & Policy Action Update

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Advocating for Local ARPA Funds Guide

In March 2021, President Biden signed into law the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Included in the recovery package are specific funds to support every state, city, town and Tribal government. That means that every city and town in Massachusetts will receive a portion of federal funding to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities.

Thanks to the united advocacy of artists, cultural organizations and arts supporters, $60M was recently allocated by the legislature for the arts and cultural sector. It will be distributed through a new grant program by the Mass Cultural Council.

Like the Commonwealth, cities and towns have until December 31,2024 to allocate funds and until December 31, 2026 to spend them. However, many communities are making their funding decisions RIGHT NOW. We must work to ensure cities and towns allocate a portion of their funding to the recovery and stabilization of the arts and cultural sector.

But what happens if the process is less than transparent or your advocacy is met with opposition? Below are some important tips, tricks and recommendations to aid you and other local advocates in your work.

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Governor’s budget recognizes need among artists and cultural nonprofits

BOSTON, January 26, 2022—Today, Gov. Charlie Baker released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023. In it, he recommends allocating $20.4 million for the Mass Cultural Council, which is a slight increase over the FY22 annual allocation ($20M). MASSCreative Executive Director Emily Ruddock issued the following statement in response: 

“This is a great start, and we applaud Gov. Baker for recognizing the depth of need among artists and arts and cultural nonprofits. Since March 2020 and the pandemic-related closure of museums and stages and the cancellation of musical performances, plays, and other live performances, 981 arts and cultural nonprofit organizations—which represent a sliver of the state’s creative economy—have reported $588.3 million in pandemic-related losses. Nearly 3,000 creative workers in Massachusetts lost over $30 million during that same time.

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Legislature settles on final version of ARPA Spending Plan

In recent news 

On December 3, 2021 the legislature passed H.4269 “An Act Relative to Immediate COVID-19 Recovery Needs”. The $4B spending plan directed specific allocations to a variety of sectors and projects impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The legislation included $60 million for the Mass Cultural Council to distribute through new grant programs for recovery and stabilization support to artists and cultural organizations. 

What has happened so far

The path to a final bill began in June 2021 when Governor Baker released his proposal to invest $2.8 billion in federal COVID-19 funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. Over the last seven months, arts and cultural advocates from across Massachusetts have rallied for significant funding for the creative sector. 

Along the way, both the House and Senate versions included direct recovery grant support for artists and cultural organizations:

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Using ESSER III for Arts Education

As part of the American Rescue Plan Act, significant resources were allocated to school districts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Arts for All Coalition has put together a number of recourses to support arts education advocates in accessing this funding:

Download our ESSER III Arts for All Resource


The Education funding allocation ($125 billion) of the American Rescue Plan Act is the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III or ARP ESSER). ESSER III's purpose is to help schools and districts safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and must respond to the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students, and particularly those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Over the next three years as follows:

  • FY22: Upon approval 6/30/2022 (Year 1).
  • FY22 ESSER III grant awards will be extended into FY23 - 7/1/2022 6/30/2023 (Year 2)
  • FY24 7/1/2023 6/30/2024 (Year 3)
  • FY25 7/1/2024 9/30/2024 (Year 4).


Funds will be disbursed through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary


Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) - allocations by community: allocation.aspx?view=code&fy=2022&code=119


Through Title I channels, however the allocations are independent of Title I policies.


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Action Alert: Conference Committee Members for ARPA bill Appointed

On Monday November 15, members of the Conference Committee were appointed to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate American Rescue Plan Act Spending bills.


With the Legislature set to begin winter formal recess on November 17, the legislature has very little time to pass the ARPA spending bill. Otherwise they will have to wait until January. 

We have just a few days to make sure our State leaders hear loud and clear from the arts and cultural community.

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MA Senate Unanimously Approves ARPA Spending Plan

On November 10, 2021 the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed its proposal to spend $3.82 billion of the Commonwealth's American Rescue Plan Act Fiscal Recovery Funds. This represents more than half of the $5.3 billion allocated to Massachusetts through the federal rescue plan. 

Here is a summary of the process, how we worked together to ensure artists were included in recovery grants, and what to expect next in our continued advocacy for equitable recovery assistance to the Massachusetts arts and cultural sector.

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Congratulations to Mayor Wu

November 11, 2021 - Forty-one members of the Create the Vote Boston Coalition co-signed a letter of congratulations to Mayor-Elect Wu. The letter welcomed Mayor-Elect Wu to her new post and thanked her for her focus on arts and culture during her campaign. The signatories also reminded Mayor-Elect Wu of the significant value that arts and culture bring to residents across Boston and the policies the Create the Vote Boston Coalition urge the city to implement in order to ensure a strong, inclusive and equitable arts and cultural economy for the city. 

Signatories included artists and cultural leaders from across the city including Zakiyyah Sutton, Micah Rosegrant, Cristina Todesco; Ashleigh Gordon, Artistic Director of Castle of our Skins; Shawn LeCount and Karthik Subramanian of Company One; J. Cottle, Founder of Dunamis; The New England Foundation for the Arts; The Huntington Theatre Company, ArtsBoston, Boston Gay Mens Chorus, The Museum of Science, Boston and The New England Aquarium.

click the button above to automatically download the letter

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