Highlighting Arts and Culture in City Elections


Elections are a time for candidates and voters to discuss the strengths and challenges of our towns and cities. It is also the time where communities can debate their visions for the future and think about what is possible.

This fall, MASSCreative injected arts and culture into city elections all across the Commonwealth. MASSCreative worked with over 100 coalition partners in 15 communities to hold public meetings and publicize over 100 candidates’ answers to a questionnaire about the arts. Candidate forums focused on the arts were held in partnership with local cultural organizations and artists in Newton, Cambridge, and Springfield.

Seeing the need to make arts and culture part of the discussion, MASSCreative’s non-partisan Create the Vote 2017, raised awareness and support for arts, culture, and creative expression in dozens of mayoral, city council, and the state legislative races across the Commonwealth.

"In over a dozen cities, the arts community did a great job educating and encouraging mayoral and city council candidates to take bold positions on the arts. Arts leaders pushed candidates to think creatively about how to use artists and cultural institutions to improve the quality of life in communities,” said MASSCreative’s Program Director Tracie Konopinski.  

At the end of October, MASSCreative held its 4th annual Arts Matter Day, an online day of action to celebrate arts and culture in the final days before Election Day. Over 600 organizations and individuals participated, with over 15,000 posts and engagements that reached 1.5 million social media users. Check out our Storify for social media highlights.

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MASSCreative Welcomes New Staff: Emily Ruddock and Selassie Davies 

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We are thrilled to welcome two new staffers to MASSCreative. Please join us in welcoming Program Advocate Emily Ruddock and Administrative Assistant Selassie Davies.

Emily Ruddock is passionate about the arts and making a difference in her community. She joined MASSCreative in December 2017 as the Program Advocate, working to advance MASSCreative’s policy platform with government officials, opinion leaders, and advocacy partners.

Emily was the first Director of the Downtown Lynn Cultural District in Lynn, MA. During her tenure she established the DTLCD Cultural Partners Steering Committee and the Artists Advisory Council, and advocated for the establishment of Lynn’s Public Art Committee. 

For over a decade, Emily worked as a theatre producer and casting director. As the Artistic Producer at Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, she produced plays by Idris Goodwin, Sean Daniels, Lauren Gunderson, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and Wendy MacLeod. At Actors Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky, Emily produced Heist! a site-specific world premiere by Deborah Stein at 21C Museum Hotel. She coordinated the casting of over 60 productions including world premieres by Naomi Iizuka, Carly Mensch, Eric Coble, Carlos Murillo, Gina Gionfriddo, and Deborah Zoe Laufer. Emily also created and co-produced Actors Theatre's The Late Seating, featuring local artists across artistic disciplines.

Emily graduated with a degree in Critical Social Thought from Mount Holyoke College and holds a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.

Selassie Davies joined MASSCreative as the Administrative Assistant in November 2017. Born in Boston, Selassie grew up in the Midwest before returning to Massachusetts for college. She graduated from Wheaton College in 2016 with a B.A. in Film and New Media Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Following graduation, Selassie completed a fellowship with the Media Art for Public Service (MAPS) media literacy program, a partnership between the Boston Health Commission’s Start Strong Initiative and MIT. She facilitated discussions with students as they navigated the complex topics of gender, sexuality, ability, race, class, mental health, and other areas of difference, to create digital art for social change.

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MASSCreative Leadership Council Gathers for Retreat


In November, MASSCreative’s Leadership Council came together for its 3rd Annual Leadership Council Retreat, bringing together 40 leaders from across the Commonwealth to help MASSCreative build the strongest statewide grassroots arts and cultural advocacy network in the country.  

The Leadership Council consists of thought and advocacy leaders from all regions of the Commonwealth who not only engage their networks in action, but understand the potential of building a broad-based movement for arts, culture, and creativity. As regional leaders and connectors, the Council works to win bold campaigns for the larger arts and cultural community.

The Leadership Council Retreat, held at the Walker Center in Auburndale, was full of thoughtful discussions and workshops about how to engage beyond our comfort zone in order to build a more vibrant, healthy, and equitable Massachusetts. MASSCreative staff led small group discussions to guide the Leadership Council in thinking bigger and bolder about arts advocacy and broadening the base of arts and cultural advocates beyond our core supporters. Sharing Arts Midwest’s research report Creating Connection, MASSCreative’s Deputy Director Betsy Groban discussed how incorporating the concepts of  “creative expression” and “connection” into messaging can help organizations and artists better engage new audiences and supporters. Matt Wilson, Executive Director of MASSCreative discussed the need to look beyond our core issues and the creative community’s role regarding the 2018 state ballot initiatives. Program Director, Tracie Konopinski worked with Leadership Council members to develop the MASSCreative Partnership Pilot Program, an initiative to deepen relationships and benefits with our Member Organizations.

We look forward to the new year, when we’ll be working with Council members to engage advocates from both inside and outside the arts sector on our campaigns to increase public funding for the arts, enhance arts education, and build momentum for creative placemaking. MASSCreative supporters interested in joining the Leadership Council should contact Program Director Tracie Konopinski.

Jenny Arndt, Creative Haverhill    Tracy Kraus, Worcester Chamber Music Society
Pasqualina Azzarello, Easthampton City Arts+ David Kuehn, Cotuit Center for the Arts
Tracy Barbosa, artist, New Bedford David Lavalley, The Center for the Arts in Natick
April Bo Wang, 826 Boston Jen Lawless, Massachusetts Cultural Council  
Dee Boyle Clapp, Arts Extension Service, UMass Amherst Natalie Lemle, art_works, Boston
Sara Brookner, ArtsEmerson, Boston Seth Lepore, artist, Easthampton    
Irene Buck, Westport Cultural Council   Ashley Mac, Boston Children's Chorus  
Cathy Carr Kelly, Central Square Theater, Cambridge   Laura Mandel, Jewish Arts Collaborative, Newton
Debra Cash, Boston Dance Alliance, Boston   Burns Maxey, CitySpace, Easthampton
Susan Chinsen, Boston Asian American Film Festival Jason McCool, Aeronaut Brewery Arts Liaison, Somerville
Craig Coogan, Boston Gay Men's Chorus, Boston Jessica Morrison, American Repertory Theater, Cambridge
Kathy Czerny, South Shore Conservatory, Hingham   Susan Nicholl, MetroWest Visitors Bureau, Framingham
Michelle Daly, MCLA Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, North Adams Bridget O'Leary, New Repertory Theatre, Watertown  
Alexandra de Montrichard, Eric Carle Museum, Amherst   Nicole Olusanya, Arts Emerson, Boston
Corey Depina, Zumix, Boston Karen Ristuben, Rocky Neck Arts Colony, Gloucester
Peter DiMuro, Dance Complex, Cambridge Gary Roberts, Medford Arts Council  
Cedric Douglas, The Up Truck, Boston Sara Robinson, Celebrity Series of Boston
Morgan Drewniany, Springfield Central Cultural District Aziza Robinson Goodnight, arts advocate, Boston
Nicky Enriquez, MassArt, Boston     Jon Saxton, Board President, Boston Singers' Resource
Jean Ford Webb, Mother Brook Arts and Community Center, Dedham Vanessa Snow, Greater Boston Labor Council
Ty Furman, Boston University Arts Initiative Justin Springer, Outside the Box Agency, Boston
Bailey Girvan, Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge Ellen Sturgis, Amazing Things Art Center, Framingham
Jen Glockner, City of Pittsfield   Ann Teixeira, New England Philmarmonic and SpeakEasy Stage, Boston
Lee Heald, AHA! New Bedford    Julie Wake, Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, Barnstable
Julie Hennrikus, StageSource, Boston Jerry Wedge, Umbrella Community Arts Center, Concord
Judith Hoglander, Gloucester Stage Reggie Williams, Press Pass TV, Boston
Kate Huffman, Encore Tours, Boston Meg Winikates, New England Museum Association, Boston
Priscilla Kane Hellweg, Enchanted Circle Theater, Springfield     Lauren Wolk, Cultural Center of Cape Cod, South Yarmouth


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Sector Asks for $17 million in State Arts Funding


Arts, culture, and creativity have a powerful impact on our communities. That’s why when arts leaders and supporters advocate for an increase in state funding for arts and culture, they are not just asking for an investment in its cultural institutions and artists, but asking for an investment in a healthy, vibrant, and equitable Massachusetts.

As Governor Baker and the MA House and Senate prepare to release their budgets in the new year, MASSCreative will help make the case that arts and culture are worthy of investment as a core state service.

Before Governor Baker releases his budget in January, the MASSCreative Leadership Council will be formally requesting that he increase investment in the creative community and boost the FY2019 Mass Cultural Council budget to $17 million. This $3 million increase will fund arts, humanities, and science programs for underserved youth, the growing number of cultural districts, the 329 Local Cultural Councils, and the Commonwealth’s core arts and cultural institutions. 

Stay tuned for next steps as the budget moves from the Governor's desk to the MA House and Senate. In the spring, we’ll be holding a series of regional meetings with our State Senators and Representatives to engage them locally around arts and culture advocacy priorities.

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Public Art Program Pushed in Legislature 


On October 31st, public arts leaders spoke before the Massachusetts Legislature Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development. They urged support for the creation of the Massachusetts Public Art Program, which would invest an estimated $2 million a year towards the creation and preservation of public art on Commonwealth-owned properties. By guaranteeing a percent of new state capital expenditures be spent on projects, a dedicated stream of revenue will be available for public art.

Massachusetts has had similar public art programs, one which paid for public art on the MBTA Red Line Extension in the 1980s. In 2014, Governor Deval Patrick issued Executive Order 553 creating a similar public arts program, which became the basis for legislation that was passed as part of the 2016 budget. The legislation was vetoed by Governor Baker, citing technical issues. This bill represents a renewed attempt to secure public art funding into Massachusetts statute.

By passing this law, Massachusetts will catch up to the rest of the country. State public art programs exist in 28 states, including every other state in New England. Here in the Commonwealth, the municipalities of Cambridge, Boston, and Amherst have implemented versions of public art programs.

On October 31st, Matt Wilson, Al Wilson, Lillian Hsu, and Gloria Hall all testified before the Committee in support of the Massachusetts Public Art Program:

It is the arts, culture, and creativity embedded in the history of Massachusetts that have built connected communities and a vibrant, thriving economy across the Commonwealth. Public art helps make Massachusetts an exceptional place to live, work, play and visit.
-- MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson

Beyond Walls has created over 26,000 square feet of public art that is now viewable in downtown Lynn. This public art is helping to create a new narrative in Lynn. Businesses that were struggling have shared a huge increase in business. This has been tremendously beneficial to the local economy.
-- Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls

The Cambridge Public Art Ordinance of 1979 has made it possible to build a collection of over 200 works of site-specific art for the city, employing the imagination of artists to shape, enhance, and celebrate civic space. Public art programs deliver results and will do the same for Massachusetts.
-- Lillian Hsu, Director of Public Art and Exhibitions, Cambridge Arts Council, Cambridge, MA

Public art has the power to energize our public spaces, stimulate memory and our mind’s imagination. It invites pause and interaction and can transform the places where we live, study, work, play and provide and receive services into welcoming spaces for all of its users. There are studies that show public art is good for the health of the creator as well as the viewer.
-- Gloria Hall, Public Art Call Administrator & Project Manager, Art in the Park Worcester

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New Federal Tax Legislation Impacts the Creative Community


Despite opposition from the arts and broader nonprofit community, the new federal tax code approved this week will likely have a negative impact on arts and cultural institutions across the country.

MASSCreative closely followed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that makes sweeping changes to the U.S. tax code. Of concern was the doubling of the standard deduction, which will result in far fewer people itemizing their deductions. This is a long-time incentive for individuals to make charitable tax contributions. The Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution estimates 90% of taxpayers will not have access to itemizing their deductions, resulting in a loss of up to $20 billion annually to nonprofit organizations across the country.

The bill also doubles the exemption for the estate tax, potentially negatively impacting the arts and cultural community. Currently, estates exceeding $5.45 million are required to file a federal estate tax return and pay estate taxes at a rate of 40%. The new bill will raise that requirement to estates $11.2 million and above. The estate tax is historically a generator of major charitable gifts. The changes are expected to decrease the number and amount of planned giving gifts to arts and cultural nonprofits.

In November, nearly 40 Massachusetts Arts and Cultural Leaders co-signed a letter to the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation in support of a universal charitable deduction and protecting the Johnson Amendment. Additionally, last week MASSCreative released a statement in opposition to the bills and urged Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield, a member of the bill’s conference committee, to protect the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment provides nonpartisan protections to charitable, religious and philanthropic organizations. By prohibiting nonprofits from endorsing political candidates or making financial contributions to them, nonprofits, such as arts organizations, are better able to collaborate in creative ways and work together to solve community problems. While the universal charitable deduction was not included, through the work of non-profits from across the county and Massachusetts, the repeal of the Johnson Amendment was dropped from the final version.

Thanks to the advocacy of arts and cultural partners across the country other proposals that would have adversely impacted the arts community were taken out of the bill:

  • Business Expenses: artists will continue to be allowed to deduct business related expenses.
  • Classroom Materials: teachers will be able to deduct classroom supplies and material expenses.
  • Private Activity Bonds Interest: Used by museums, public broadcasters and universities, interest from private activity bonds will continue to be exempt.
  • Housing Eligibility: artists will continue to be a qualified group for federally subsided low-income housing.

The bill, which both the House and Senate voted to pass on Wednesday, received no votes from the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation. President Trump is expected to sign it in the two weeks.

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Join MASSCreative with a Year-End Gift

"Creativity is the way forward for our state and our nation. We are thankful to have an organization like MASSCreative working tirelessly to uphold and support that ideal."
--Lucie Castaldo, IS183 Art School of the Berkshires

We need your help to advocate for the vital importance of art, culture, and creativity for you, for your community, and for the Commonwealth. Please consider supporting our work by making a gift to MASSCreative.

You can also support MASSCreative when you  shop from Amazon Smile. Select MASSCreative as your charity, and a percentage of your purchase will be donated to us to help support our advocacy work. amazon_button.png

If you’re shopping on over 3,000 other websites, start at Giving Assistant, select MASSCreative as your charity, and we’ll get a percentage of your purchase as well.

Thank you and best wishes for a wonderful holiday season.

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Community Impact

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