#ArtsMatterDay MVP: Framingham Public Schools


Each year at the end of October, MASSCreative and advocacy partners take to social media to celebrate #ArtsMatterDay. This year, hundreds of organizations and individuals engaged in #ArtsMatterDay by posting photos and videos and sharing all the ways that arts make a difference in their lives. #ArtsMatterDay even trended on Twitter!  

Going beyond an online day of action, several partners took #ArtsMatterDay to the next level by incorporating the theme into their programming. Donna Wresinski, Fine and Performing Arts Director for Framingham Public Schools brings #ArtsMatterDay into every arts classroom in the district, making it an interactive day of action for the arts! We invited Donna to share how she uses #ArtsMatterDay to boost engagement in the arts in Framingham.

As the Director of Fine and Performing Arts for Framingham Public Schools, part of my vision is to find a way to build an art community with over 60 arts teachers spread between 15 buildings, and to feel the power that arts education brings to a school, a district, and a city. One of the ways I have been able to do that is through a partnership with MASSCreative and their #ArtsMatterDay initiative.

#ArtsMatterDay gave me the opportunity to connect our district to a statewide advocacy group. Four years ago, I got the buy-in of every arts teacher and school Principal by saying it would be embarrassing for a school district as big as Framingham not to be involved in a statewide day of action to support the arts!  We started small and now #ArtsMatterDay is an expected part of every arts teacher’s curriculum.

The first year, every school did something. I created a Google Doc, shared MASSCreative’s #ArtsMatterDay information, and asked the arts teachers to think about how they could add to the excitement of the day in their own building. Everyone could then see what their colleagues were planning. Some of the Principals were all in--they adjusted their schedules and organized community meetings. That first year, I got in my car at 7:30AM, and started off by visiting Framingham High School. There, we had a drop-in art table in the cafeteria and a video station set up so students could answer the question "Why do Arts Matter to you?” I only made it to 8 schools. 

The next year, Framingham welcomed a new Superintendent, Dr. Robert Tremblay, and in him I found my partner in this initiative. Now the “ask” to each teacher was to find a way to make the art interactive. That way, when Dr. Tremblay and I visited their school, we could actually do art with the kids. With new ideas to share, the teachers really stepped up their game. We also created a Framingham Fine and Performing Arts website and Twitter account so the build-up to the day was all over our social media and in my weekly arts newsletter. That year, Dr. Tremblay and I made it to every school. We talked to kids at every level about why arts matter. We had courtyard concerts, interactive bulletin boards, and captured photos and videos through the day. At the end of that year, our communications manager, Rochelle Santos, made a highlights video which we shared on social media and at a school committee meeting to highlight the success of that day.

Dr. Robert Tremblay, Superintendent Framingham
Public Schools

This year, we kicked it up a notch. We set an ambitious schedule with 15 minutes at each school and 15 minutes of travel time between each one. With a clear schedule in place, teachers and principals were ready for our arrival. Not only did Dr. Tremblay and I take our rainbow tour, but we were joined by State Representative Jack Lewis and our communications manager Rochelle Santos.Even our own Mayor, Yvonne Spicer, found the time to join us at our preschool to enjoy a full school mini concert,and she sang and danced right along with us. 

Rep. Jack Lewis of Framingham

The arts events get bigger and better with each year. This year, we played drums with students at two schools. Dr. Tremblay AND Representative Jack Lewis played the trumpet with one of our middle school jazz bands and we designed and made arts matter buttons in a drama class after a discussion about the importance of arts in education with 13 year olds. Our high school did a series of art installations that are still up today! This year, every principal participated in every event. It is no longer just #ArtsMatterDay in Framingham - this initiative has made it clear that arts matter every day.

Planning for next year is already underway. Dr. Tremblay wants to take a van next year and add a GoPro so we can do some “Arts Car Karaoke” between schools and also record our reactions to each event. I think the secret to our #ArtsMatterDay success lies in competition. Our Principals and our arts teachers want their #ArtsMatterDay events to be the absolute best for their students  

I wish I could say I came up with the idea,  but I have to thank MASSCreative for providing me with an inspiring concept and easy to use tools to make the day my own.  Then, I made everyone feel like this is the most important day of the year! Now in Framingham Public Schools, everyone knows that #ArtsMatterDay is when adults and kids get together to connect, celebrate, and reflect on the power of arts in education. It doesn't get more important than that. 

image11.jpgRep. Jack Lewis, Mayor Yvonne Spicer,
Donna Wresinski, and Dr. Robert Tremblay

Donna Wresinski is the Director of Fine and Performing Arts for the Framingham Public School District and lives in Mashpee. 



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Policy Watch: Advocating for A More Creative Massachusetts

MASSCreative advances policies that support a well-resourced and equitable creative sector that is essential to the vibrancy of Massachusetts. Over the last four months MASSCreative staff and partners worked on important policy items for the arts and cultural community. 

At the State House


Funding for Tourism, Arts and Culture 

Arts, Culture and Tourism are one step closer in building the case with lawmakers for a significant increase in public funding thanks to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development. Last week, the Committee favorably recommended  A Resolution to evaluate existing funding for the promotion of, and workforce development in, tourism, arts and culture. Sponsored by House Ways and Means Chair, Rep. Aaron Michlewitz of Boston, the bill would establish a state commission to study public funding of programs related to arts and culture in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The proposed commission would also examine ways to increase workforce development and tourism related to cultural, creative, and tourism industries in the state. 

But this first victory didn’t happen overnight, it was part of the work MASSCreative and a team of partners took on this fall that included a State House hearing and an Op-Ed in Commonwealth Magazine, a must-read for lawmakers and policy leaders. 

On October 22, Executive Director Emily Ruddock joined partners from as far away as North Adams at the State House to testify during a hearing of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development. Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director, Martha Sheridan joined Ruddock during formal testimony about the economic impact of the arts and cultural sector to the Commonwealth. Both encouraged lawmakers to support the legislation. Jodi Joseph of MASS MoCA explained the role the arts organization played in reviving North Adams as a cultural tourism destination. Ryan Losey of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Meg O’Brien of The Huntington Theatre Company told lawmakers about each organizations' work to serve everyone in their communities through programs for young people and sensory-friendly performances

In addition to arts and cultural organizations, representatives from the City of Boston and regional planning association Metropolitan Area Planning Council spoke in favor of the bill.  Karin Goodfellow, Director of Boston’s Art Commission, Kate Davis, Director of the Mayor Walsh’s Office of Tourism, Sports, and Entertainment and Annis Sengupta, Assistant Director of MAPC’s Arts and Cultural Planning Department outlined the potential economic impact of a stronger creative sector to cities and towns across the Commonwealth.

So what’s next? The bill has been recommended to the House Committee on Ways and Means. MASSCreative will continue to track this legislation and work in coalition to encourage the House Committee to favorably recommend the bill.  We will keep you in the loop on future opportunities to advocate for this legislation. 

Gaming Mitigation Funds for Performing Arts Venues

In partnership with leaders in the creative sector and the Mass Cultural Council, MASSCreative recently celebrated a victory at the State House when the Massachusetts Cultural and Performing Arts Mitigation Trust Fund was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Baker as part of the 2019 close out Supplemental Budget,  This provision fulfills the Legislature’s 2011 promise to venues who predicted economic distress once large-scale casinos were open for business.  As outlined in statute, 2% of gaming revenues from casinos are to be directed to nonprofit and municipal performing arts venues. This will help mitigate a real and direct threat to the sustainability of non-profit performing arts centers across the Commonwealth posed by casino that can provide higher fees and newer venues. Since MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor opened more than $2.5 million in revenue has been held for this purpose. 

MASSCreative worked alongside Troy Seibels, MASSCreative Board member and Executive Director of The Hanover Theatre in Worcester as well as  leaders of venues in Hyannis, Lynn, Lowell and Northampton to educate lawmakers on the necessity of this fund and advocate for including the  language fix in the Supplemental budget bill.

So what’s next? The funds will be distributed through a grant program administered by the Mass Cultural Council. Venues that qualify should visit the Mass Cultural Council’s Gaming Mitigation Program webpage for further details


In City Halls

Boston Artists’ Workspace Hearing

Following the closing of several artist studio and rehearsal spaces over the last three years, the Boston City Council held a hearing to determine strategies for creating more affordable work space for artists in the City. Program Director, Tracie Konopinski testified on behalf of MASSCreative urging the City Council to consider policies that would incentivize developers to include more artists workspace and introduce zoning requirements that leverage Boston’s four cultural districts as hubs for arts, cultural and creation. 

So what’s next? The Boston City Council will continue to examine the issue and make recommendations. MASSCreative is working with partners at the Mass Cultural Council, Mass Artists Leaders Coalition and municipal staff across the state to advocate for innovative solutions to proactively protect artists from displacement. 



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MASSCreative Leadership Council Gathers for Annual Retreat


In November, MASSCreative’s Leadership Council came together for its 5th Annual Leadership Council Retreat, bringing together 40 leaders from across the Commonwealth to help MASSCreative strengthen its statewide grassroots arts and cultural advocacy network. 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 strengthen the advocacy power of the arts and cultural community across the Commonwealth. 

The Leadership Council Retreat, held at the Walker Center in Newton, was full of thoughtful discussions and workshops about how to deepen the advocacy power of the arts and creative sector. MASSCreative staff led discussions to guide the Leadership Council in thinking more deeply about regional arts advocacy in order to build a broader, more diverse, and better skilled network of artists and arts advocates.

To kick off the Retreat, Executive Director, Emily Ruddock gave an update on MASSCreative’s Strategic Planning Process, inviting the Leadership Council to provide feedback on its field priorities: advance public policy changes for the creative sector, strengthen the case to build support for the arts and culture sector, and deepen the advocacy power of the arts and culture sector. To encourage the Leadership Council to deepen their engagement beyond the advocacy email, Emily and Program Director, Tracie Konopinski led a workshop on Advocacy and Lobbying Do’s and Don’ts. Through case studies, Emily and Tracie highlighted organizations like Boston Gay Men’s Chorus and The Theater Offensive who are more deeply (and legally!) engaging their organizations in legislative advocacy, elections, and ballot initiatives. To round out the day, Leadership Council members met in Regional Huddles to plan out a series of regional Arts Advocacy Networking Events and District Meetings with Legislators. 

We’re looking forward to seeing you in the New Year at these regional gatherings. Look out for invites coming in 2020. 



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Our Partners in the Field


Celebrating Artists’ Contribution to the Commonwealth

MASSCreative was pleased to join artists and members of the creative community to celebrate the 13th Annual Artists Under the Dome event at the State House. Organized and led by Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition, the event celebrates the significant contributions artists of all disciplines make to our state’s economy and way of life.  MASSCreative was also on hand to honor the 2019 MALC Champion of Artists Awards, given to those who have shown exceptional support of the creative community. 

image4.jpgAttendees at the 13th Annual Artists Under The Dome


Cultural Advocacy Meet-up at The Record Company

In November, The Record Company in Boston hosted a Cultural Advocacy Meet-up for members of the music community to network, hear an update on Boston Creates cultural plan from Boston’s Chief of Arts and Culture, and learn more about upcoming advocacy opportunities with MASSCreative. 

image10.jpgAttendees at The Record Company Cultural Advocacy Meet-up

Emily Ruddock of MASSCreative shared MASSCreative’s policy platform priorities and strategy to building a stronger arts advocacy field by giving supporters and artists the tools and information to advocate effectively. Ruddock also solicited feedback on the top concerns music artists have. Space to rehearse, city restrictions on where music performance can take place and a lack of equitable access to resources rose to the top.

Kara Elliot-Ortega, Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston introduced attendees to the Artist Resource Desk in the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture that connects artists with city resources and support to make their work. Matt McArthur, Executive Director of The Record Company and our host for the evening gave an update on the progress their Community Music Workspace which is expected to open in 2020. 

Would you like to host a Cultural Advocacy Meet-up for your members, audiences, board of directors or stakeholders? MASSCreative is eager to help you plan your own Meet-up in 2020.  Please email Emily Ruddock ([email protected]) for more details.


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Turning out the arts vote


Since 2013, MASSCreative’s Create the Vote coalition has brought together Massachusetts 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, forums, and our annual online day of action #ArtsMatterDay, the creative community has demonstrated that arts matter in Massachusetts. 

This fall, MASSCreative worked with artists and cultural organizations in Melrose and Waltham to engage candidates and voters around the role arts and culture play in building strong communities. On #ArtsMatterDay, these local Create the Vote coalitions took to social media and their local papers to educate voters about the mayoral candidates’ stances on arts and culture.

MASSCreative also encouraged the creative community to utilize its networks to get out the arts vote. MASSCreative published a Social Media Toolkit with resources for organizations and individuals to remind voters to turn out to the polls. By reminding people to vote, members of the creative community engaged in the simplest, nonpartisan action to help increase voter engagement and turnout. Civic engagement is naturally embedded into the work of creative community - thank you to all who voted, reminded people to vote, and engage others in civic dialogue through your work.


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Why Arts Matter to Me

image1.jpg                                                                        Drita Protopapa is an entrepreneur, speaker, 
                                                                        interpreter, voice actor and coach, and mother.

Growing up it was clear that the arts were important to my parents. A love and appreciation of music was instilled in my brother and I at an early age. For a long time, I thought that the radio in our home only had 1 station – the classical music station! My parents made sure we both took piano lessons as kids. I also participated in musical theater and all the after-school, extracurricular art offerings that I could squeeze in. On a recent trip to Estonia, I learned that I have many relatives who are either musicians or artists of some kind – including my mother’s “favorite” cousin who was a forest ranger and in his 70s, took to painting watercolors of the forests he loved! MASSCreative is made up of over 400 member organizations and more than 15,000 individuals who believe the arts matter to making our Commonwealth a more vibrant and connected place to live, work and play. Guest Contributor Drita Protopapa shares why she advocates for the arts and supports MASSCreative as an individual member.   

Our love of art was especially important to my mother who was originally from Estonia, where there has always been a lot of emphasis on the arts. My mother was a pianist, a folk dancer, and a painter. She studied piano and learned traditional Estonian folk dancing while still living in Estonia. Before emigrating to the US, my mother spent time in a refugee camp in Germany, where she learned how to paint on fine china – to this day I have many of her teacups and plates as a testimony to her steady hand and artistic abilities.

Now as a mother of three, I have tried to replicate what my parents gave us – a true and long-lasting appreciation of the arts. All three of my children have learned to play the piano and my oldest son is a music producer and beat maker. At the age of three, my daughter started participating in dance and musical theater. She went on to sing with the premier choir of the Boston Children’s Chorus. My youngest, now an 8th grader, is mostly an athlete but one of his athletic endeavors is Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines dance, fight, rhythms and musical instruments.  Capoeira was granted a special protected status as “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO in 2014 and is often referred to as the world’s most complete sport because it combines physical movement, music, singing, culture and history. 

As someone who works with spoken (and written) language for a living, I think I would say that the arts are a natural form of communication. Young children, before they can even speak, use art and other verbal and nonverbal ways to communicate. Every country, every culture, every language uses the arts as a form of expression and communication. Art, dance, music, theater are universal forms of expression that override geographic demarcations, country borders and cultural or language barriers. Art is a way of bringing people together, sharing ideas, thoughts and feelings. 

I want to ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of creative expression, that’s why I am a member and sustaining supporter of MASSCreative. Arts matter to me, my family, and my community.

Please consider supporting MASSCreative as an individual member or join Drita as a sustaining supporter through a monthly donation.



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Youth-led Action at Boston Public Schools Community Meeting


image3.jpgPasqualina Azzarello’s graphic illustration of the Community Meeting

In partnership with Hyde Square Task Force and the #BosTeenArts coalition, MASSCreative is working to ensure every Boston High School student receives at least one arts course before graduation. As part of the campaign, MASSCreative has been working with teens to share their stories and participate in civic meetings held by the Boston School Committee and Superintendent. 

This fall, Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius held a number of community meetings with students, families, staff, district partners, and community members to gather input on the school district’s priorities. Come January, Dr. Cassellius will deliver a new strategic plan that will guide the work of the district over the next three school years. 

On November 25, teens from Hyde Square Task Force turned out in full force at the Community Meeting held at English High School in Jamaica Plain to make the case for arts education. In true community organizing fashion, teens greeted attendees at the door, handing out #BosTeenArts flyers and stickers. It was clear that youth not only had a presence in the room, but were a leading the discussion around the need for arts education for every BPS student. 

image9.jpgHyde Square Task Force teens in action

MASSCreative’s work with #BosTeenArts will continue into the new year as we relaunch Youth Arts Action, an initiative to amplify the power and voices of teen artists so they can create positive change in their communities. To help develop the Youth Arts Action Initiative, MASSCreative Program Director, Tracie Konopinski has been participating in National Arts Strategies’ New England Creative Community Fellows Program. 


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Staff Recommendations: Articles to Read and Activities to Attend


Opportunity to Advocate: Americans for the Arts National Arts Action Summit 2020 March 30 - 31

MASSCreative will lead the Massachusetts Arts Advocates Delegation at the Americans for the Arts’ National Arts Action Summit, a two day event of advocacy trainings, federal policy updates and meetings with members of Congress. Come join arts advocates and supporters from across the nation for an energizing and informative event. 

inthephoto.jpg                                              Marka27's mural, seen from the Traveler Street bridge. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Equal access and opportunities for participation

  • April 24 & 25th, 2020: Arts Equity Summit: Creating Culture Shifts. Arts Connect International will host its second Arts Equity Summit for arts and culture leaders committed to building equity. 
  • Announcing Extension of Partnership with Five Community Foundations Advancing Arts Across Massachusetts Read More
  • Introducing the Culture RX Initiative Read More
  • ‘We Wanted Our Patrons Back’– Public Libraries Scrap Late Fines to Alleviate Inequity Read More

Connected communities

  • A Photo Guide to Boston’s Growing Public Arts Scene Read More
  • Painting the town Read More 
  • Community Development Innovation Review: Transforming Community Development through Arts and Culture Read More

Access to a well-rounded education for all students

  • Framingham schools add an ‘A’– for arts– to STEM week Read More
  • OPINION: Music is ‘more than sound’ for students seeking safe spaces, human connections and their own voices Read More

Respect and support for the creative workforce and economy

  • The Berkshires Have the Cultural Life of a Major City– and Architecture to Match Read More
  • Green Street Studios says it will close this month after 28 years of programming due to a ‘significant’ rent increase Read More

Happy and healthy people

  • Studying Ballet Dancers Could Help Us Treat Stroke Victims– and Build Better Robots Read More
  • This One-Of-A-Kind Orchestra is Trying to Reduce The Stigma of Mental Health Diagnoses Read More
  • At MCLA, visiting Peace Paper Project blends, art, therapy and creativity 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...