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. 



More December News

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