Arts and cultural community deeply disappointed in Senate ARPA bill

BOSTON, November 4, 2021—Yesterday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee released its plan to disburse $3.67 billion of the more than $5 billion in federal funds allocated to Massachusetts via the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The bill sets aside $75 million for restoration and support of the arts and cultural sector. 

“We are deeply disappointed with this recommendation. Arts and cultural organizations were the first to shut down in March, 2020 and many of them have yet to reopen, which means that they are well into their second straight year of not being able to put on the performances that bring in revenue. Artists and independent creative workers lost gigs and personal income almost overnight. Every organization and worker in this sector, regardless of how well-resourced at the start of the pandemic is hurting now, with BIPOC-led organizations bearing the brunt of the damage,” said MASSCreative Executive Director Emily Ruddock. “MASSCreative will partner with artists and arts and cultural supporters across the Commonwealth to support Amendment #2, which would increase the allocation to $200 million and ensure artists are eligible for recovery assistance. The Amendment was filed by State Senator Ed Kennedy (D-Lowell), Chair of the Senate Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development Committee. Chair Kennedy has been a champion for working artists and the arts and cultural sector throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Before the pandemic, the arts and cultural sector generated over $25.5 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy and supported 142,578 jobs resulting in $13.6 billion in total compensation. In Lowell, Springfield, and Worcester—communities hard hit by COVID-19—arts and cultural nonprofits supported 500, 1,875, and 4.062 full-time jobs, respectively. In Lowell, arts and cultural organizations generated over $12 million in total spending, bringing in $478,000 in local tax revenue. In Springfield, they generated nearly $50 million in total spending, and $2.2 million in local tax revenue. In Worcester, generated over $125 million in total spending and $4.4 million in local tax revenue. 

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. 

“This proposal—$75 million—is not a number that reflects a reality-based understanding of what artists, cultural workers, and nonprofit arts organizations have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Cynthia Woo, Director of Pao Arts Center. “We have foregone revenue-raising activities even as demand for our work has sharply increased. The arts and cultural activities that Pao Arts Center curates, hosts, and organizes in Boston’s Chinatown are a lifeline for residents in a neighborhood that is continually threatened by displacement and cultural erasure due to development. Creative work is essential for the health and well-being of our neighborhood and our communities.  We serve the public, our work is a public good, and we need public investment.” 

Community-based arts activities build bridges across neighborhood, ethnic, and class divides in ways that many other forms of civic engagement do not. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, arts and cultural organizations have found creative ways to support their communities. The Trust Transfer Project, a collaboration between The Community Music School of Springfield and The Springfield Cultural Project, commissioned local Black and Latinx artists to create artwork across languages and mediums to promote public health messaging around the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Makanda Project, a 13-piece jazz ensemble, carefully choreographed live events for small audiences that were streamed online to a wider audience of fans at home. In the fall, the Worcester Chamber Music Society live streamed six concerts drawing 100 people per performance. The organization also maintained its program of free lessons in violin, viola, and cello to youth from impoverished neighborhoods by building online portals for parents and students. The Theatre Offensive wrote and staged two original plays and live streamed them to audiences. “Artists and cultural standard bearers like to focus on solutions. We want to partner with state lawmakers and work together to lead our communities out of the pandemic and into a world that is more inclusive, just, and connected,” said Ana Masacote, founder of Dance to Power. “To do this, we need public investment in the artists and cultural organizations that bring our communities together and drive our regional and statewide economies. We strongly urge lawmakers to support Chair Kennedy’s Amendment #2 to increase the ARPA allocation to the arts and cultural sector to $200 million.” 

“Public investment should be made in organizations and programs that yield a significant return,” said Dawn Meredith Simmons,  Co-Producing Artistic Director of The Front Porch Arts Collective. “Organizations that create art that reflects the experiences of BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities and other marginalized communities offer a hugely significant return on investment by building community and creating opportunities for everyone to see their culture reflected in artistic expression. This is how we grow and it’s also how we heal. We need that now more than ever.” 

“Arts and cultural organizations reflect the lives of the people around them. They create opportunities to express shared values and history and to strengthen the bonds among community members,” said Christine M. McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. “This is life-changing and life-saving work. The idea that Massachusetts and all its small regions will recover from the pandemic without the full health and participation of arts and cultural organizations is hard to fathom. The arts and cultural sector needs significant and meaningful public support and investment now.”   

About MASSCreative

MASSCreative works with artists, cultural councils, arts organizations and the broader creative community to build a Commonwealth where arts and creativity are an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life. Working with our coalition of 400 arts and cultural organizations and artists from across the Commonwealth, MASSCreative uses public education and awareness, grassroots organizing, advocacy campaigns, and other civic and political engagement to ensure that arts, culture, and creativity are considered when important policy and political decisions get made at the state and local level.

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published this page in Press 2021-11-04 09:45:08 -0400

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