New Mass. Arts Lobby Presents Platform to Cultural LeadersBy Joe Durwin
11:30AM / Wednesday, October 17, 2012
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Statewide political advocacy for a platform of increased funding and expanded public engagement is the next step in the evolution of the cultural industry in Massachusetts, according to the newly formed organization MassCreative.
MassCreative's director Matthew Wilson explains the organization's goals to advocate for greater cultural funding.
This was the message that Matthew Wilson, its executive director delivered to a sizable delegation of local arts, political and business leaders at a visit to the Berkshire Museum on Tuesday.
"The idea is not only to speak in one unified voice," said Wilson. "But how can we step into the public realm?"
Wilson described MassCreative as a type of activist group "to really advocate for more resources and attention for the creative community."
MassCreative, which was formed earlier this year following about two years of research and planning, differs from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which is a state agency, and therefore limited in its ability to advocate policy. The newly founded organization visited Pittsfield as the fourth in a planned tour of 14 communities across the state to reach out to local creative organizations.
"Berkshire County figured it out a while ago when Berkshire Creative came together," said Wilson, who hopes to work with such organizations to push for bigger changes on the state level.
Those changes form an aggressive platform of legislative and budgetary specifics that the arts lobby has set as its short-term goals. Funding requests include increasing direct state support to the local cultural councils through the MCC budget from $3 million to $12.5 million, and reauthorizing the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund at an increased outlay of $10 million.
At the local level, MassCreative also seeks to foster growth, by encouraging communities to match those state funds and to expand the public engagement in the creative economy.
"We need to have the muscle, the political strength, and the united community to get what we want," said Wilson, who added that most of the political advocacy for the arts in Massachusetts over the past decade has been more "grass tops" than grass roots, the bulk of it done by leaders and boards of cultural institutions.
As one facet of trying to increase the public role in and benefit from the arts, MassCreative's platform also calls for an admission requirement of one year of high school arts education for Massachusetts universities, a requirement that has been adopted in 10 other states.
A variety of keynote speakers from the local arts economy spoke in support of further growing this cultural sector.
Jonathan Secor, Massachusetts College of Liberal Art's director of special programs, pointed to the economic benefits of 100,000 "cash-spending visitors" annually to the Downstreet Art activities in North Adams, but also extolled the importance of art for art's sake.
"The arts can and should be transformative," said Secor. "We witness that change daily in North Adams."
"The arts in the lives of our youth have a significant impact," said Youth Alive! founder Shirley Edgerton. "For some it actually saves their lives."
"The creative community in Berkshire County has a huge impact on the region's economy," said Berkshire Creative Director Jodi Joseph. "We need a group like MASSCreative to highlight that impact, provide a unified voice for the community and advocate effectively for our needs."