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Announcing the 2019 Commonwealth Awards Finalists

Carmen Plazas, Communications Manager

Celebrating exceptional achievement in the arts, humanities, & sciences

(BOSTON, MA) — The Mass Cultural Council today announced finalists for the 2019 Commonwealth Awards, which honor exceptional achievement in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The Commonwealth Award winners will be announced at a ceremony for the finalists and their supporters Monday, April 8 at WBUR’s new CitySpace.

Delivering the keynote address at this year’s ceremony will be renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and Music & Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dudamel will be in Massachusetts to perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where he will make his BSO subscription series debut with two weeks of concerts.

2019 Commonwealth Awards finalists include:

  • Aquinnah Cultural Center, for maintaining an vital role in their community with partnerships that preserve, interpret, and document the Aquinnah Wampanoag self-defined history, culture, and civic contributions.


  • Boston String Academy, for its exceptional creative youth development work inspired by El Sistema – an effective intensive music education philosophy that utilizes classical music as a vehicle for personal transformation and social change.


  • Eileen McCaffery, Community Music School of Springfield, for her dedication to changing lives through music. Community Music School brings together people of different ages, abilities, cultural backgrounds and economic circumstances to make music in an environment that respects diversity and encourages creativity.


  • Elevated Thought, for providing Greater Lawrence’s youth with opportunities that encourage artistic expression as the means for creative solutions to social issues through creative youth development.


  • Fitchburg Art Museum, for playing a vital role in the cultural life of the Central New England region and engaging its community with efforts to stimulate the local creative economy and make the arts more accessible and meaningful to a wider, more diverse public.


  • Kate Maguire, Berkshire Theatre Group, for her leadership to ensuring the health and vitality of the performing arts across Berkshire County. Maguire oversees the development, production and presentation of theatre, music and the performing arts on multiple stages. These represent a priceless cultural resource for the community.


  • Lee Blake, New Bedford Historical Society, for her instrumental role and leadership in documenting and celebrating the history, legacy, and presence of African Americans, Cape Verdeans, Native Americans, West Indians, and other people of color in New Bedford.


  • Manship Artists Residency + Studios, for its dedication to preserving artist Paul Manship’s historic property and its landscape, creating a rich new cultural experience for the residents of Cape Ann and New England.


  • Mass Audubon, for protecting our state’s natural landscapes and wildlife and ensuring nature remains accessible to all. A nationally recognized environmental education leader, Mass Audubon offers thousands of programs that get more than 225,000 kids and adults outdoors to experience the natural world every year. It is also a leader in Mass Cultural Council Universal Participation (UP) Initiative.


  • Natick Center Cultural District, for maintaining an active role in their community with partnerships that expand access to the arts for its residents and visitors. This Cultural District offers a friendly experience filled with the rich heritage of a classic New England town, while celebrating a vibrant, contemporary fusion of art, culture, and commerce.


  • Nina Zannieri, Paul Revere Memorial Association, for her leadership and commitment to ensure that two of Boston’s oldest, most important historic homes are preserved and welcoming to all. Zannieri led efforts that transformed the experience at the Paul Revere House, making it fully accessible for current and future generations.


  • Provincetown Art Association & Museum, for its unique legacy of groundbreaking exhibitions and programming, passion for removing barriers to participation, and commitment to engaging young people through the visual arts.


  • The Care Center, for bringing the power of education, arts and culture to youth and their families in Holyoke. This creative youth development program is helping to break the cycle of poverty and create an economically vibrant city through a rich, humanities-based curriculum for teen mothers.

Also at the ceremony, Mass Cultural Council will present the 2019 JFK Commonwealth Award to the Berkshire Eagle for demonstrating the enduring civic value of community journalism.

“This extraordinary group of awardees exemplifies our state’s unique cultural fabric,” said Mass Cultural Council Executive Director Anita Walker. “Their collective and individual achievements have made us a better Commonwealth. We are thrilled to join Maestro Dudamel, our WBUR partners, and our elected leaders to honor them on April 8.”

“I’m delighted to come back to Massachusetts, and to be part of this great celebration, not only of remarkable practices in culture, but the role of state funding in supporting them,” said Gustavo Dudamel. “These partnerships and collaborations are vital to our practice, and recognizing them must be a priority.”

State government leaders including Senate President Pro Tempore William Brownsberger will be on hand to present the Awards.

Presented every two years, the Commonwealth Awards shine a spotlight on the extraordinary contributions the arts, humanities, and sciences make to education, economic growth and vitality, and quality of life in communities across Massachusetts. The Commonwealth Awards ceremony also presents an opportunity for the Massachusetts nonprofit cultural sector to gather, assert its value, and make the case for public investment in its work. Past awardees include venerated artists and scholars such as Yo-Yo Ma, Olympia Dukakis, and David McCullough; world-renowned institutions such as Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Peabody Essex Museum; and communities like Worcester and Lowell that have put arts and culture at the center of their revitalization efforts. The Commonwealth Awards celebrate the power of culture to change lives and transform communities.

About the Mass Cultural Council

The Mass Cultural Council promotes excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and sciences, to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of our communities.

Mass Cultural Council is a state agency committed to building a central place for arts and culture in the everyday lives of communities across the Commonwealth. It pursues this mission through a combination of grants, services, and advocacy for cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists. Mass Cultural Council receives an annual appropriation from the state Legislature and funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources.

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