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Card to Culture: A Stone Soup Story

Greg Torrales, Program Coordinator

Over 5 years, 300+ cultural organizations have provided 780K free or discounted admissions to cultural experiences

theater still with a woman twirling in a blue dress is surrounded 6 other actors with their hands clasped together and raised over their heads cheering her on
Cast of Once on This Island at SpeakEasy Stage Company. Photo: Nile Scott Studios.

Although there are many different versions of the Stone Soup folktale, the basic premise sheds light on what a community can achieve when its people come together. Mass Cultural Council’s Card to Culture partnerships are yet another iteration of the centuries-old parable.

Card to Culture is a multi-agency effort – a partnership between Mass Cultural Council, the Department of Transitional Assistance, the Massachusetts Health Connector, and the Department of Public Health’s Women, Infants, & Children Nutrition (WIC) Program. With over 300 participating cultural organizations – together – we make cultural programming accessible to low-income and working families through the EBT, WIC, and ConnectorCare programs for free or at steeply-discounted rates. In many ways, the discounts our organizations offer correlate to the ingredients townsfolk contribute to the stone soup.

“We highly value our partnership with Mass Cultural Council to offer Card to Culture benefits to WIC participants. This initiative makes the amazing cultural resources available in Massachusetts more accessible and affordable, and maybe even leads families to try something they’ve never experienced before,” said Rachel Colchamiro, Massachusetts State WIC Director.

Many of the cultural organizations that have participated in the program since 2017 recently extended their discounts to WIC and ConnectorCare cardholders. “Berkshire Pulse’s mission is to build and strengthen community life through diverse and accessible programming in performing, movement, and creative arts; we’re excited that Card to Culture helps us fulfill our mission by making our programming accessible to an even wider community,” said Gillian Ebersole, Modern Dance Faculty, Berkshire Pulse.

Other new groups have also joined to support the effort. “The Chatham Chorale was delighted to join the Card to Culture program because we can provide access to people whose budgets put the price of a concert ticket out of reach,” said Marilyn Schlansky, Grants Coordinator, The Chatham Chorale.

Together, we persevere

Maintaining Card to Culture’s commitment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been critical, given the 40% increase in the state’s SNAP benefits caseload alone. Since the pandemic started, demand for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) grew, and now serves over one million residents daily.

“The EBT Card to Culture program exemplifies the meaning of partnership and collaboration, moving towards a Commonwealth where culture is inclusive and accessible for all,” said Mary Sheehan, Acting Commissioner, Department of Transitional Assistance.

A year after the pandemic began, many cultural for-profit and nonprofit organizations across Massachusetts ceased operations, while citizens also dealt with job loss and rent increases. Undoubtedly, it’s emotionally and mentally exhausting to support the cultural sector with fleeting resources amid these challenges. However, what keeps us going is knowing we are not alone.

Recently, I received an email from Michelle Ramadan, the program coordinator at Follow Your Art Community Studios, seeking advice on how to best allocate tuition reductions after seeing an increase in application requests. She wrote, “…Again, I appreciate your support with this. I want to make sure we have an equitable, fair, clear, and accessible process that helps the most people it can with the little we have.”

This is what makes Card to Culture a stone soup story. Regardless of what we’ve lost, how we’ve struggled, or the overwhelming obstacles in our path, there are those among us who still ask what they can do for others.

Mass Cultural Council calls upon those who wish to do the same. Organizations interested in partnering with us on any of the three Card to Culture options can apply anytime. You can also register to learn more about these partnerships during a virtual info session on November 9, 2022, at 2pm. If you have any questions, please contact Greg Torrales, Program Coordinator.


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