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On June 18, the governing Council of the Mass Cultural Council closed its business meeting in a very special way: honoring Executive Director Anita Walker with a surprise, virtual celebration of her 13 years at the Agency’s helm. Anita announced her plans to retire on March 5.
Once official business had concluded and the meeting was adjourned by Chair Nina Fialkow, Council members were joined by Mass Cultural Council staff to reflect and congratulate Anita on her years of service to the cultural sector in Massachusetts.
“We’d, of course, hoped to have this celebration in person,” said Fialkow at the beginning of the celebration, “unfortunately this was not possible. But I think it’s almost fitting that we were charged with the task of thinking creatively about how best to honor this creative leader.”
From there, computer screens were filled with messages from elected officials, colleagues, and constituents from across the state warmly thanking Anita for her leadership, advocacy, counsel, and creativity.
Council Chair Nina Fialkow and Vice Chair Marc Carroll kicked off the celebratory moment with personal thanks to Anita. Their words were followed by messages from avid arts champions and partners on Beacon Hill: Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, Senators Adam Hinds, Julian Cyr, and Ed Kennedy; State Representatives Paul McMurtry and Anne-Margaret Ferrante; Mayor Tom Bernard from the City of North Adams; American for the Arts President & CEO Robert Lynch; Council Members Barbara Schaffer Bacon and Troy Siebels; a beautiful musical performance by former Council Member Lisa Wong: and a special message from RAW Artworks Executive Director Kit Jenkins among many other written messages from Anita’s colleagues and friends.
Council members then presented Anita with their two gifts – safely couriered to her home earlier in the day – and both made in Massachusetts. The first, a sterling silver Shreve, Crump, & Low pin in the shape of the Massachusetts State House to commemorate where Anita spent countless hours advocating on behalf of the Commonwealth’s cultural sector. The second, an original glass bowl made by Massachusetts artist Josh Simpson. Serendipitously, this gift turned out to be particularly poignant for Anita, who thanked the Council and shared that a conversation about one of Josh Simpson’s famous glass globes many years ago had played a role in igniting and inspiring her career in the arts.
The celebration concluded with a surprise: a performance by former Council Vice Chair Dr. Barbara Wallace Grossman who performed a song she’d written to celebrate and honor Anita.
Anita Walker’s final day as Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council is June 30, 2020.