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Our Conversation with Congressman Jim McGovern

Ann Petruccelli, Chief of the Executive Director’s Office

Screen shot of the zoom Town Hall Forum with Congressman Jim McGovern, Anita Walker and Erin Williams
Screen shot of the zoom Town Hall Forum with Congressman Jim McGovern, Anita Walker, and Erin Williams.

The arts and culture are essential to our health and our economy.

This was the consensus at the conclusion of an online Town Hall Forum with Congressman Jim McGovern, presented by Mass Cultural Council and the Worcester Cultural Coalition. Congressman McGovern, who joined us from his kitchen with his laptop perched atop two boxes of pasta, de rigeur, is one of Massachusetts’ strongest arts champions in Washington, D.C. More than 130 members of the public signed on to share stories and questions with the Congressman, and to learn more about the evolving federal response to COVID-19.

It’s no secret that the effects of the pandemic have been devastating to the cultural sector. Since mid-March when the doors to our museums closed and our theaters went dark, Massachusetts cultural organizations have lost more than a quarter of a billion dollars in real-time income, and have been forced to eliminate tens of thousands of jobs. CARES Act funding has only done so much to help.

Grace Chapman Elton, CEO of Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston shared that her organization has already lost more than $1M at the exact moment its gardens and visitorship are typically in full bloom. She is unsure how she will pay her staff after June 10. Anh Vu Sawyer, Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Coalition in Central Massachusetts highlighted the great mental health benefits the arts can bring to a community, especially in a time of crisis. She is hopeful her very modest budget to support arts and culture can be supplemented with federal funding sooner rather than later.

Organizations are also now grappling with the prospect of re-opening and working quickly to interpret new guidelines and establish new procedures in compliance with our new normal. Congressman McGovern pointed repeatedly to the $3 trillion HEROES Act recently passed by the House of Representatives, and urged participants in the Town Hall to reach out to their counterparts in other states and encourage them to advocate for the passing of the bill in the Senate. The Congressman also, like so many of us, wants to do “better than normal” as we recover, rebuild, and renew our organizations and the communities they serve.

To contact Congressman McGovern’s office with further ideas and questions, please email Ryan Early.

And continue to share your stories with Mass Cultural Council. Send them to Bethann Steiner and we will make sure they are shared with the Congressman’s team.

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