December 18, 2023
Her Excellency Maura Healey
Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
State House, Room 360
Boston, MA 02133
Delivered via email.
Re: Mass Cultural Council FY25 H. 2 Budget Request – Line Item 0640-0300
Dear Governor Healey:
As I reflect upon this year I am immensely grateful for the partnership and support your Administration has consistently demonstrated for the Commonwealth’s creative and cultural sector. It is with this feeling in mind that I reach out to outline Mass Cultural Council’s funding request for Fiscal Year 2025. I hope the following information will be helpful to you as you finalize your H2 budget recommendation.
Mass Cultural Council seeks a $28 million appropriation in FY25. This figure, $3 million higher than our current $25 million FY24 operating budget, represents a strong public investment in arts and culture, the humanities, and the interpretive sciences – what we define as the creative and cultural sector. It would be the largest state budget appropriation in the history of the Agency (FY88 holds this distinction at $27.4 million) and would propel many of the goals outlined in the Commonwealth’s new Economic Development Plan forward.
Your 2023 Economic Development Plan for the Commonwealth calls upon Massachusetts to capitalize on the opportunity to be a national leader in tourism, arts, and culture. Mass Cultural Council, the Commonwealth’s state arts agency, is poised and ready to partner with the Executive Branch on this goal. Our charge is to bolster the Massachusetts creative and cultural sector. Our efforts advance economic vitality, support transformational change, and celebrate, preserve, and inspire creativity across all Massachusetts communities. We pursue our mission through a broad range of programs, services, advocacy, and the equitable investment of public resources.
Our FY24 Spending Plan anticipates awarding approximately 2,600 grant awards to recipients across the creative and cultural sector. These will be funded through various public sources: the FY24 state budget, casino tax revenues, federal monies from the National Endowment for the Arts, and one-time state pandemic recovery funds. And yet, even with these combined resources, our application data shows the need is so much greater here in Massachusetts.
Grant Programs for Creative Individuals
In FY23 we were charged with investing more than $60 million in one-time state pandemic recovery monies to make COVID recovery grants to creative individuals and cultural organizations. We received an unprecedented 7,593 applications to our Creative Sector Recovery Grants for Individuals program. Even with an astounding $20 million to make 4,000 $5,000 awards, we were unable to support more than 3,500 artists, creative workers, and culture bearers in this program.
This year, FY24, we launched a new grant program to support these same stakeholders. Our Grants for Creative Individuals program received 4,462 applications. Our Spending Plan allows us to make approximately 375 $5,000 grants, meaning even with our robust $25 million FY24 state budget appropriation, this program will have an 8.4% success rate. This leaves $20 million of unmet demand from creative individuals that did not receive pandemic recovery funds, as those individuals were unable to apply for this year’s funding.
I hope that together, we can do better. The number of applications submitted to our individual pandemic recovery program shows that one in 1,000 Massachusetts residents considers themselves to be a working creative individual.
This tracks, as in March the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies reported that arts and culture was a $27.2 billion industry in Massachusetts in 2021, during the COVID pandemic, representing 4.2% of the Commonwealth’s GDP and 135,181 jobs.
Grant Programs for Communities, Youth Arts Education, and Cultural Organizations
As you know, in addition to the funding for Massachusetts’ creative individuals, each year Mass Cultural Council also administers several grant programs supporting communities, youth arts education, and cultural organizations. Unfortunately, we cannot fully meet the current demand on our resources for these programs:
- While the current FY24 grant cycle is in process, last year, in FY23, the Local Cultural Councils (LCC) network made over 7,000 grants supporting arts and culture in every city and town statewide, totaling $6.6 million, which met 43% of the amount requested – coming up $8.8 million short.
- This year, the Agency received 91 eligible applications, proposing to serve 91 schools, totaling $500,000, that we were unable to fund through the FY24 STARS Residencies arts education program.
- Also this year, the FY24 Festivals & Projects grant program had to decline 460 eligible applications, totaling $1.1 million in requests.
- And, in March we will launch the new Operating Grants for Organizations grant program for the first time. Today we fund 337 cultural nonprofit organizations through our current operating support program (the Cultural Investment Portfolio, or CIP). We have not accepted new applications to this program since FY22. However, in FY23 we administered the one-time Cultural Sector Recovery Grant program to provide COVID relief to cultural organizations and received more than 1,300 applications. Based on those applications, we anticipate 300 to 400 cultural nonprofit organizations not currently receiving operating support from the CIP will apply to the new program, resulting in $4.5 million to $6 million in new requests on our resources. Even at this early date we anticipate the number of applications received will far supersede the amount of available funding we have to make awards to these organizations in FY24.
In sum, across all the Agency’s grant programs that support Massachusetts creative individuals, youth arts education programs, communities, and cultural organizations, we anticipate a total of $34.9 to 36.4 million in unmet demand in FY25.
We are aware that MASSCreative, a statewide advocacy organization for arts and culture in Massachusetts, believes Mass Cultural Council’s budget line item (0640-0300) should represent a $5 per capita state investment in the sector. This translates to roughly $35 million, a $10 million increase from our current operating budget. We note their advocacy goal reflects our projections for expected FY25 grant applications, and yet, as we continue our outreach and recruitment efforts to engage with and serve previously unfunded individuals and communities in the creative and cultural sector, even MASSCreative’s ambitious proposal will soon fall short of the unmet need the Agency will receive from its stakeholders.
We know a $10 million increase to any state agency budget in a single year, especially when economic experts advised caution in the recent FY25 Consensus Revenue Hearing, is extremely rare. However, we suggest that our request, $28 million, moves us closer to fulfilling the financial need we know exists, and if appropriated, makes a strong statement in Massachusetts’ belief in the economic importance of the creative and cultural sector.
Mass Cultural Council believes in the Power of Culture. Work through the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences, culture is a dynamic force for enriching communities, growing the state’s economy, increasing accessibility, and fostering individual creativity. Culture is intrinsically valuable and unique in its ability to lift the human spirit. We know that here in Massachusetts, culture embraces everyone, drives growth and opportunity, and empowers a new, creative generation.
Madame Governor, thank you again for the collaborative and positive relationship your Administration has developed with the Mass Cultural Council. I appreciate your support of our work and the Commonwealth’s creative and cultural sector. Thank you in advance for considering the Agency’s $28 million funding request for the coming fiscal year.
Please do not hesitate to reach me, or Senior Director of Public Affairs Bethann Steiner, if you have any questions or would like more information. Additionally, we are available at your convenience to meet with you and your team at any time to further discuss this, and other matters of mutual concern and priority.
Michael J. Bobbitt