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Power of Culture Advocacy Campaign Launched for 2021-2022

Bethann Steiner, Public Affairs Director

This 3-Step Plan Calls for FY22 Budget Spending; Bond Authorizations; and Bills to Stabilize, Rebuild, and Provide COVID Relief to the Cultural Sector

a group of young people blowing bubbles in front of Raw Art Works
Young people enjoying Raw Art Works’ 2019 block party in Lynn.

Mass Cultural Council announces the 2021-2022 Power of Culture Advocacy Campaign to stabilize, rebuild, and provide COVID relief to the Commonwealth’s cultural sector.

“The past year’s cancellations and closures, while absolutely necessary to protect public health during this pandemic, have driven the sector straight into economic freefall,” said Michael J. Bobbitt, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “More than half a billion in revenue is irreplaceably gone from cultural nonprofits; artists and creatives report more than $30 million in lost income; and tens of thousands of cultural sector jobs have been impacted, displacing employees statewide. Our Power of Culture Advocacy Campaign makes use of the tools in state government’s arsenal – budget spending, bond authorizations, and bills – to make timely, strategic investments in the cultural sector so we can recover and thrive once again.”

Mass Cultural Council supports individuals and nonprofit organizations in the arts, humanities, and sciences – three related disciplines which together form the Massachusetts cultural sector.

On March 8, 2021 Mass Cultural Council released staggering COVID economic impact data collected from 981 nonprofit and municipal cultural organizations and 2,951 artists, teaching artists, humanists, and scientists, who reported dire losses sustained between March 2020-February 2021, including:

  • A loss of more than $588.3M in revenue for cultural organizations.
  • More than $30.4M in lost personal income for artists, teaching artists, humanists, and scientists.
  • More than 30,000 cultural sector jobs impacted statewide.

Through a series of FY22 budget requests, bond authorizations, and bills Mass Cultural Council is proposing strategic public investments to provide cultural organizations and individual cultural workers with stability, rebuilding assistance, and COVID relief. These initiatives will support core services and fund grant making activities necessary for the cultural sector to properly resume post-pandemic operations and safely reconnect with public audiences.

Data shows that a robust investment in the arts, humanities, and sciences through Mass Cultural Council delivers significant returns to the Commonwealth. Whether in Greater Boston, Cape Cod, the Berkshires, or in between, nonprofit cultural organizations drive local economies in every region of the state. Prior to COVID-19, the nonprofit organizations supported by Mass Cultural Council:

  • Generated $2.3 billion in annual economic activity.
  • Supported more than 71,000 full-time-equivalent jobs statewide.
  • Produced more than $128 million in new revenues for Massachusetts.
  • Raised an additional $157 in private funds for every public dollar awarded.

Outlining the 2021-2022 Power of Culture Advocacy Campaign: FY22 Budget Spending, Bond Authorizations, and Bills

Budget: Increase state support of the cultural sector through Mass Cultural Council in FY22.
The Commonwealth’s primary investment in arts and culture is made annually through the Mass Cultural Council’s operating account, which is funded each year in the state’s General Appropriations Act, or budget.

Mass Cultural Council is seeking a FY22 budget appropriation of $20M (Line Item 0640-0300), a $1.82M increase from the current fiscal year. This investment will allow the Agency to enhance core services and increase grant making to stabilize and support cultural sector stakeholders in every community, including artists, K-12 arts education and creative youth development programs, Local Cultural Councils, state-designated Cultural Districts, and nonprofit and municipal cultural organizations.

“I urge the House of Representatives and Senate to reject the reduction proposed by the Governor’s FY22 budget for the Agency and embrace our funding request of $20M,” said Bobbitt. “During our Ways & Means budget hearing on March 9th I testified that reducing the Mass Cultural Council’s line item at this time of economic crisis is untenable, and we strongly hold this position.”

Read the Boston Globe editorial supporting public investment in the cultural sector published on March 10, 2021.

Bond Authorizations: Secure $24M in the FY22 Capital Spending Plan to rebuild the sector.
Mass Cultural Council is also seeking a total investment of $24M in the FY22 Capital Spending Plan to help the cultural sector rebuild from the pandemic. This capital spending will support a $10M Cultural Facilities Fund grant round in FY22, as well as create two new COVID assistance programs authorized by the Legislature in the 2020 Economic Development Bond Bill: $3M to create new mediums for artists and cultural organizations to virtually showcase art, exhibits, programming, and events to the public; and $11M to help cultural organizations with equipment and infrastructure costs necessary to reopen to safely and sustainably, while upholding public health and social distancing protocols.

“We have started a productive dialogue with Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito about our capital spending request, and we are confident that the ongoing needs of the cultural sector are being given serious consideration by the Administration,” said Bobbitt.

Bills: To provide financial relief & build grassroots leadership throughout the cultural sector.
Mass Cultural Council strongly supports the following bills, which are currently under review by the Legislature in this 2021-2022 legislative session:

S. 2246 An Act to rebuild the Commonwealth’s cultural future – Sponsored by Sen. Ed Kennedy. Directs a minimum of $200M in federal COVID mitigation funding the state receives to the cultural sector for one-time relief grants, administered by Mass Cultural Council, to nonprofit and for-profit cultural organizations and individual artists, teaching artists, humanists, and scientists. Learn more.

H. 3378 / S. 2243 An Act to expand membership opportunities in local cultural councils – Sponsored by Rep. Ken Gordon and Sen. Adam Hinds. A technical correction to state law to allow interested, supportive, and engaging community leaders who are elected to non-appointing or appropriating local or regional positions to also serve as Local Cultural Council members in their communities. Learn more.

“We are deeply appreciative of the vision and leadership of Senator Kennedy, Senator Hinds, and Representative Gordon, who have sponsored these bills to bolster the cultural sector,” said Bobbitt. “Mass Cultural Council is committed to working hard throughout this legislative session to ensure our partners on Beacon Hill understand the lasting impacts these proposals will have on the economic vitality of cultural organizations and working artists.”

Mass Cultural Council enjoys a strong partnership with advocacy organizations like MASSCreative and Mass Humanities who are focused on promoting the cultural sector. Through mutual efforts, a robust grassroots effort to secure the items proposed within the Power of Culture Advocacy Campaign will be nurtured and sustained over the coming months when the Legislature and Administration are making decisions.

Mass Cultural Council and its partners urge all cultural sector stakeholders – artists, teaching artists, humanists, scientists, and cultural organizations (both nonprofit and for-profit) in all disciplines and of all sizes – to embrace the Power of Culture Advocacy Campaign and contact their State Legislators and Governor Baker to secure their support as well.

“Over the last year MASSCreative witnessed a significant increase in Massachusetts residents ready and willing to advocate for the full recovery of the cultural sector,” said Emily Ruddock, Executive Director of MASSCreative, a statewide advocacy organization for the creative sector. “This is because arts and cultural programming have helped us combat the isolation many experienced due to necessary social distancing and supported young people’s remote learning since March 2020. Advocates also know that the creative sector is a proven and reliable economic driver for regions across the Commonwealth.”

“Our communities will turn to their local museums, cultural centers, and performance venues to sustain them as we recover from the pandemic. This funding and the people it supports are essential to building back a more equitable commonwealth,” said Brian Boyles, Executive Director, Mass Humanities.

“The state economy cannot fully rebound from the impacts of COVID-19 without restoring the once booming vibrancy of our cultural sector,” said Bobbitt. “The Power of Culture Advocacy Campaign is a strategic playbook of targeted investments to achieve this goal.”

“As we look forward to the recovery of the Commonwealth, arts supporters are eager to return in-person to creative events. However, full reopening for many arts and cultural organizations is still a long way off. Without the strategic public funding outlined in this campaign to support the sector until full reopening is possible, Massachusetts may return to a diminished arts and cultural sector,” said Ruddock.

Download the Power of Culture Advocacy Campaign one-pager

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