Power of Culture Blog
Mass Cultural Council Testifies in Support of $25M for Arts & Culture
Next up in the FY24 budget process is House budget debate in April
Mass Cultural Council is seeking a $24 million investment into the cultural sector through the Baker-Polito Administration’s FY22 Capital Spending Plan. The Agency hopes this infusion of public dollars will help creative individuals and cultural organizations rebuild from the economic crisis precipitated from pandemic-related cancellations and closures.
Learn more about the Commonwealth’s capital spending plan.
The following testimony was submitted by Mass Cultural Council to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Executive Office of Administration & Finance outlining this request:
March 22, 2021
His Excellency Charlie Baker
Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Via Email: Charlie.Baker@mass.gov
The Honorable Karyn Polito
Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Via Email: Karyn.Polito@mass.gov
Mr. Michael J. Heffernan, Secretary
Executive Office of Administration & Finance
Via Email: Michael.Heffernan@mass.gov
Dear Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and Secretary Heffernan:
On behalf of the governing Board and staff of Mass Cultural Council I am pleased to submit and outline the Agency’s Fiscal Year 2022 capital spending requests for your consideration. I am looking forward to our meeting on Wednesday, March 24th where I hope we can discuss these investment opportunities in detail and begin to build a strong and productive working relationship together.
Mass Cultural Council requests the Baker-Polito Administration retain its current $10 million investment into the Cultural Facilities Fund, as well as release a total of $14 million from two new capital accounts authorized in the 2020 Economic Development Bond Bill (Chapter 358 of the Acts of 2020) in the FY22 Capital Spending Plan. This $24 million capital investment will help the Commonwealth’s cultural sector rebuild from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare to safely reengage with the public.
These capital spending requests are based upon data and feedback the Agency has collected from our stakeholders: individual artists, teaching artists, humanists, scientists, and nonprofit and municipal cultural organizations, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We know the cultural sector has been deeply impacted by the necessary cancellations and closures in the past year, and on March 8th reported the staggering results of our 5th COVID economic impact survey. Since March 2020:
Mass Cultural Council believes significant public investment is urgently needed to stabilize, provide relief, and help rebuild our once booming cultural sector. There are various tools available to achieve this goal, including the FY22 Capital Spending Plan. Mass Cultural Council urges you to make the following capital investments in the sector in FY22:
1. Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF) – $10 Million in FY22
Since 2006 Mass Cultural Council has managed the Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF), in collaboration with MassDevelopment, making awards that support the planning, acquisition, rehabilitation, and construction of cultural facilities across the Commonwealth. Recognizing the profound impact cultural facilities make in communities statewide, CFF encourages sound growth, supports important development projects, plays a crucial role in the growth of local tourism, creates thousands of jobs, and drives millions of dollars in private investment.
In FY20 the Cultural Facilities Fund invested $9.3 million in the planning and development of cultural buildings in Massachusetts. A total of 94 cultural organizations received grants to support construction, restoration, and deferred maintenance. FY20 grant recipients include a wide array of cultural sector stakeholders, such as community art centers, theaters, museums, libraries, and nature conservatories.
At the conclusion of each funding cycle, grantees are surveyed to assess the economic impact of the Cultural Facilities Fund: in 2020 two hundred and seven (207) cultural organizations reported on tourism, employment, and future capital needs. Many noted that without CFF assistance they would not have been able to leverage the necessary funding to maintain their spaces. Other key 2020 findings include:
For more information on the impact of the Cultural Facilities Fund, please review the 2020 Annual Report. The CFF team is currently reviewing 146 applications submitted for the FY21 grant round. Approximately $20 million in assistance has been requested to support $304 million in total capital project costs; applicants will be notified of grant decisions in May.
The Cultural Facilities Fund is a proven economic driver in Massachusetts – it creates jobs and improves valuable cultural infrastructure. We urge the Administration to continue its support of the program by retaining its annual $10 million investment for CFF in the FY22 Capital Spending Plan.
Mass Cultural Council would warmly welcome partnering with you to celebrate the forthcoming FY21 CFF awards with appropriate virtual and/or socially distanced convenings around the Commonwealth later this spring and throughout the summer.
2. Virtual Programming and Promotion to Support Artists and Cultural Organizations – $3 Million in FY22
Chapter 358 of the Acts of 2020 contains a new capital account, 0640-0303, for Mass Cultural Council to create and administer a competitive grant program to help cultural sector stakeholders create new mediums to virtually showcase their art, exhibits, programming, and events. Mass Cultural Council requests the Administration to release $3 million from this $6 million line item in the FY22 Capital Spending Plan, an important one-time investment to help the cultural sector rebuild from the economic devastation caused by cancellations and closures necessitated to maintain public health due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February 2021 Mass Cultural Council conducted a survey of cultural organizations and asked about remote programming. Three hundred sixty (360) organizations responded, 92% of which (332) are currently offering remote programming to the public.
However, offering remote and virtual programs comes at a cost. Those 332 organizations invested $23.2 million in remote programming, but only earned back $20.7 million in revenue from those offerings – a loss of $2.5 million or $7,530 per organization. Individual artists face the same challenge in trying to offer remote programming, they simply cannot afford to.
Mass Cultural Council urges the Administration to program $3 million from account 0640-0303 into the FY22 Capital Spending Plan to help artists and cultural organizations build income generating virtual offerings for audience members who yearn to partake in arts and culture again but are not comfortable doing so in public at this time.
3. Nonprofit Infrastructure and Equipment Grant Program – $11 Million in FY22
Chapter 358 of the Acts of 2020 also contains a second new capital account, 0640-0305, for Mass Cultural Council to design and administer a competitive grant program to assist nonprofit arts, cultural, and tourism institutions and organizations that suspended in-person public attendance due to the pandemic with infrastructure costs necessary to reopen to the public safely and sustainably, while upholding public health and social distancing protocols. Mass Cultural Council requests the Administration release $11 million from this $20 million line item in the FY22 Capital Spending Plan. We believe this investment is necessary to help cultural organizations upgrade their facilities to ensure the public health of their employees and patrons is protected.
This request is based on data: in our COVID-19 Economic Impact Surveys the 981 responding cultural organizations reported $11,722,376 in reopening capital expenses related to new investments necessary to protect and maintain public health due to the pandemic. While this program is similar to the CFF, because it is meant to address investment costs directly linked to COVID-19, we believe this is a necessary, one-time reopening capital investment the Commonwealth should make to bolster the cultural sector.
Thank you, Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and Secretary Heffernan for your consideration of Mass Cultural Council’s FY22 capital spending requests. We look forward to working with you to make strategic public investments now, to ensure the cultural sector can rebuild and once again contribute to the Commonwealth’s economy.
Please do not hesitate to contact me or Public Affairs Director Bethann Steiner if you require further information.
Michael J. Bobbitt