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Council Basics

Program Background

In Massachusetts, public funding for the arts, humanities, and sciences is provided through a central agency, Mass Cultural Council, and a network of Local Cultural Councils (LCCs) that serve every city and town in the state. LCCs also receive money to support programs from donations, fundraising events, and their local municipality.

About Mass Cultural Council

Mass Cultural Council was formed in 1990 through the merger of two previously separate agencies: Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities and Massachusetts Arts Lottery Council.

Mass Cultural Council is funded by appropriations from the state Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funds are distributed through two channels:

  1. Direct grants to individuals and organizations, available through statewide competitive grant processes.
  2. Yearly allocation to Local Cultural Councils, which then regrant funds to individuals and organizations in their communities.

The mission of Mass Cultural Council and its LCC partners is to promote excellence, inclusion, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and sciences, foster a rich cultural life for all Massachusetts residents, and contribute to the vitality of our communities and economy.

The LCC Program is one of several programs administered by Mass Cultural Council. See a complete listing of Mass Cultural Council programs and services.

Local Cultural Council Program

There are 329 local and regional councils that represent all 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth. This extensive grassroots system of public support for community cultural programs is unmatched anywhere else in the United States. LCCs are comprised of volunteers appointed by the municipality’s chief elected official. There are currently more than 2,400 volunteers serving statewide.

Because LCCs administer public dollars, they play an especially important role in ensuring that cultural opportunities are made accessible to all segments of their communities. Mass Cultural Council is committed to access not only as a matter of state and federal laws, but also as a policy designed to encourage participation of all segments of the Commonwealth’s population in Mass Cultural Council-funded programs. This includes but is not limited to all racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and senior citizens, as well as low-income, inner-city, and rural populations.

History of the LCC Program

The Local Cultural Council Program distributes funds to local and regional cultural councils, which then regrant funds to arts, humanities, and science projects in their own communities. The program started in 1980 under the Massachusetts Arts Lottery Council. Read more about key dates in program’s history.

In 1971, arts advocate Jacqueline O’Reilly conceived of the idea of using a lottery and a portion of its profits to give money to the arts. The program was inspired, in part, by a similarly designed lottery program that was being formed in Australia at the time and is now called lotterywest.

Mrs. O’Reilly and other advocates worked tirelessly with the state legislature and governor to come up with a program that would support community arts in the state of Massachusetts. In 1973, the state Legislature established a Special Committee on the Arts to investigate ways of improving state arts funding at the community level in response to federal funding cuts to arts and culture. In 1976, the idea for a state lottery was introduced as a source of revenue for the arts.

In 1979, legislation authorized the formation of the Massachusetts Arts Lottery Council (MALC) and cities and towns began organizing local cultural Councils to distribute funds. Governor Edward King named Mrs. O’Reilly the first chairperson of MALC.

On October 14 in 1980, the first Arts Lottery tickets went on sale. Tickets were $5 and the first jackpot was $200,000.

After a slow start, in November of 1982, the Arts Lottery was reintroduced as the very successful game “Megabucks.” It only cost $1 to play, featured a draw of six numbers from a field of 30, and included a jackpot prize that increased with each drawing until won. The financial success of Megabucks led to a cap on the percentage of lottery funds reimbursed to the general fund, which went to arts and culture. The legislature also introduced the first minimum allocation for Local Cultural Councils, which was $1,000.

In 1986 new legislation introduced the Performing Arts Student Series (PASS) program, providing grants for school children to attend performances. While the PASS Program has been retired, LCCs continue to provide funding to send children on cultural field trips.

MALC merged with the Massachusetts Councils for the Arts and Humanities to form Mass Cultural Council in 1990. Cuts in the state budget resulted in subsequent cuts to Mass Cultural Council’s budget, reducing funding for the LCCs. Many programs were downsized or severely limited due to lack of funding. The mid-1990s were spent rebuilding the funding base for community arts and culture.

The Council of the Year Award was created by Mass Cultural Council in 2014 to showcase one exemplary Local Cultural Council’s work over the past year.

The LCC Program remains the most extensive volunteer-run, cultural funding program in the nation: 329 LCCs served every city and town in the Commonwealth, distributing more than $4 million to almost 6,000 projects across the state.

Local Cultural Council Allocations

The amount of money allocated to each community is determined by using the state’s local aid formulas established by the legislature. The formula is based on population and equalized property values to provide low-income communities with relatively larger allocations. A minimum funding level – which affects more than half the LCCs – is set to ensure that the smaller communities receive a significant amount of money.

Allocations come from the state budget that is developed each year by the governor, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. The budget is usually settled in July for the new fiscal year which runs from July 1 to June 30. Then Mass Cultural Council allocates the budget it receives among the agency’s various programs. By early September, Mass Cultural Council sends written notification to each LCC of its exact allocation for the upcoming grant cycle.

To stay up-to-date on the budget process, members can:

Regional Councils

Two or more towns may join resources to establish a regional cultural council. Regional councils must consist of at least five, but no more than 22 members appointed by the top appointing official in each community. Regional councils may consist of an equal number of members from each city or town within the consortium or they may consist of a proportional membership consistent with the population of each municipality. There must be at least one representative appointed from each community in the consortium.

Regional councils must be approved by Mass Cultural Council. Currently there are nine regional councils in operation across the state:

  • Acton-Boxborough Cultural Council
  • Alford-Egremont Cultural Council
  • Charlemont-Hawley Cultural Council
  • Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire: Serving Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, Hancock, Lanesborough, Monroe, New Ashford, North Adams, Savoy, and Williamstown
  • Hamilton-Wenham Cultural Council
  • Hardwick-New Braintree Cultural Council
  • Hinsdale-Peru Cultural Council
  • Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council: Serving Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, Vineyard Haven, and West Tisbury
  • Mid-Cape Cultural Council: Serving Barnstable and Yarmouth

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