Anita Walker, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, message about the superpower of art & culture

December 2018 looking ahead:

“We are on the front lines of a war on poverty. Not necessarily a shortage of material wealth, although its distribution in America is both a consequence and contributor to the current distress.

The poverty our field confronts every day is that which Robert Kennedy confronted while running for President in 1968. He contrasted the wealth represented in the nation’s gross national product with the wealth necessary to sustain a democracy and make life worth living. 

He said, “…the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

We are currently in one of the best economies in a generation, but studies show record declines in our sense of well-being. Worse yet, life expectancy in the U.S. has declined for the third straight year. Major newspapers are sounding the alarm. In the Washington Post, George Will writes that loneliness, a major public health problem, is in “epidemic proportions” and that people are unhappier, more isolated and less fulfilled. David Brooks claims, in the New York Times, the biggest factor is the crisis of connection. We are “in a straight-up social catastrophe,” he writes. 
 
For nearly the last 20 years, those of us who advocate for the arts and culture have made the economy the centerpiece of our argument. We’ve collected economic impact data, counted the jobs we create and the taxes we generate, and touted our centrality to the tourism industry. We became the poster child of the creative economy. In an environment of it’s the economy stupid, these arguments won over state legislators and delivered budget increases to state arts agencies.

Five years ago, I wrote a column for a national arts blog suggesting that it was time to dial back the economic argument, even suggesting that there is something powerful about the intrinsic value of the arts. That the transforming power of culture is the power of creative expression, human engagement, and empathy. 

This is the poverty of our time. When Kennedy spoke of joy, beauty, intelligence, integrity, wit, wisdom, courage, compassion, and devotion he spoke of the ideals that are inherent in art and culture.

The arts and culture are the antidote to what ails us as a nation. In fact, they can both prevent and cure. Studies show that creative and cultural participation enhances human health and well-being leading to: reduced social isolation; opportunities for learning; calming experiences and decreased anxiety; more optimism, hope and enjoyment; increased self-esteem and sense of identity; increased inspiration and “meaning-making;” and better communication.

I can write about the studies and outcomes, but the heart is more articulate:
“It is a remarkable experience to witness a high school student watching a young adult with down’s syndrome or cerebral palsy offer a sonnet, and think to himself, ‘I want to do that. I want to have that kind of courage, that kind of conviction.’ Or to be a man or a woman of any age and watch someone you have typecast in your heart of hearts as somehow less than, stand in the center of a crowd and speak a truth about what it is like to dream of being seen for all of what you offer and know that a wall has just fallen…and through that kind of honest performance, know that you have been changed for the better,” writes Maria Sirois about Community Access to the Arts in Great Barrington, an organization that unleashes the arts in people with disabilities.

Music can help stroke victims regain their speech. You’re never too old to sing, or dance, or paint. Victims of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia find calm and clarity through the arts. Art is a universal language that bridges race, ethnicity, and culture – in a neighborhood, or across continents. The arts help explain the complexity of physics or climate change. Science and art are close cousins, sharing the bloodlines of creativity, risk taking, and problem solving.
 
Massachusetts cultural organizations are committed to serving everybody in the Commonwealth. They joined a new program this year to offer the benefits only the arts and culture can provide to people who have fallen on hard times and are receiving assistance through the state EBT card, a card that provides help to families living near the poverty level. Our organizations agreed to offer free or greatly reduced admission prices to EBT cardholders. In our first year, we tracked 220,000 EBT admissions. 

Nearly a quarter of a million doses of arts and culture to people in need. Again, the heart is in the stories. One concertgoer, who had not been able to attend a concert in years said, “It was nice to have a slice of my old life back.” Another said “It’s hard to describe the feeling of being able to do something ‘normal’ when everything else isn’t.”

The Mass Cultural Council is not an economic development agency, but when we do arts well, tourists visit and spend money, communities become destinations and better places to live, jobs are supported and created, innovators want to live here, and build new businesses.
 
The Mass Cultural Council is not an education agency, but when children have a quality experience participating in the arts, in school, and out of school, they exercise their creative minds, learn to think critically, are better observers and team players, and get a better education.

The Mass Cultural Council is not a human service agency, but when some of our most troubled youth participate in arts programs that give them a productive outlet for their fears and anger, provide a supportive community, build self-esteem and teach skills that will last a lifetime, these young people are saved from gangs, prison, drugs, even death.

In her book “Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum writes:

“Citizens cannot relate well to the complex world around them by factual knowledge and logic alone. The third ability of the citizen, closely related to the first two, is what we can call the narrative imagination. This means the ability to think what it might be like to be in the shoes of a person different from oneself, to be an intelligent reader of that person’s story, and to understand the emotions and wishes and desires that someone so placed might have.”

Martha Nussbaum is a close reader of Aristotle, who defined the good life as one that was authentically meaningfully rich: rich with relationships, ideas, emotion, health and vigor, recognition and contribution, passion and fulfillment, great accomplishment, and enduring achievement.

George Will writes of the crumbling of America’s social infrastructure and the need for new habits of mind and heart, new practices of neighborliness. David Brooks says, “It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs anymore. It’s relationships, relationships, relationships.” Real relationships, not virtual or transactional ones. True engagement of heart and mind.

The poverty we face is one we can defeat. Novelist Alice Walker once said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
 
Story. Imagination. Empathy. This is our superpower: the power of culture.” – 
Anita Walker , Executive Director, Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) 

Visit the Mass Cultural Council website

Have a podcast listen – Creative Minds Out Loud:  podcast for art and Culture –  Informative and lively conversations with arts and cultural leaders. Creative Minds Out Loud is a project of the Mass Cultural Council, and is hosted by Executive Director Anita Walker. https://creativemindsoutloud.org

 

 

cultural districts across the state convened at Natick Center for the Arts MCC #powerofculture

Cape Ann participated in the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) statewide cultural district convening which was hosted by the Natick Center for the Arts. Statewide district gatherings occur once or twice a year: the last two were held in Cambridge, and Beverly. Representatives from Gloucester, Rockport and Essex cultural districts were in attendance. (Manchester and Ipswich do not not have a designation at this time. Gloucester could have seven.)

Massachusetts Cultural Council Director, Anita Walker, welcomed the crowd, and introduced officials from Natick and new additions to the MCC staff. Jill Cahill, Gloucester’s Director of Community Development, brought a gift from the Mayor and the City to add to a send-off  of thanks and well wishes for Meri Jenkins, longtime MCC leader who managed cities and towns through cultural facilities funding and district designations. Luis Edgardo Cotto and Justina Crawford will be taking over the MCC Community Initiative programs managed by Meri.

MERI JENKINS helped cities and towns statewide having served Massachusetts Cultural Council nearly 20+ years_©c ryan Oct 2018 MCC cultural district convening Natick MA venue.jpg

 

The MCC approved five year district renewals for both Rocky Neck and Rockport last year. District renewal for Gloucester’s downtown is underway. Essex received official citations for their renewal at this convening. Here’s a photo of Christopher Stepler, artist and Manager of Essex Shipbuilding Museum, and Lee Spence, former Director. One update they shared was that the successful historic exhibition The Women of Essex – Stories to Share displayed at Essex Town Hall in a renovated bright space on the top floor above the TOHP Burnham Public Library (thanks in part to Cultural Facilities funding) was selected to travel to the NPS regional Visitor Center in Salem.

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prior GMG post with MCC October news 

Massachusetts Cultural Council Power of Connection Tour in #GloucesterMA | Cultural Center @RockyNeckArt

The Cultural Center at Rocky Neck, 6 Wonson Street, Gloucester, MA, was one of the few cultural districts selected as a host venue for the MCC Power of Connection Tour launch. Today’s gathering includes city and state officials: Mayor Romeo Theken, Senator Bruce Tarr & Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante of Gloucester.

Guests are just arriving for the welcome reception. I will post all we glean from MCC new grants and updates. Gloucester has two districts: Rocky Neck and downtown Harbortown. On the walls at Rocky Neck center–the holiday group show is installed upstairs and a John Nesta tribute downstairs. I am looking forward to the upcoming poetry night featuring Jay Featherstone, Suzanne and others.

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The envelope, please! Nearly $310,000 Gloucester piece of MA’s 2016 art funding pie

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Ralston Crawford photograph

How did Gloucester stack up?

Read on to see the state’s Cultural Facilities Funding (CFF) totaling $221,000 plus Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) totaling $88,200 in Gloucester for 2016. It’s a safe bet that each resident in the City benefits from at least one of these 2016 projects.  Along with the categories below and others, make sure and think about next year’s application categories including the new festival grant category that will be due September 2016 for 2017 programming. Congratulations to all the recipients!

MCC ARTIST FELLOWSHIP -$12,000

Artist Erica Daborn, for artistic professional development. $12,000

MCC BIG YELLOW SCHOOL BUS  – $600

Beeman School, O’Maley and Veterans $200 each for an educational field trip

CULTURAL FACILITIES FUND (CFF) – $221,000

Driven by the Boston Foundation, MA Advocates for the Arts, Sciences and Humanities (MAASH), the MCC and others after many years, this big pot that funds so many projects was part of legislation passed back in July of 2006. Maybe it will be increased by it’s 10th year anniversary summer 2017? Across the state over the past 9 years, “CFF has awarded grants of $91.9 million to nearly 700 projects across the Commonwealth. Demand for CFF grants continues to outpace supply…The new round includes 68 capital grants totaling $8.9 million and another 23 planning grants totaling just over $400,000. Grants range from $7,000 to $300,000, and must be matched one-to-one from private and/or other public sources.”  

Maritime Gloucester To construct a Student/Visitor educational Center on Harbor Loop. $116,000

Gloucester Stage Company To replace aging and limited lighting system with a state-of-the-art lighting grid, equipment and controls, and supporting electrical rewiring. $50,000

Manship Artist Residence and Studios (MARS) To conduct a feasibility study for the renovation of the Manship property as an arts and culture center with an artist residency program. $30,000

Rocky Neck Art Colony To install an acoustic ceiling treatment, a second AC unit, lighting upgrades, and integrated A/V projection and sound equipment to its Main Hall. $25,000

MCC CULTURAL INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO- $23,000

Cape Ann Museum to celebrate the art, history and culture of the region and to keep it relevant by offering quality exhibitions and programs for our communities, and beyond. $11,500

Cape Ann Symphony Orchestra, Inc.to establish, maintain, and operate a non-profit civic symphony orchestra in the Cape Ann area to foster, promote, and increase the musical knowledge and appreciation of the public through the performance of music at concerts and other functions; to provide an opportunity for Cape Ann area musicians to play as an orchestra; and to assist and encourage the musical development of Cape Ann students. $3,800

Maritime Gloucester to promote Gloucester’s maritime heritage as a platform for teaching maritime skills and marine sciences, and for encouraging environmental stewardship. $8,700

MCC JOHN AND ABIGAIL ADAMS ART PROGRAM – $21,000

Rocky Neck Art Colony establish an Office of Cultural Development in the City of Gloucester to champion innovation in arts and culture, provide support for private and public cultural development, and invigorate the City’s cultural tourism agenda; to develop an inclusive, collaborative cultural plan for Gloucester to strengthen historic links between the city’s maritime culture, community and the arts. $21,000

MCC LOCAL CULTURAL COUNCIL (LCC)-  $7600

Allocation Gloucester $7,600 Thanks Rose Sheehan and the LCC volunteers on the committee for processing all the applications every year! This year’s 21 winners

Annisquam Historical Society Preserving Gloucester History $450
Cape Ann Shakespeare Troupe Season 2015-2016 $348
DiPrima, Jay Henry David Thoreau Lecture $250
East Gloucester Elementary School Rob Surette and His Amazing Hero Art $300
Harcovitz, Ruth Songs of World War II $250
LePage, Lucille Stories, Songs & More $571
Lundberg, Christine The Art & Craft of Folly Cove Designers Film $500
Manninen, Wendy Singing and Signing $300
Maritime Gloucester Association Off to the Races! Exhibit $700
Music at Eden’s Edge Connecting Kids to Classical Music $500
Northeast Mass. Youth Orchestras Youth Orchestra Honors Concert $350
Phyllis A Marine Association History Sharing Program $500
Rockport Music Jasper Quartet $400
Sawyer Free Library Printerbot Learning $464
Sawyer Free Library Cape Ann Reads $500
Sheehan, Rose Welcome Yule – Midwinter Celebration $500
Sheehan, Rose Cape Ann Contra Dance $450
Swift, Sarah Slifer Trident Live Art Series $400
Van Dyke, Juni The Note Card Project $350
Waller, Susan The Fiesta People’s Mural $250
Windhover Foundation Quarry Dance 5 $700

MCC CULTURAL DISTRICTS City of Gloucester – $9000

Gloucester’s downtown Cultural District. $4,000

Gloucester’s Rocky Neck Cultural District. $5,000

MCC YOUTHREACH- $15,000

Maritime Gloucester and Action to provide hands-on marine and physical science instruction to at-risk 16-20 year-olds in collaboration with Action, Inc. $15,000

A few Fred Bodin’s Photos of Harbortown Cultural District celebration

Catherine Ryan submits-

Hi Joey,

Here’s a few photos from Fred Bodin’s coverage of Tuesday’s May 28 kick off Celebration for the Harbortown Cultural District. The party was held in the Gorton’s gallery of Maritime Gloucester and it was packed! Check out the special cake –it very nearly covered a 4 x 6 table.

Gloucester from its water’s edge and beyond: the center for all! Like the “Harbortown” name, the cake was a mash up of two flavors, too. Lise Breen and Judith Hoglander worked with Jim’s Bagel and Bake Shoppe for this classic riff of Saul Steinberg’s famous 1976 New Yorker cover, a favorite motif for him.

Music filled the rooms and welcomed everyone. One of the Harbortown event’s surprises was the talent of musicians Zach Bridges & Steve Lacy from Henry Allen & The New Swingset. Here’s Henry Allen (on the steering committee for Harbortown) visiting with Mayor Carolyn Kirk and Karen Ristuben (Rocky Neck Cultural District) Gloucester ’s Rocky Neck Cultural District is a partner. Mayor Kirk spoke twice.

Leadership here and at the state level are advocating for the arts in a big way. The Harbortown Cultural District would not have happened without the support and commitment from Mayor Carolyn Kirk, Harbor Planning Director Sarah Garcia, Chief Administrative Officer James Duggan, all the Gloucester City Councilors, Senator Bruce Tarr, Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council representatives. The party filled up quickly. There was bountiful conversation and energy buoyed by appetizers and drinks thanks to so many wonderful partners and stakeholders. Here’s one of Fred’s crowd photos peeking through Maritime Gloucester’s display–what an apt framing for the themes of connection.

One of the first surprises on the evening’s program was a presentation from Harbortown partner, the Gloucester Public Schools. Teachers Kurt Lichtenwald’s  and John Barry’s S.T.E.A.M. (science technology engineering, Arts and mathematics) classes feature students’ and made, engineered musical instruments. David Puglisi came to the event and showcased his handmade plywood electric guitar see his youtube video!

Co-chair for Harbortown Cultural District, Judith Hoglander looks on.

Anita Walker, executive director for the Massachusetts Cultural Council gave a wonderful speech about Gloucester , this district, the arts and maritime connections. She spoke to the legacy of the continuous involvement of youth and fostering stewardship through generations. She took a moment to recognize a contribution completed for the application.

Fred captures the authentic spirit of Anita Walker in this one and sheer fun. The MCC is passionate about Gloucester and the arts across Massachusetts . Sarah Garcia surprised Walker with an iconic Gloucester southwester. They visited Nelsons on Main Street on the day of the site visit, and the classic yellow slicker hats and ancillary businesses of the fishing industry were obvious topics. To the left of Walker, Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library Director, Carol Gray enjoys the moment.

 

More photos to come; David Cox, local media, and co-Chair Bob Whitmarsh were all snapping away at different points. By the way, one of the best Facebook pages in town, Fred Bodin may have some posted https://www.facebook.com/BodinHistoricPhoto

We’ll add some photos to our website http://www.gloucesterharbortown.org.

Thank you Joey and GMG for helping!

Massachusetts Cultural Council Takes Over Downtown Gloucester- Photos At Fred Bodin’s Gallery With More To Come

The Mass Cultural Council came to G-Town to listen to and observe what makes Gloucester so special.  There are no other towns that have more than one Cultural District.  Gloucester already has Rocky Neck.  If approved for Downtown Gloucester, Gloucester would stand as the only City with more than one Massachusetts Cultural District.

When sitting in the room and listening to the distinguished assembly of community people that showed up it was obvious about 10 minutes in that honestly Gloucester deserves this in spades.  There is no where anywhere that is as culturally diverse, enriched and vibrant as our community.

All the people had to do was speak the truth.  It wasn’t about selling Downtown Gloucester.  Downtown Gloucester, it’s merchants, it’s artists, its community and artistic organizations sell itself.

You’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind to not see it and I can assure you the representatives of the Mass Cultural Council that visited, Anita Walker, Meri Jenkins, Kylie Sullivan and Maren Brown are anything but deaf dumb and blind.

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Huge thanks to the Downtown GloucesterCultural District Steering Committee Catherine Ryan, Lise Breen, Judith Hoglander, Robert Whitmarsh, Anne Robinson, Ronda Faloon, Maggie Rosa and David Rhinelander for laying so much of the groundwork to make this meeting possible and also to Fred Bodin for hosting this momentous event at his Bodin Historic Photo Gallery.

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Melissa I love my new scarf.  You rock!

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STEP AWAY FROM THE CANNOLI – PUT YOUR ARMS UP AND STEP AWAY FROM THE CANOLLI!

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