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

 

 

LIV AND CHARLOTTE AT THE LOBSTER TRAP TREE

Whenever at the Lobster Trap Tree to take a photo or passing by, there is a steady stream of people–families, couples, and groups of friends–stopping to pose and take snapshots. It’s a Gloucester thing for sure!

The tree will be up most likely though the end of January. David Brooks shares that the time of dismantling is weather dependent however, the BIG BUOY PARTY FAMILY FUN NIGHT is Friday January 25th, so don’t wait too long to take a photo at Gloucester’s beautiful (and the World’s Best) Lobster Trap Tree.

Gloucester Lobster Trap Tree – gather round

The lobster trap tree in downtown Gloucester at Main and Pleasant Streets basked in glorious early morning light and festooned with buoys hand painted by kids at Cape Ann Art Haven.

A welcome pause any time any vantage.

Gather round_lobster trap buoy tree morning light_Gloucester MA_vista to inner harbor from Main St_ 20181209_©c ryan

gather round_one Sunday morning lobster trap tree_Gloucester MA_ looking east end of Main Street downtown_20181209©c ryan Continue reading “Gloucester Lobster Trap Tree – gather round”

JOY TO THE WORLD WITH THE COMMUNITY CHURCH OF EAST GLOUCESTER

5-4-3-2-1! LOBSTER TRAP TREE LIGHTING

The tree, the lights, the star-it’s perfect–Gloucester’s world famous Lobster Trap Tree is aglow ❤

Send us your favorite Lobster Trap Tree photos and we will post them on Good Morning Gloucester and The Lobster Trap Tree Facebook page. Either send directly to kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or tag The Lobster Trap Tree on Facebook. Thank you!

 

LOBSTER TRAP CHRISTMAS TREE TAKING SHAPE (and breaking news of sorts!)

David Brooks and crew spent a solid eight hour day building Gloucester’s famous lobster trap tree, the one and only lobster trap Christmas tree decorated with hand painted buoys by local children and artists. They will be returning tomorrow to finish up, weather permitting. Lending a hand this afternoon when I stopped by to take snapshots were Mark Schlichte, Shawn Henry, Jake Hennessey, Peter Asaro, Jason Burroughs, and David Brooks. If you see these guys around town, let them know how awesome you think they are!

 

The exciting news is that this year we will be enjoying COLORED lights!!! Although white holiday lights are wonderful and beautiful, it just seems to me that colored lights on our lobster trap tree are more festive and compliment better the hand painted buoys. For the past several years, the tree was decorated with white lights and I am glad to see they are mixing it up with colored lights this year. What is your personal preference?

Did you know that it costs approximately $800.00 for lights each year? The cost seems relatively modest when you think about the delight and wonderment this most unique of holiday trees and accompanying buoy painting brings to our community. If you would like to help with the expense of the lights, please contact David Brooks at 978-335-2219. Thank you!

This year’s tree lighting takes place on December 8th, from 4:30 to 5pm.

WEDDING BELLS FOR MOLLY ROSS AND RYAN STOKES AT THE LOBSTER TRAP TREE

Thank you to Sheree Zizak, owner of the Beauport Hotel, who shared that the bride and groom that braved Saturday’s snowstorm to have photos taken in front of Lobster Trap Tree are Molly Ross and Ryan Stokes. Molly and Ryan held their reception at the beautiful Beauport Hotel.

Many of us marveled at how relaxed were the wedding party, especially the bride and bridesmaids, wearing sleeveless dresses and gold heels in the slush and freezing snow. Art Haven’s program director Cathy Kelley, on the spur of the moment, quickly painted a buoy with wedding rings and the date, and David Brooks presented the buoy to the happy couple. Congratulations Molly and Ryan!

MORE PICS FROM #GLOUCESTERMA LOBSTER TRAP TREE LIGHTING FESTIVITIES!

Last batch of photos from the festive and fabulous Lobster Trap Tree preparations, lighting, and party. Go see–the tree looks beautiful day or night. Hats off and thank you to David Brooks, Shawn Henry, Traci Thayne Corbett, Cathy Kelley, and every one of the volunteers who have created this wonderful holiday tradition for all to enjoy! See you at the Buoy Auction at Cruiseport on January 26th!

EIGHT, SEVEN, SIX… LIVE FROM #GLOUCESTERMA LOBSTER TRAP BEST EVER TREE LIGHTING

Simply Beautiful!

WEDDING PARTY AT THE LOBSTER TRAP TREE!

A wedding party shows up during the Lobster Trap Tree lighting preparations and David Brooks has on hand a buoy to give to the newlyweds 🙂

RAIN OR SNOW, COME ON DOWN FOR LOBSTER TRAP TREE LIGHTING TONIGHT!

Despite the soggy wet snow and freezing temperatures, the Lobster Trap Tree lighting is taking place right on schedule. Caroling begins at 4:30.

ICE CASTLE ON MAIN STREET

Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard shares from Main Street:

“David Brooks from Art Haven resurrects the Christmas Ice Castle on Main Street for today’s Gloucester Middle Street Walk and Lobster Trap Christmas Tree lighting, with help from Larry and Dylan at Cape Pond Ice.

A few photos from this morning’s ice delivery, before the kid’s ice sculpting begins, and the predicted snow dresses it all up.”

SCENES FROM THE LAST NIGHT OF OPEN STUDIO LOBSTER TRAP TREE BUOY PAINTING AND WHY WE LOVE CAPE ANN ART HAVEN!

Thank you to Cape Ann Art Haven’s program director Cathy Kelley and executive director Traci Thayne Corbett for the invitation to photograph this year’s Lobster Trap Tree lighting and buoy painting. The joy was all mine–the children’s enthusiasm, the pride and joy on their faces, the parent’s participation, and the priceless gift of community spirit make this one of Cape Ann’s most cherished (and most fun) holiday traditions. And it has been wonderful to see how conscientiously Traci and Cathy run the program and how caring and thoughtful they are with the children.

Did you know that Cape Art Haven buoy painting is 100 percent FREE and open to the entire community?

What has become a much beloved Cape Ann tradition is a way of saying thank you from Art Haven to the community. If you haven’t already done so, please consider donating to this tremendously worthwhile organization. Not only is buoy painting free, but all the programs Art Haven offers are available to everyone, whether or not they have the ability to pay. Visit the Cape Ann Art Haven website here to learn more about classes, scholarships, the teen guild, and more.

So, please, donate to Art Haven today!

Lobster Trap Tree lighting Saturday, December 9th, at 4:30. Party after at Art Haven.

DONATE HERE

The Littlest Buoy Painter ~ Two-year old Marissa evolving from a not-too-messy handprint to full coverage 🙂

LITTLEST BUOY PAINTER

Posting lots of photos tomorrow from Cape Ann Art Haven’s last day of buoy painting before the grand tree lighting event (Saturday, December 9th at 4:30pm). The wall of buoys is growing and growing!

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We love @capeannarthaven ❤️

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Marissa, two years old

TODAY IS THE LAST DAY FOR BUOY PAINTING AND LOBSTER TRAP TREE LIGHTING SCHEDULE

LAST DAY FOR BUOY PAINTING!

O’ Maley Middle School: Wednesday – 12/6 – 3:30-5:00pm
Open Day for Everyone: Wednesday – 12/6 – 3:30-5:00pm
Manchester/Essex Elementary: Wednesday – 12/6 – 3:30-5:00pm

Lobster Trap Tree Lighting and Party at Art Haven After
December 9th, 4:30 pm, Main St at Lobster Trap Tree

Buoy Auction
January 26, 5-8pm, Cruiseport

THE WALL OF BUOYS IS GROWING EVER GREATER! @GLOUCESTERMA #LOBSTERTRAPTREE

Wednesday afternoon is the very last day of buoy painting before the great Lobster Trap Tree lighting. Don’t miss all the fun!

O’ Maley Middle School:  Wednesday – 12/6 – 3:30-5:00pm
Open Day for Everyone: Wednesday – 12/6 – 3:30-5:00pm
Manchester/Essex Elementary:  Wednesday – 12/6 – 3:30-5:00pm

Lobster Trap Tree Lighting and Party at Art Haven after

December 9th, 4:30 pm, Main St at Lobster Trap Tree

Buoy Auction

January 26, 5-8pm, Cruiseport