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

 

 

Massachusetts Cultural Council announces new cultural district funding: Gloucester eligible for $10,000

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Announcement from the Massachusetts Cultural Council:

“Some good news to share: As the Mass Cultural Council (MCC) allocation was increased this year we are able to provide financial support to all the designated cultural districts for Fiscal Year 2019. Each district is eligible to receive a grant of up to $5,000 based on the submission of a plan of action and budget outlining the use of funds. The use of funds must be in line with the goals of the cultural district initiative…(such as) fees for professional consultants; hiring staff to manage or coordinate district activities; marketing and promotion of district activities and events; and fees connected to new cultural programs. Grant funds cannot be used for capital improvement projects or non-arts related activities…We are very delighted to be able to offer this small investment to support your work.”

Gloucester is eligible to apply for up to $10,000 because the city features two cultural districts: Rocky Neck and downtown. The application will be LIVE this week, due October, and awarded December.

Listen for #GloucesterMA on the radio! Mass Cultural Council’s WCRB, WBUR, WICN and NEPR spots for Cultural Districts start next week 📻🎙️😊

Last year, the Mass Cultural Council purchased series of 10, 20, and 30 second spots on WCRB, WGBH, WBUR, WICN, and NEPR to promote each of the Massachusetts designated Cultural Districts,” Meri Jenkins explained. They’re doing it again for 2018. Beginning next week, you may hear radio commercials wishing Gloucester and its two cultural districts great success in 2018 (Downtown Cultural District and Rocky Neck cultural district). Email Mayor Romeo Theken’s arts hotline: sefatia4arts@gloucester-ma.gov (subject line MCC radio spots) with the day and time you heard “Gloucester”, where you were and what you think.

Some of the radio spots are scheduled during the following shows

  • Two (2) WFCR News spots rotating thru Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace – Monday thru Saturday
  • Two (2) WFCR Run of Station spots rotating thru Classical Music, Jazz and Entertainment programing – Monday thru Saturday
  • TWO (2) WNNZ News Network spots rotating Monday thru Saturday
  • TWO (2) WNNZ News Network BONUS spots rotating Monday thru Sunday

The MCC is also expanding outreach thru increased collaboration with the state’s office of Travel and Tourism. See Massachusetts excellent and popular travel site. 

The Gloucester page has not been edited, yet–it’s just a placeholder. We can edit and businesses can add in. The calendar is an exciting opportunity integrated with the interactive cultural districts map and information. I’m hoping the GMG and chamber calendars can just be synced up.

MCC new landing page on MOTT ma vacation

MCC Cultural Districts convened at IDEO Cambridge & coming to Gloucester!

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Click here to Read the Gloucester downtown cultural district November 2017 save the date and cultural district reports from the MCC

SAVE THE DATE

November 8, 2017  North of Boston Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony will honor
Mayor Romeo Theken and Jeanne Hennessey, Beauport Hotel

November 11, 2017 2-6PM – Gloucester Meeting House Foundation Preservation & Architectural  Sustainability SYMPOSIUM  TownGreen|2025  Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church 

Monday, Nov. 27, 10 am, JOIN MASSACHUSETTS CULTURAL COUNCIL POWER OF CONNECTION TOUR at Gloucester’s Rocky Neck Art Colony, 6 Wonson Street, Gloucester, MA 01930, with Mayor Romeo Theken, Senator Bruce Tarr & Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante of Gloucester.  RSVP here.

November 29, 2017 Dogtown Public Presentation and Meeting- archaeological survey and pursuit of National Historic district designation  

December 17, 2017 Cape Ann Cinema & Stage Oscar winner Chris Cooper will personally host a screening of the role that won him the Gold for Best Supporting Actor…horticulturist John Laroche in Spike Jonze’s superb, darkly comic 2002 drama, “Adaptation.” The evening benefits The Jesse Cooper Foundation.

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Anita Walker, director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, welcome address October 2017 MCC cultural district convening held at IDEO Cambridge headquarters.
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Congrtulations to the original cultural districts– all renewed designation

Message from Anita Walker the Power of Culture- MCC has a new logo for its 50th year

Anita Walker message fall 2017

 

 

First, second, third or last Saturdays? Stage Fort Park party feedback

Last night was the annual Stage Fort Welcoming Center re-opening party (see photos.) It’s tradition for Gloucester businesses to take 30 seconds to share new business news. I wish I wrote down everybody’s highlights. I didn’t. Please write back here to share the 2017 season Gloucester updates and special offers you mentioned last night or would have mentioned if you could have attended! We’ll make sure to fan them back out. A few businesses are transitioning to second generation family members at the helm. It’s exciting and positive to hear their news. Guess who?

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Cape Ann Community Cinema and Gloucester Stage have some luminaries booked that will knock your socks off. Local fare accompanied the spiels thanks to Cape Ann Coffees, Gloucester House Restaurant, Beauport Hotel, Topside Grill, Captain Carlos, Castle Manor Inn Sea Glass Restaurant, and others.

We celebrate local culture, food and business daily in historic Gloucester.

That’s why GMG has a year round arts and events calendar, and another just for music. What if we decided upon the Same Saturdays once a month to call out some extra attention or add into special plans in the works? Gloucester Saturdays could be as simple as:  Participants would be invited to submit events ahead of time– pretty much along the lines of how everyone programs already. Restaurants. Shops. Galleries. Museums. Everybody. This recurring day would give some more time for people to plan ahead or work together. It doesn’t have to be rigid. It could encompass folks who want to open early (Lee’s!) or stay extra late (Short and Main Tiki bar!) We’re lucky to have a mix of operational styles.

But which Saturday? cue unofficial GMG poll (poll closes in less than a week)

downtown Gloucester winter spring summer fall

 Double check the recurring annual events page to see if any of yours are missing. Some month for a Gloucester Literary Festival has been requested for years. January and February may be good months to consider.

Here’s more about the Saturday option from Gloucester’s downtown Harbortown cultural district and other downtown news:

“what do you think? There are numerous requests about downtown Gloucester committing to staying open late, ONE night each month, YEAR ROUND. The most recent request is from Jo Anne Chirico, owner of goodlinens, added into a list with suggestions back when the district was formed and in response to the first survey. The discussion also recently came up in the tourism commission. Lanesville, Annisquam, and Magnolia could be featured with their own night leading into that Saturday ( if not that Saturday.) If it were a Saturday, do you have a preference for First, 2nd, 3rd, or last Saturdays? Let us know.  Boston has First Fridays. Plymouth, MA, offers “first Saturdays” as does Lowell (leans mostly arts related businesses). Hillsborough plans for Last Fridays (primarily art walks). Newburyport has special events and art walks 4 nights a year. Gloucester has the 3 block parties. Some towns that program around one night or series use a signifier to indicate which businesses participate (window cling/sticker/lights on/etc). Rockport has a great solution in using their lovely lanterns NIGHTLY in season, like so Each summer (June-September), enjoy Rockport at Night where galleries and shops keep their doors open from 4-8 pm. From Main St. to Bearskin Neck–the town’s merchants welcome you with hors d’oeuvres, wine, and beverages while you enjoy the renowned talents of this creative Art Colony (participating shops will have a lantern hanging outside)”

OPPORTUNITY FOR DISTRICT Forwarded from the Mayor: There is a $500 fall-winter festival grant from the MCC.  St Peter’s Fiesta received one for this summer! Email possible suggestions by June 1. We’ll toss the list back out and decide together if there’s one to put forth as the district, or maybe there’s one that’s just right for a partner, as with St. Peter’s Fiesta.

From the MCC: Festivals Taking Place September 1, 2017 – February 28, 2018
Online application available: June 2017
Preliminary funding decisions begin: September 1, 2017
Application deadline: September 15, 2017 at 5 PM (ET)
Grants announced: October 2017 “Applications to the Festivals Program will be reviewed on a “first-received, first-reviewed” basis. Regional diversity will be taken into consideration as part of the application review process.”

Nutshell: It is hoped that the cultural district name will be shortened to Gloucester’s downtown cultural district, not Gloucester’s downtown Harbortown cultural district. Also, the footprint needs to be revised to reflect all downtown.  We wanted both those things from the outset, and that is the feedback we continue to receive. Loud and Clear!