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

 

 

THE FISK CONNECTION | A PROGRESSIVE ORGAN CONCERT ON APRIL 14 Gloucester Meetinghouse UU and St. John’s

high res Fisk facade photoGloucester Meetinghouse Foundation shares news about its upcoming special event

“The the first half of the concert is performed on the historic 1893 Hutchings/Fisk organ in the Gloucester Meetinghouse (home of the Unitarian Universalist Church) and the second half is performed on the innovative 1989 C. B. Fisk organ in St. John’s Episcopal Church next door.  Six professional organists, related in various ways to Gloucester, will perform diverse repertoire on these two fine pipe-organs.  The concert will include narration about the work of Charles Fisk, the relationship of the players to the Fisk legacy, and a bit about how the two instruments sound.  A reception will follow the concert.”

Fisk Connection Organ Concert PosterRead the full press release Continue reading “THE FISK CONNECTION | A PROGRESSIVE ORGAN CONCERT ON APRIL 14 Gloucester Meetinghouse UU and St. John’s”

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

Breaking News!- Gloucester MA Becomes First City To Have More Than One Cultural District After Mass Cultural Council Approves Downtown Gloucester As The Gloucester Harbortown Cultural District

This just in from Mayor Kirk-

Congratulations everyone!  Just received word back from Springfield that we received the designation for the Gloucester Harbortown Cultural District.  This has been a remarkable effort by so many people who have come together with a common vision for our beautiful city.  Thank you all.

Mayor Kirk

We covered the process here on GMG.   At the meeting in which community leaders explained to The Mass Cultural Council Why Gloucester is so special and deserves to be the first City with more than one Cultural District-

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

Posted on February 21, 2013 by Joey C

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.

DSC09160DSC09150

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.

DSC09165DSC09147DSC09148DSC09154DSC09156DSC09158

Melissa I love my new scarf.  You rock!

DSC09162

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

DSC09164

Gloucester Welcomes The MCC Thursday 2/21/13 Info

Posted on February 19, 2013 by Joey C

image

Help us Decorate by printing and posting Art Haven’s poster! (attached)

Please print out and share this wonderful poster, a unique and custom welcome for MCC, designed by Art Haven, a founding cultural partner. We’re hoping residents, businesses, and organizations throughout the district at street level or above will put it in their window or door for that day. Founding partner, the  Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce will disperse it to its members. GMG will post it to request that folks display it for us.  Fred Bodin is also reaching out to his network to encourage printing/posting! We hope all the partners print/display and share with others.

PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU CAN HANDLE 8MB FILE OR PDF and thank you ART HAVEN!

Review the Itinerary

The MCC site visit will start at 10 AM with a check in at the Cape Ann Museum.  This will only be a quick stop prior to the first meeting, but will give the committee a chance to greet the delegation, distribute literature and prepare information about the venues and businesses within the proposed CD, and offer them a place to stash any items that they might want later in the day.

· 10:00 AM Cape Ann Museum steering committee will  welcome MCC/check in/home base

· 10:30 the MCC delegation will meet at City Hall with city officials, coffee and pastries courtesy Cape Ann Coffee

· 11:30 the walking tour begins and will include 7 stops (not more than 5 minutes each) with pointing and discussion along the way.

The proposed DGCD footprint very roughly spans from St.Peter’s/the Chamber side over  to Gortons, and from City Hall to Maritime Gloucester. This means it includes the Civic jewels, all of Middle, all of Main, all of Harbor Loop, our waterfront, and Rogers until Rose Baker.  It’s the same footprint used for decades and that we all know. We’ll be included in a select group that receive designation and will be marketed with 5 others on the North Shore. We will be the first town in the state with two cultural districts! It mirrors the HarborWalk’s,  the Chamber of Commerce’s, Discover Gloucester,  and Maritime Trail mapsl, etc–everyone’s efforts to maintain the integrity of downtown and historic harbor area. It will likely increase what is already great and working. Our downtown works hard to offer residents, visitors and employees fantastic experiences!

Gloucester Welcomes The MCC Thursday 2/21/13 Info

image

 

 

Help us Decorate by printing and posting Art Haven’s poster! (attached)

Please print out and share this wonderful poster, a unique and custom welcome for MCC, designed by Art Haven, a founding cultural partner. We’re hoping residents, businesses, and organizations throughout the district at street level or above will put it in their window or door for that day. Founding partner, the  Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce will disperse it to its members. GMG will post it to request that folks display it for us.  Fred Bodin is also reaching out to his network to encourage printing/posting! We hope all the partners print/display and share with others.

PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU CAN HANDLE 8MB FILE OR PDF and thank you ART HAVEN!

Review the Itinerary

The MCC site visit will start at 10 AM with a check in at the Cape Ann Museum.  This will only be a quick stop prior to the first meeting, but will give the committee a chance to greet the delegation, distribute literature and prepare information about the venues and businesses within the proposed CD, and offer them a place to stash any items that they might want later in the day.

· 10:00 AM Cape Ann Museum steering committee will  welcome MCC/check in/home base

· 10:30 the MCC delegation will meet at City Hall with city officials, coffee and pastries courtesy Cape Ann Coffee

· 11:30 the walking tour begins and will include 7 stops (not more than 5 minutes each) with pointing and discussion along the way.

The proposed DGCD footprint very roughly spans from St.Peter’s/the Chamber side over  to Gortons, and from City Hall to Maritime Gloucester. This means it includes the Civic jewels, all of Middle, all of Main, all of Harbor Loop, our waterfront, and Rogers until Rose Baker.  It’s the same footprint used for decades and that we all know. We’ll be included in a select group that receive designation and will be marketed with 5 others on the North Shore. We will be the first town in the state with two cultural districts! It mirrors the HarborWalk’s,  the Chamber of Commerce’s, Discover Gloucester,  and Maritime Trail mapsl, etc–everyone’s efforts to maintain the integrity of downtown and historic harbor area. It will likely increase what is already great and working. Our downtown works hard to offer residents, visitors and employees fantastic experiences!

1)Sawyer Free, Dale Avenue  

2)UU Church, Middle Street

3)Legion Hall/Joan of Arc, the west perimeter boundary

4)Café Sicilila, West End, Main Street

5)Maritime Gloucester, Harbor  Loop

6)Rose Baker Senior Center

· 12:30-1:30 Lunch Break Halibut Point, followed by quick pop in to Alexandra’s bakery to  pick up  “to go” treats for MCC guests

· 1:30-2:00 walking tour continues along Main to end point, roundtable discussion

7)Art Haven, Main Street

· 2:00PM- 3:00PM MCC meets with partners at Fred Bodin’s, chair rental delivery courtesy our  own “Party Rental Gloucester

· 2:45 PM or 3PM other folks who may want to meet MCC are welcome to stop by

Peek at one page tally sheet on the web site (a draft of MCC handout to follow)

https://sites.google.com/site/gloucestermadcd/so-what-s-here-the-tally

Public Meeting in Rockport on 11/16

Citizens of Rockport, be sure to come by the library on Wednesday night at 7 o’clock to learn more about the proposed Cultural District. A representative from the Mass Cultural Council will be on hand, so it will be a great time to learn more about this great initiative and what it will mean for Rockport and other Cape Ann communities. To keep updated on all things Rockport Cultural District-related, check out the local Facebook page HERE and hit the Like button to stay in touch.

For more detailed information, read below:

The public is invited to attend an information session on Wednesday, November 16th, at 7PM in the Rockport Public Library’s Peggy Brenner Room, concerning Rockport’s proposed application for a cultural district designation. This designation is part of a new Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) marketing and promotion initiative in which Rockport was invited to participate, along with other communities throughout the Commonwealth.

A cultural district, as defined by the MCC, is a specific geographical area in a city or town that has a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. The District should be an attractive, walkable, compact area that is easily identifiable to visitors and residents and which serves as a center of cultural, artistic, and economic activity. It is not a town zoning designation and has no regulatory impacts.

According to Karen Berger, who has volunteered to coordinate the application process for the town, “The statute that created cultural districts has specific goals: to attract artists and cultural enterprises, encourage business and job development, establish the district as a gateway for visitors, preserve and reuse historic buildings, enhance property values, and foster local cultural development.” She continued, “It is strongly supported by Senator Bruce Tarr and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante and offers Rockport an opportunity to more effectively reach out to those visitors who may be interested in the arts and the cultural opportunities we have to offer.”

Several members of the Rockport Board of Selectmen and members of organizations currently working on the application process will be joined by Meri Jenkins, program manager for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, to explain the program and the applications process and answer questions. For those who can’t attend, comments and /or questions may be submitted via email at rockportculturaldistrict@gmail.com or by phone at 978-502-1854.