State boosts investment in arts and culture

Budget increase for Mass Cultural Council; Mass Cultural Facilities Fund granted
By ANA RIVAS  |  July 26, 2006

Mass Cultural Council’s Mary Kelley
After many weeks of vetoes and votes, the $13-million Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund was finally granted, and the Mass Cultural Council (MCC) got its largest budget increase in years. The 26% increase totals $12.1 million in Cultural Funding. This means more capital grants, loans, and planning assistance to renovate, expand, and repair cultural facilities. And perhaps most importantly, it sends a message of respect for the value of the arts, sciences, and humanities.

“Every time you can get people away from their TV sets and to a concert hall or a theatre, that’s how you build community,” said Dan Hunter, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Advocates for Arts, Sciences, and Humanities (MAASH). “I think the Facilities Fund will help to strengthen the infrastructure for tourism,” he said today from his office. That tourism is attracted to the state’s cultural capital was one of the strongest arguments for this decision. Over the past year, MAASH coordinated hundreds of advocates to testify at public forums, met with legislators on Beacon Hill, and sent them messages about the importance of public funding for arts and culture. “We are done for the year,” Hunter said, “and it was a good year.”

“We are deeply grateful to the Legislature and its leadership for their commitment to arts and culture,” said Mary Kelley, MCC’s Executive Director, in a press release. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to override Governor Mitt Romney’s veto over two the two proposals. “This investment will pay off in every community in the state by stimulating economic activity, expanding access to cultural programs, and enhancing education,” Kelley said. The MCC announced it would invest the additional funds in its core grant programs for communities, non-profit cultural organizations, schools, and artists.

The increase is not enough to reverse the effects of deep budget cuts to arts and culture during the state’s fiscal crisis in 2002. Before the cut, the MCC budget was $19 million, but there was nothing like the facilities fund, said Gregory Liakos, the council’s Communications Director. “Having both will help us to assess the real needs of the cultural organizations.”

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