On October 8, Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill into law establishing the first state-level Creative Economy Council in the US. The formation of the 25-member board to support businesses "providing creative services" is a victory for a movement that's lobbied for government support for the arts, because they are an economic engine — not just a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
But the legislation, which was sponsored by its long-time House backer, Democratic representative Daniel Bosley of North Adams, left something out — any guaranteed seat for the architects, artists, filmmakers, computer-game creators, designers, and advertising folks it defines as the creative part of the creative economy.
The council's landmark status, people fear, could make the exclusion of creative workers a national model.
The bill stipulates that the council's membership will include members of the legislature and leaders of the Massachusetts Lodging Association, Massachusetts Restaurant Association, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, regional tourism councils, and "an owner of a sole proprietorship in the creative economy" ("creative economy" is defined so broadly that this is not necessarily a creative maker). This line-up may confirm the fears of many creative types who suspect that the creative-economy movement is more about supporting hotels and restaurants than artists or designers.
"The instinct on this was to put together the advocates and the policy people who could make things happen," says Dan Hunter, executive director of Massachusetts Advocates for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities, which is guaranteed a seat on the board. "There was no intention of excluding the views of anyone. It was to raise the profile of the creative economy." Hunter says he will push for artists to be on the council's subcommittees.
Bosley's own definition of the sector is broad. "We tend to think of the creative economy as culture and the arts — the creative economy spans really almost every industry in Massachusetts," he says, linking it to Massachusetts firsts, from the computer to fully-paid-for public schools. "What has always driven this economy is our ability to innovate." Bosley aims to cultivate this sort of creativity.
Democratic representative Eric Turkington of Falmouth, who chairs the legislature's Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development, says, "People who are actually in the business of design and creating art, if I had my way, there would have been more room for them, but I think the sponsor thought it was getting unwieldy."
"There will be artists on the thing," says Bosley, predicting that the governor will use his discretionary appointments to name designers or artists. "If it doesn't work out and they don't get a seat at the table, we can always enlarge it."
Patrick's position, as relayed by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (which hosts the council), is: "We will continue to work with people from all segments of the creative sector to make Massachusetts a place where creative minds want to be."
Kathleen Bitetti, executive director of the Artists Foundation in Boston, hopes that the bill will be amended in the next legislative session in January to guarantee creative folks a seat. "I think it's a really good step," she says. "I think we just need to make it better."