Governor Patrick wants cultural economy to grow, triples some funding
by Larry Murray
There has been a year-long campaign to increase funding for the arts in Massachusetts, and advocates are not just encouraged, they are actually celebrating today. The state’s cultural facilities fund is about to be tripled. This means organizations all across the state can apply for support of their capital improvement plans. And that includes many Berkshire institutions who have delayed capital improvement plans over the past several years due to a recovering economy and what many have called “donor fatigue.” Times have been challenging for boards and trustees who want to advance their outreach to the public.
So when Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick took the podium at the Norman Rockwell Museum this morning, there were cheeers as he announced his allocation of $15 million to the Cultural Facilities Fund to improve cultural venues across the Commonwealth. This triples the annual allocation that the governor historically gives to this program. Many Berkshire cultural operations have accessed earlier rounds of funding including the Rockwell in Stockbridge, which has received grants from the Fund totaling $388,000 for planning and infrastructure improvements. To date, the Fund has made $54.8 million in grants to 269 arts and culture organizations.
“We’re thrilled the governor is strategically investing $15 million in the Cultural Facilities Fund, which has made important investments in cultural institutions large and small here in Pittsfield and the Berkshires,” gushed Megan Whilden, Director of Cultural Development for the City of Pittsfield. “The long-term economic impact will be far-reaching and visionary, and we look forward to the opportunity to further invest in, support and grow the Berkshires’ creative economy.”
The governor’s announcement follows a four-month advocacy campaign led by MASSCreative, which involved over 200 arts and cultural institutions, mayors and chambers of commerce and over 1,200 individuals across Massachusetts. MASSCreative is the only organization in Massachusetts working statewide to advocate for arts and cultural initiatives, made possible by support of the Boston Foundation and the Hunt Alternatives Fund.
“More than 200 creative institutions, large and small, from all corners of the state, came together to make a bold request of Governor Patrick,” said Matt Wilson, Executive Director of MASSCreative. “The governor clearly understands the impact these institutions have on our communities and our economy, and responded in kind.”
The work of the Cultural Facilities Fund has resulted in the creation of nearly 15,000 jobs to architects, engineers, contractors, and construction workers; and created over 1,400 new permanent jobs.
In 2006, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill creating the Cultural Facilities Fund, to provide resources to maintain and rebuild the Commonwealth’s cultural venues. In 2008, the legislature allocated $50 million to the Fund to be invested over five years. With this latest announcement, the governor has appropriated $39 million of that amount.The Cultural Facilities Fund has proven to be a valuable source of needed capital for hundreds of institutions across Massachusetts, with nearly two-thirds of the grants awarded by the Fund going to organizations with budgets under $1 million.
“This latest funding appropriation is a great testament to the impact the Cultural Facilities Fund has already had on communities around the state,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation, which launched the original Campaign for Cultural Facilities in 2004 with the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is a founding funder of MASSCreative. “The hundreds of organizations eligible for grants from the Fund play critical roles in their communities, and these funds are critical infusions to smaller cultural organizations from Boston to the Berkshires to enhance impact these arts and cultural institutions can have.”
In the first year, the Boston Symphony Orchestra received a Cultural Facilities Fund grant for extensive renovations to Symphony Hall’s auditorium, surrounding orchestra level corridors, and a public reception room.
“The Boston Symphony Orchestra is extremely grateful to Governor Patrick for his investment in the cultural community by increasing support of the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, said Mark Volpe, the BSO’s Managing Director. “This fund will allow hundreds of organizations—large and small—to steward their unique public spaces, which is so essential to attracting and engaging audiences of all ages. I applaud the Governor for recognizing this great need and how this funding will drive economic activity in the Commonwealth.”
“Governor Patrick is a visionary,” said Erin Williams, Cultural Development Officer of the Worcester Cultural Coalition. “He knows that arts and culture are a vital component of our communities. We are grateful to Governor Patrick for his foresight and action to increase Cultural Facilities Funding, which allows for cultural institutions to not only repair that which exists, but to innovate and create universal access, creative design and placemaking throughout the Commonwealth.”
Raw Art Works, located in the heart of downtown Lynn, is a vibrant example of how the Cultural Facilities Fund has both leveraged investment in the city and provided opportunities to broaden and deepen the impact on the youth of Lynn.
“We are thankful that Governor Patrick acted boldly to provide inspiration for his successors that the Commonwealth values the venues that bring life to our communities,” said Kit Jenkins, Executive Director of Raw Art Works. “We are tremendously grateful for the support we’ve received through the Cultural Facilities Fund, and thrilled that more will be invested to allow ideas to get off the drawing board in order to meet the needs of and add value to the community.”
The Cultural Facilities Fund will be issuing a new application in January for FY14 projects.