Montserrat President Steve Immerman Supports Override of Massachusetts Cultural Council Budget Cuts

January 14, 2019

Column: Mass Cultural Council budget cuts would be ‘devastating’ -Stephen D. Immerman l July 27, 2016

The devastating 55 percent cut to the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s (MCC) proposed budget by Gov. Charlie Baker makes very little sense from either a public policy or a fiscal standpoint, and even less so from a political point of view. The Legislature is currently considering overrides to the governor’s veto in the final days of the session this weekend and most certainly should restore the MCC budget to at least the funding it received last fiscal year.

Every single city and town in the commonwealth receives support for each local cultural council through the MCC. The number of programs, local arts initiatives and individual artists supported by the MCC makes it one of the most grass-roots success stories that Massachusetts can boast. Public investment in arts and culture guarantees that access to the arts is distributed across geographical regions and socioeconomic groups. Public investment also encourages long-term sustainability because state grants require the documentation of sound fiscal and planning practices.
Cities and towns in Essex County received more than $1.3 million in grants last year from the MCC. In addition, more than $400,000 was allocated from the Cultural Facilities Fund to North Shore communities via the MCC. If the governor’s veto stands, the Massachusetts Cultural Council may have to eliminate programs and cut grants by 30 to 60 percent. This outcome would be devastating!

Countless studies have shown the multiplier impact arts and culture funding has on business and tourism. According to MASSCreative, the not-for-profit arts and culture sector alone contributes $2.2 billion to the economy of the commonwealth and generates another $2.5 billion in related economic activity. Here on the North Shore, we need to look no further than the impact the Peabody Essex Museum has in Salem, or what Montserrat College of Art, The Cabot (The Cabot Street Cinema Theater) and the North Shore Music Theater have contributed to the vibrancy and quality of life in Beverly.

Here are the facts: Last year, the commonwealth invested $12 million in nonprofit arts, humanities, and sciences through the MCC. MCC’ largest grant program provided direct support to 380 nonprofits serving 39 million visitors through performances, exhibitions, and public programs; 12 million of those were free of charge. The combined spending of all of the above generated more than 10 times the tax revenue to Massachusetts compared to its investment, and supported more than 68,000 jobs. That is an excellent return indeed!

Also, 28,600 young people across the commonwealth benefited from MCC-funded programs that engaged them in creative learning experiences. Again, studies show the positive social benefit of involvement in the arts has on self-esteem, high school completion, leadership development, and the avoidance of negative social behavior. MCC increased its outreach to 4,172 at-risk adolescents, a 19 percent increase over the previous year. Additionally, it provided free arts education in after-school programs for 2,750 students at YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs across the state. This commitment to our youth cannot be underestimated.

See the column at salemnews.com