IN: News & Features

Oh No—Not Again!


Barolomo Veneto's femal lute player (Gardner Museum)
Bartolomo Veneto  (Gardner Museum)

The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee recently recommended slashing the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s (MCC) annual budget by 28%, from $14 million to $10 million. Every year, one or another draconian measure to cut funding comes up, and those who believe that their life is better from arts exposure have to fight for that view. The process is like an annual tooth extraction.

“We like to pride ourselves that Massachusetts is the most cultured state in the country, that the arts are a form of ‘common wealth,’ as good for business as for our own wellbeing. And yet how shockingly low we rank in our support for public higher education and arts funding,” bemoaned Lloyd Schwartz, local Pulitzer Prize-winning classical critic. “The Massachusetts Cultural Council provides crucial support both for our arts groups and for talented individual artists, and now—once again—the House Ways and Means Committee is threatening to cut a big chunk of MCC’s funding. Will we ever get our priorities right?”

The Massachusetts legislative delegation does have serious advocates for the arts. Prominent among them is Representative Cory Atkins (D-Concord), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, who is sponsoring an amendment to reverse the proposed cut. Atkins has been one of the most important members of the House for liberal causes since she won the seat in a special election of 1999. Also supportive are Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow), co-chair with Atkins of the joint committee, and Rep. William Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox), the House vice-chair of that committee, who also serves on the Ways and Means Committee. However, although the interests that the other HWMC members address are highly worthy ones like education, rights for the disabled, prison reform, and public health, the arts do not seem prominent among them.

Those of us who feel we cannot live without life-enhancing exposure to musical performances, plays, art exhibitions and similar pleasures are now called on to help rectify the misguided funding cuts under consideration. We must contact the members of the legislature and lobby to restore funding for the numerous small cultural organizations and individual artists in Massachusetts dependent on it.

This plea is echoed by Anita Walker, head of MCC. “Every year, the state government puts us through this hoop to maintain adequate funding for the arts, so please join me in sending a strong message to the legislators.”

To send messages to members of the Massachusetts House Ways and Mean Committee in support of Rep. Atkins’s amendment to the proposed budget, BMInt readers can either use the link Action Center or contact them directly. Those in bold, from a cursory look at their careers, may be more sympathetic:

Brian S Dempsey, Chair (D-Haverhill), 617-722-2990

Stephen Kulik, Vice Chair (D-Worthington/ Haydenville),, 617-722-2380

Benjamin Swan, Vice-Chair (D-Springfield), 617-722-2380

Angelo Scaccia (D-Readville), 617-722-2060

Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury), 617-722-2810

Robert M. Koczera (D-New Bedford) , 617-722-2582

Ruth B. Balser (D-Newton), 617-722-2396

William Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox), 617-722-2017

Sean Garballey (D-Arlington),

Carolyn C. Dykema (D-Holliston),

Marcos A. Devers (D-Lawrence),

Tackey Chan (D-Quincy),

Michael J Finn (D-West Springfield),

Chris Walsh (D-Framingham),

Marjorie C. Decker (D-Cambridge),

Alan Silvia (D-Fall River),

Angelo L. D’Emilia (R-Bridgewater),

Kate D. Campanale (R-Leicester),

Peter J. Durant (R-Spencer),

Donald H. Wong (R-Saugus)s,

James R. Miceli (D-Wilmington),

Thomas M. Petrolati (D-Ludlow),

Colleen M. Garry (D-Dracut),

Thomas M. Stanley (D-Waltham),

Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen),

James M. Cantwell (D-Marshfield),

Timothy R. Madden (D-Nantucket),

Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose),

Nick Collins (D-Boston),

Russell E. Holmes (D-Boston), Russell.

Claire D. Cronin (D–Easton),

Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin),

Todd M. Smola (R-Warren),

Nicholas A. Boldyga (R-Southwick),

Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk),

Kimberley N. Ferguson (R-Holden),

Bettina A. Norton, emerita editor of the Intelligencer, is a retired museum professional. She has published widely in her field, American historical prints, and in later years, was editor and publisher of The Beacon Hill Chronicle. She has been attending classical music concerts “since the waning years of World War II.”


4 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. Thanks, Toni. We needed reminding, and the addresses help.

    Comment by Martin Cohn — April 24, 2016 at 9:03 am

  2. Toni, I volunteer for an ESL conversation group at the Brookline Public Library, and last week after the presentation of a scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream by 4 young actors from the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company at the Library, we had a lively discussion of how the arts are funded. These are adults who come from countries where government funding of arts and education are a given, and they were quite taken aback to learn that that is not the case in this land of wealth and abundance. I had no defense to offer. Thanks for the list and the reminder. I hope the Mass Cultural Council will reconsider and, rather than cutting funding, will increase it.

    Comment by jaylyn — April 26, 2016 at 8:51 am

  3. Hi Toni,
    FYI, I just clicked on my rep’s email, Ruth Balser, and it came up as “Balzer” with a z, so bounced back. Oddly, the name and spelling are both correct in your list!

    Comment by Amelia LeClair — May 4, 2016 at 10:27 am

  4. REMINDER and a PLEA.
    I have no idea if many of you responded with an email to your legislators, but if not, please think of doing so soon. Today’s email contained this from Matthew Wilson, head of MASScreative, working to keep up good funding for the arts:

    I was in the State House yesterday backed by the creative community’s advocacy voice. And senators are hearing the message that arts matter in Massachusetts. The message is clear: the Senate’s recommended budget for the Massachusetts Cultural Council falls short of providing the creative community the resources needed to build a vibrant, healthy, and equitable Massachusetts…. So far, 11 senators have signed onto Senator Eric Lesser’s amendment #315 to boost the Massachusetts Cultural Council to $17 million. (See below for the current list of co-sponsors.) We still have some work to do to get the rest of the Senate on our side. And to make an even bigger impact with Senate President Stan Rosenberg, we need at least a majority of senators to sign on to the amendment.

    Legislators need to hear from you by the end of the day Monday before Senate budget deliberations start on Tuesday, May 24.

    Comment by Bettina A Norton — May 20, 2016 at 11:01 am

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