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Mass. Arts and Culture Advocates Unhappy with Budget Recommendation

401(K) 2013, flickr

Out of the cuts included in the House Ways and Means proposal, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a public agency that promotes investment in the arts and sciences, is facing a 15 percent reduction in state funding. And arts advocates are moving quickly.

Matt Wilson is head of MASSCreative, an organization that lobbies in support of cultural organizations and arts and sciences education.

"MASSCreative and the leaders in the arts and culture community across the commonwealth are disappointed in the Ways and Means budget," said Wilson. "It's a disinvestment in the arts and culture community across Massachusetts."

MASSCreative and its allies are making efforts across the state to meet with House lawmakers before the deadline to file budget amendments arrives Friday.

Greg Liakos, a spokesperson for the MCC, said that the agency not only helps communities invest in new arts and cultural projects, but also supports non-profits across the state through behind-the-scenes and maintenance investments.

"The General Operating Support grants are critical sources of funding for non-profit organizations because they can use those to pay the staff or pay the rent bill. Some of the more basic things that any non-profit organization needs to do achieve its mission," said Liakos.

The MCC estimates that for every dollar the state invests in the arts and culture, there’s a five dollar return.

"Money invested in this sector comes back to the commonwealth," said Liakos.

The arts and tourism are a vital component of the economy in the Berkshires. Meghan Whilden, cultural development director for the city of Pittsfield, said that the investments that are spurring the transformation of the city’s downtown are important for not only quality-of-life-but also for attracting employers.

“It's made the city much more attractive for employers or employees," said Whilden. "If you look at downtown Pittsfield, over fifty new restaurants, shops, and cultural hotspots have opened over the past six to eight years."

Matt Wilson of MASSCreative said that since 2002, the budget for the MCC, which now stands at around $11 million, has been cut nearly in half.

The MCC also had its funding cut in mid-year budget adjustments.

State representatives are now working to show their support for the funding. Representative Paul Mark, and Representative Gail Cariddi, both Berkshire Democrats, tell WAMC that they will sign on to legislation introduced by Representative Cory Atkins of Concord that would boost the MCC budget by 25 percent.

The House will take up votes on their budget for fiscal year 2014 beginning the week of April 22nd.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.