Hundreds of people packed the Emerson/Paramount Center, spilled out onto Boston Common and poured into Beacon Hill to ask lawmakers to increase funding for the arts on Tuesday, March 28.
Arts Matter Advocacy Day was organized by MASSCreative, a consortium of arts, cultural, and civic organizations of which Emerson’s Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, and Research and rally host ArtsEmerson are members. The consortium is urging state legislators to support $16 million in arts funding in fiscal 2018, a $1.7 million increase over the allocation in Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget proposal released in January.
“Arts funding is really important, so we’re making sure our voice is heard,” said Charles Hobby, who was marching on behalf of the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, a MASSCreative member organization.
The day started at the Paramount’s Robert J. Orchard Stage, where a standing-room only crowd was welcomed by President Lee Pelton and ArtsEmerson Executive Director David Howse, who emceed.
Participants got policy briefings, lessons in effective advocacy and lobbying lawmakers, and performances by students from the Boston Arts Academy and Conservatory Lab Charter School.
Then hundreds of fired-up arts advocates, many holding official “Arts Matter” signs, organization banners, or homemade placards, streamed out of the Paramount Center and across the Common before heading into the State House for meetings with legislators. Some of them were delivering pro-arts postcards, which were made on campus on March 23 in activities sponsored by the Elma Lewis Center and the Emerson Engagement Lab.
Earlier in March, President Trump released a draft budget that eliminated funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and three other federal cultural grant-making agencies. While this is the second time MASSCreative has organized an arts advocacy day, this year, getting adequate state funding took on new urgency.
“I think there’s a new wave of activism in this country, and given what’s going on at the federal level, it’s exciting to be able to do something at the local level,” said Betsy Groban, who sits on the board of Central Square Theater in Cambridge, another MASSCreative organization. “[Arts Matter organizers] expected 250 people and they got nearly 600. Activism is the silver lining to what’s going on in the country.”