Home Page
Home Page  |  Welcome  |  Issues  |  Volunteer  |  About us  |  Contribute  |  Publications

Arts and culture takes a hit

Massachusetts Culrural Council, John Michael Kennedy

Arts and culture takes a hit

(BOSTON) – Cultural programs that reach new audiences, enhance students’ education, and bring arts to low-income communities are being put at risk by recent state budget cuts, according to results of a survey released today by the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC). MCC is the state agency that grants public funds to cultural programs and organizations across the state; it received a 62-percent cut in funding in FY 2003.

“We are only half-way through this current fiscal year, but it is already clear that the programs most in need of public support are in the greatest jeopardy,” said MCC Executive Director Mary Kelley. “These programs are part of an important structure for the cultural industry in the state, but they are not supported through ticket sales or by most private funders. Extraordinary cuts in MCC funds have, in effect, halted investment in the future of our cultural organizations, in the livability of communities, and in the future consumers of art and culture.”

MCC used an online survey instrument that was made available to grant recipients from September 2003 through December 2003. The survey encompassed a wide range of MCC recipients and provides a snapshot of how cultural groups are responding to the budget cuts. Survey respondents included cultural organizations (mostly non-profit arts, sciences and humanities groups that receive state funding through MCC), local cultural councils (or LCCs, which compose a 335-member network of cultural funders in every city and town in the state), educators (including teachers, parents, and representatives from schools or school districts) and individual artists (professional artists who spend a majority of their time creating art, working with community organizations, etc., and who have received state funding from MCC or LCCs).


Respondents were asked to rank the importance of state funding to their work, in comparison to municipal and federal funding. All respondents ranked state funding as most important among the three; those who ranked state funding “crucial” or “extremely crucial” (using a scale from 1-5) include 95 percent of local cultural councils, 91 percent of educators, 84 percent of cultural organizations, and 78 percent of individual artists.

Respondents were asked if state cuts to MCC impeded their ability to raise money from other sources, such as individuals, private corporations or foundations. Seventy percent (70%) of organizations said state budget cuts have negatively affected other fundraising, as did 64 percent of educators, 63 percent of artists, and 61 percent of LCCs. Most MCC funding recipients are required to find matching funds, which boosts the impact of state money as much as 100 to 400 percent.


With reduced funds, cultural organizations that responded to the survey say they are struggling to keep outreach and education programs going. Organizations also are cutting jobs and local cultural councils are funding fewer community-based arts grants.

* Fifty-nine percent (59%) of cultural groups are cutting back on outreach programs that cultivate new audiences, ticket-buyers and donors.
* Forty-one percent (41%) of cultural groups will cut back on cultural programming for low-income populations, meaning fewer people will have access to arts and cultural activities.
* Thirty-seven percent (37%) of cultural groups will cut back on arts- based youth programs that have been credited with, among other things, ending youth violence, raising social consciousness, and providing positive role models in school and after school.
* An estimated 72.5 full-time jobs was lost by the 46 cultural organizations that reported staff reductions.
* Local Cultural Councils funded 47 percent fewer applications for the Performing Arts Student Support (or PASS) subsidized ticket program, resulting in 550 fewer cultural field trips, and potentially affecting tens of thousands of elementary school students across the state.
* LCCs funded 62 percent fewer grants for community arts projects this year compared to FY 2002. This year 4,125 projects were funded; 6615 projects were funded last year.


MCC asked survey responders to estimate how state funds are used in their work or within their organizations. Cultural organizations that responded to the survey say they use MCC funds in a variety of ways, but primarily for cultural programming (53 percent), educational programming and materials (20 percent), and staff salaries (13 percent).

Schools, district and teachers who responded to the survey use MCC funds for educational materials (50 percent), educational programming (30 percent), and general administrative expenses (20 percent).

Individual artists who responded said they use MCC funds primarily to pay a portion of their salaries (50 percent); buy basic materials and supplies (27 percent); and finance programs they do in their communities and schools (23 percent).

Local Cultural Councils reported using their state funds primarily for grants (61 percent), for educational programs or materials (11 percent) and for other operation and programming expenses (23 percent). LCC funding comes primarily from the state through MCC, and is re- granted to community-based organizations, programs and educational institutions.


MCC conducted an online survey, to which 184 cultural organizations, educators, local cultural councils and individual artists responded in the last quarter of 2002. The purpose was to collect information on the impact of a 62-percent cut in FY2003 funds. MCC staff collected and analyzed the data, which was intended to provide a snapshot of the effect of actual cultural funding cuts for the first half of FY 2003, and the projected effects through the second half of the year.


A 62-percent budget cut to the Massachusetts Cultural Council was made in July 2002 and resulted in a drop from $19.1 million in FY 2002 to $7.3 million in FY 2003. It was the largest percentage cut of any Massachusetts state agency, and the largest percentage cut of any state arts agency in the country. The Council laid off more than 25 percent of its staff, ended eight of its 13 granting programs, and decreased grant amounts for non-profit groups by an average of 62 percent.

MCC’s two largest statewide grant programs, Organizational Support (which gives unrestricted funds to non-profit cultural organizations) and Local Cultural Councils (a network of 335 councils that funds programs in every city and town), were cut 59 percent each. Other programs received cuts from 40 to 79 percent.

Some programs that made multi-year grants will be phased out after this year, including Cultural Economic Development (which provides seed money for regional collaborations using culture as an economic engine) and Education Partnership Initiative (which helps teachers change the way art is taught throughout the state curriculum).

Smaller MCC programs were terminated immediately including the Endowment Grant Program (which supported development programs for non- profit cultural organizations), Professional Development (which provided small grants for conference or workshop attendance), the Elder Arts Initiative (which trained individual artists to work with older adults on creating theater, dance and written pieces about their lives) and the Matching Incentive Program (which encouraged municipal funding for local councils).

Several MCC partnerships-including programs with Very Special Arts Massachusetts, sponsorship of the “Greater Boston Arts” show on WGBH- TV, the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Project, the Massachusetts Alliance for Arts Education, the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, New England Foundation for the Arts and others-also were reduced or eliminated.

Additional background information on MCC cuts is available on the Council’s website, www.massculturalcouncil.com


Privacy Policy
Want to receive our email newsletter?