Don Aucoin’s piece on the state of the Commonwealth’s arts sector captured its economic and social contributions to the state (”The arts in a changed world,” Sunday Arts, March 14). He is right that the sector not only needs but also deserves significant public investment in order to weather the losses of the pandemic. But his conclusion that artists need to become “more politically savvy” and “do a better job” of sharing stories to spur investment is wrong.
The political prowess of artists during Boston’s 2013 mayoral campaign, the last time there was no incumbent among the candidates, was touted in a front-page Globe story during the heat of the campaign. As a result of that political advocacy, the city now has a Cabinet-level arts commissioner. Over the past decade, artists in Massachusetts have successfully advocated for increases to the budget of the Mass Cultural Council, which at $18.2 million is twice as big as it was in 2011.
The problem isn’t that artists don’t know how to advocate. The problem is that artists, their creations, and the nearly infinite ways in which they make life worth living are so woven into the tapestry of our lives that we barely notice them. That’s why we’re told that it’s our civic duty to order takeout from restaurants during the pandemic rather than sending money to any one of the hundreds of arts organizations that have been mitigating the trauma of front-line health care workers and easing our isolation.
Art is a public good and needs public investment. But it’s not up to artists to make the case. It’s on all of us.