Jon Garelick’s “Billionaire bucks for the arts” (Opinion, Nov. 30) both illustrates the role that wealthy philanthropists have historically played in supporting the arts and details recent investments made by charitable foundations that choose to make grants in this space.
Here in Massachusetts, arts and culture benefit not only from these charitable sources but also from targeted and intentional government investments. This public spending — state and municipal — fosters a more equitable and inclusive arts and cultural sector, benefiting all residents.
Currently, Mass Cultural Council, your state arts agency, is charged with investing nearly $100 million in state public funds into the creative and cultural sector. This effort includes a historic, one-time $60 million pandemic recovery fund to support Massachusetts artists and cultural organizations still building back from the economic impacts of COVID-19. Similarly, city leaders in Boston and New Bedford recently committed significant pandemic recovery funds to rebuild their creative sectors.
Whereas billionaire philanthropists often give to one type of art form or a few cultural organizations, these public dollars are intended to be distributed throughout the region and will support the diversity of the creative sector.
We heartily agree with Jim Canales, president of the Barr Foundation, who is quoted as saying “the arts are a part of what it is to have a thriving society.” Indeed, the arts are essential to a more connected, inclusive, and empathetic Commonwealth.
We believe an increase in public and private financial support for the arts will drive growth and positive changes that are palpable. But securing these investments doesn’t happen by accident and without the leadership and support of our elected officials. January brings to Beacon Hill a new legislative session with key new decision makers. We look forward to developing a strong working relationship with the incoming Healey-Driscoll administration, strengthening our longstanding partnership with the Massachusetts Legislature, and celebrating local leaders like Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell to ensure that the value of our creative and cultural sector is understood and robust public support and investment continue.
Michael J. Bobbitt
Executive director, Mass Cultural Council
Executive director, MASSCreative