• 2013: Wrap Up and Review

    by  • December 30, 2013 • News

    The Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition (MALC) was busy in 2013. We fought for artists’ rights and for a healthy creative economy. We helped to make arts and culture an important policy issue in the Boston mayoral race and much, much more.

    MALC fought for…

    Policy and Funding Advocacy

    MALC works to ensure Massachusetts artists of all disciplines have a voice in public dialogs, decisions, and key public policy initiatives that impact the artists’ community and the creative economy. We put artists at the policy table.

    Here are some of the policies and funding initiatives MALC championed in 2013:

    Mass Cultural Council Funding Restored

    In April the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee proposed a $1.6 million cut to Mass Cultural Council (MCC) funding. MALC members and allies hit the phones and let their representatives know how crucial arts and culture funding is to the Commonwealth. Within days the cuts were reversed.

    In May the Senate, under the same pressure from arts and culture advocates, matched the House funding. The MCC was allocated just over $11 million for Fiscal Year 2014, a 17 percent increase from the previous budget.

    The budget “dance” is beginning now for the next fiscal year, 2014-2015. So stay tuned!

    Tech Tax Repealed

    An unpopular Tech Tax passed, under-the-radar, in July. The tax, which placed a sales/use levy on computer and software services, immediately came under fire from the tech community. MALC members joined the opposition and two months later the legislature reversed course and Governor Deval Patrick struck down the law.

    Vendors who reported collecting taxes in response to the Tech Tax may file for an abatement of those taxes with the Department of Revenue (DOR) – but December 31, 2013 is the deadline to complete the filing. Learn the action steps to claim your refund from the DOR Tax Advocate. Do it today!

    Creative Economy and the Creative Economy Council

    MALC is committed to ensuring that artists of all disciplines are at the policy table when it comes to the creative economy. MALC Co-founder and Steering Committee member, Kathleen Bitetti, serves on the state’s Creative Economy Council (CEC) and this year she worked hard with the other council members to launch the CEC’s creative economy network.

    Cooperative Housing Defended

    MALC, along with allied supporters of artists’ cooperative housing and all cooperative housing, scored a victory in July when State Senator Bruce Tarr withdrew Amendment #37 from the Senate floor. The amendment contained anti-coop language that MALC and its allies had defeated in the past. If adopted, it would have dealt a blow to cooperative housing throughout the Commonwealth.

    MALC continued to fight against similar anti-coop legislation filed within Boston. “Home Rule Petition: Docket #0684- Petition For a Special Law: Re: Eligibility For Cooperative Housing Corporations” for the City of Boston targets ALL Boston artists’ coops and all kinds of coop housing located in the City of Boston. The language mirrors the anti-coop legislation that was defeated at the state level. MALC will continue to oppose this and any similar legislation in 2014.

    Fought to reform the Independent Contractor Law

    MALC worked with Chairman Representative John Keenan and Chairman Senator Michael Moore to file legislation that would solve the work issue for all who create intellectual property and desire to be classified as an independent contractor: An Act Relative to the Creative Economy, House Bill 1738 and Senate Bill 875.

    MALC members submitted testimony in support of this important legislation, emphasizing the need for the current Independent Contractor Law to appropriately address intellectual property. These bills are still in the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and are awaiting action by that Committee. We will continue to push for this reform in 2014.

    Backed Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development Bills

    Several bills before the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development affect artists. MALC members testified in support of these bills and advocated for their representatives and senators to pass them.

    These bills included “An Act relative to establishing a disaster and emergency aid fund for Massachusetts artists,” “An Act relative to cultural facilities grants,” and “An Act establishing the Massachusetts cultural trust fund.”

    MALC will continue to push for passage of these bills in 2014. For a list of current legislation MALC is following see http://www.artistsunderthedome.org/legislature.html.

    Advocacy 101

    In 2013 MALC stepped up to place arts and culture at the center of politics and educate artists on the art of advocacy. From the Boston mayoral campaign to the ins-and-outs of advocating as a citizen artist, MALC was out in front. Here are some of the achievements of 2013:

    The Boston Blueprint

    For the first time in 20 years, Boston residents went to the polls in November to elect a new mayor for their city. MALC continued in the vanguard of advocacy groups that ensured arts and culture remained a priority for the candidates, committing them to placing significant and innovative arts policies on their respective platforms. MALC was an active member of Mass Creative’s “Create the Vote” coalition and was represented on the coalition by MALC Steering Committee Member Don Schaefer.

    While MALC as a coalition does not promote or endorse anyone for office, we do provide analysis and point out good policy. The two final candidates for mayor (John Connolly and Marty Walsh) both presented written policies on their websites that impact our artists, arts, culture, and creative economy. MALC analyzed each policy and presented its findings to the arts community and the general electorate.

    In 2014 MALC will expand on this blueprint to ensure arts and culture is a major issue in the state’s election of a new governor and will urge all candidates to create detailed policy platforms that demonstrate their commitment to artists of all disciplines, the arts, culture and the creative economy.

    7th Annual Artists Under the Dome Event

    Held Nov. 13, 2013, in the Great Hall of the Massachusetts State House, the 7th Annual Artists Under the Dome event attracted a diverse group of artists of all disciplines from across the Commonwealth, and many state legislators and their staff. We are the only state in the nation that has such an event and it was a triumphant success.

    Artists heard from elected officials committed to the arts and culture, paid visits to the offices of their state representatives and senators, and were recognized on the House of Representatives chamber floor.

    Democracy DIY

    In November MALC launched a new series focusing on advocacy tips for citizen artists: Democracy DIY, as in “Do It Yourself.” Author John Weeks, a MALC Steering Committee member, takes artists inside Massachusetts state politics in this exciting new series.

    In 2014 Democracy DIY will tackle such subjects as dealing with political staffers, deciphering speaking points, and getting the most for your money when you, in fact, have no money.

    Social Justice

    MALC pays attention to what’s happening throughout the arts and culture world. We act locally and think globally. In 2013, MALC enthusiastically promoted initiatives throughout the artists’ community:

    Fair Trade means Fair Trade

    One of MALC’s core principals is that artists need to be compensated for their work and the MALC blog is often used to highlight key articles and legislation that supports this core principal,

    The “G-Word”

    New Orleans-based theater maker/community organizer Francesca McKenzie discussed the difficult subject of gentrification in a December piece at ArtsFwd. The idea of privileged hipsters descending on low-income communities like ambitious colonialists and shifting the race, class, and economic demographics in their favor is one reality many artists would rather not think about. Francesca confronted the issue head on and urged artists to embrace “collective intentionality” and “art as a tool for positive transformation.”

    Dalloway Day

    Before helping launch “Democracy DIY,” MALC Steering Committee Member John Weeks created a new literary holiday via Boston’s writing arts center, Grub Street. Dalloway Day, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway is a companion celebration to Bloomsday.

    In “A Day of One’s Own,” featured novelist Michelle Hoover discussed the gender bias within the publishing world that pushes female writers into the “Women’s Fiction” genre and pressures them to create likable characters who achieve redemption.

    Debut novelist Rebecca Kanner followed up with an article on Dalloway Day itself (June 13). In “Our Right to Tell Our Stories,” Kanner confronted the backlash female authors face for creating narratives that involve violence and comment darkly on the social-philosophical issues of our time.

    Thank you to everyone who joined MALC in 2013 and got involved in advocating for the artists’ community and the creative economy. If you haven’t yet joined MALC, please consider signing up, liking us on Facebook, and registering for our Artists Under the Dome listserv (all of which is free)!

    See you in 2014!

     

    About

    John Weeks is a MALC Steering Committee member committed to social justice for artists. A former staffer at the Mass. State House, he works as a political consultant and a literary publicist. John is an author who studies the finer points of literary technique at Boston’s Grub Street.