The Seventh Annual Artists Under the Dome Event was a smashing success! Held Nov. 13 in the Great Hall of the Massachusetts State House, the event was attended by a large 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.
An Enduring Partnership
Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition (MALC) co-founders Kathleen Bitetti and Ja-Nae Duane kicked off the day with an enthused welcome, a quick highlight of MALC’s work, and a call to spread the word on social media. Also on hand from the MALC Steering Committee were Craig Bailey, Gloretta Baynes, Norah Dooley, Tony Toledo, and John Weeks.
Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), was introduced next and she commended state officials for their commitment to arts, culture, and the creative economy. The MCC has been a wonderful and steadfast partner of MALC since Walker’s arrival at the agency seven years ago.
In her speech, she spoke of the MCC’s dedication to supporting individual artists of all disciplines through their programs and specifically the MCC fellowship grant program. This year the MCC got a needed increase to its budget and under her leadership, along with the support of her staff and the MCC board, the MCC increased the fellowship awards from $7,500 to $10,000. She also singled out State Treasurer (and gubernatorial hopeful) Steve Grossman for his consistent focus on the MCC. The MCC is situated within Grossman’s office, but operates independently, and Grossman has always been on board to further its efforts.
Treasurer Grossman, the keynote speaker of the day, touted the impact artists have on the state’s economy and its quality of life. He spoke of his long term commitment to arts and culture and he affectionately mentioned his wife, Barbara Grossman, for her hard work as the Vice Chair of the MCC board and also her creative work as an author and director.
Legislators for the Arts
State Representative Corey Atkins and State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives, co-chairwomen of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development, reaffirmed their committee’s commitment to artists of all disciplines and the arts. Atkins and Ives, who co-hosted the presentation of legislative speakers, also emphasized their personal love of the creative sector.
Other elected officials who gave inspiring addresses:
Chairwoman Senator Eileen Donoghue*, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business
Chairwoman Sarah Peake*, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government
Representative Smitty Pignatelli, Member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development
Representative Denise Andrews, Member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development
Representative Chris Walsh, Member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development
*Both are former Chairs of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development
Following the speaking portion of the event, attending artists gathered for a photo on the Grand Staircase of the State House. Artists then went in search of their respective representatives and senators so that they may introduce themselves as citizen artists and artist voters.
From 12:30 to 1:30pm there was a Networking & Information Sharing Brown Bag Lunch with Special Guests in the Great Hall:
Kelly Bennett, Exhibitions Curator/Program Officer, Artist Fellowships, Massachusetts Cultural Council
Helena Fruscio, Industry Director for the Creative Economy, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Matt Wilson, Executive Director of MassCreative
Around 1:30pm, the artists filed into the gallery of the House of Representatives Chamber. Representative Atkins officially acknowledged the artists from the floor of the House, to the resounding applause of legislators. MALC Steering Committee member John Weeks (a former legislative aide within the House) discussed the dynamics of House floor protocol and answered questions from artists.
Among the many tidbits of information shared: The story of the “cod-napping” of the chamber’s great cod sculpture by Harvard University students in the 1930s, that the Speaker of the House has his own entrance to the House Chamber that attaches to his offices, the need for the House to fill a “quorum” before business can be conducted, the roles of different individuals on the House floor, and the intriguing stories behind the chamber’s assigned seating.
While MALC is out front on supporting or opposing legislation that impacts the artists of all disciplines, the Annual Artists Under the Dome Event is a chance to celebrate the contributions of the Commonwealth’s artists of all disciplines, introduce artists to the legislative process and their legislators, and thank elected officials who have stood in support of artists and their needs.
Attendees enjoyed what representatives on the floor refer to as “edification,” a chance to network with one another, and of course, the delicious baked goods of bakers Bitetti and Canavan. MALC would like to thank all the artists who came as well as all the elected officials, their staff, volunteers (Bitetti’s mom has volunteered at every annual AUD event), and our special guests that all helped to make this an amazing day.