Massachusetts #ArtsMatter Advocacy Day 2015

On March 25, I participated in Arts Matter Advocacy Day, spearheaded by MASSCreative. I was with a group of Massachusetts residents/artists that included powerhouse arts advocate Cassandra M. Cato-Louis. Most of the lawmakers we spoke seemed pretty open to the #ArtsMatter platform–at least one was already advocating for more local art funding. But one representative was a little more skeptical. A very dollars-and-cents kind of guy–not one to be swayed by emotional appeals regarding “the arts” or whatever.

We explained that the Massachusetts arts budget was slashed in the 1990s and has never been close to what it was. We emphasized the importance of the arts on youth in terms of remaining in school and not succumbing to violence and drugs (an issue close to this rep’s heart). We drove home that the arts help the economy thrive–we cannot hope to attract more businesses to set up shop here and create job if Boston kills its art hubs. I quoted activist and journalist Jane Jacobs: “When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave.”

While we were talking, the MA Film Tax Credit also came up–the rep said something to the effect of, “Oh, isn’t that just about Tom Cruise making millions?”

I listed the major points of why the film tax credit is critical: film companies hire local Massachusetts residents for their productions, they pay middle-class wages, they rent local equipment, they buy local supplies (including food), it has a ripple effect of increased tourism, etc. I pointed out that even Tom Cruise will pay state taxes for doing a movie in Massachusetts–possibly more for one movie than many Massachusetts residents will pay in their entire lives. And without the tax credit, we lose these opportunities.

He was very surprised to hear the facts on the tax credit, and my mini-info session appeared to have favorably changed his mind.

Lawmakers are inundated with a lot of issues–they are not always perfectly informed on every bill. We as voters have a lot more pull than we think we do. This rep in particular had never been lobbied by artists in his whole political career. Phone your elected officials, write to them — and don’t be afraid to march right in and speak your mind! The lawmakers work for you.