MassCreative's Arts Matter Advocacy Day

On the steps of the State House. Front row, Kameko Branchaud, PEM Connected Learning Developer, Kati Nalbandian, Feminists of Salem, Representative Paul Tucker. Back row, Donecca Thurston, PEM Creative Engagement Producer, Deborah Greel, Public Art Planner, City of Salem. Photo Creative Salem.

On the steps of the State House. Front row, Kameko Branchaud, PEM Connected Learning Developer, Kati Nalbandian, Feminists of Salem, Representative Paul Tucker. Back row, Donecca Thurston, PEM Creative Engagement Producer, Deborah Greel, Public Art Planner, City of Salem. Photo Creative Salem.

(Published in PEM's Guide newsletter, April 2017)

Two weeks ago, myself and other PEM staff were among the 600 arts advocates who showed up for MassCreative’s Arts Matter Advocacy Day. This was the first advocacy event I attended, and I had a great experience. I was able to speak directly to Representative Paul Tucker, and Jason Silva from Senator Joan Lovely’s office about my personal experience with the arts— as a young person, a youth worker, and art educator.

The creative process has been intrinsic to my entire life, so it’s odd for me to hear that anyone considers it superfluous. Throughout my adolescence, when I was contending with severe emotional distress, the arts provided a safe place for me, and outlet, a positive way to attain a sense of control in an otherwise upside-down home life. It was also the one venue in which I was able to connect with the outside world and to relate positively to people with whom my relationship was strained. It’s because of those experiences that I pursued a career in art education, and over the years I’ve seen countless transformations in the young people that I work with, many of whom are dealing with the same sorts of struggles that I was.

Today I work at PEM as a Connected Learning Developer. In our program ArtLink, we partner with several community organizations such as Express Yourself, RAW Art Works, Boys and Girls Club, and LEAP for Education. Through their experiences here at PEM and the ongoing work they do with our partner organizations, our students:

• participate in critical thinking

• develop a sense of belonging within the museum

• are introduced to career fields in art and design

• create work that they can be proud of

• strengthen their visual literacy

• practice public speaking

• experience new materials and new approaches to problem-solving

• experience an authentic audience through exhibition opportunities

Part of the funding for ArtLink comes from Massachusetts Cultural Council, which is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which is now at risk of being defunded. Just two weeks after Arts Advocacy Day, which appeared at first to be a success, a newly released budget by the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee recommended a 28% cut to Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Share your stories about how art has impacted your life, or about how you have seen the arts impact someone else’s life. To those of us in art and education, it might be obvious—but there are masses of people outside of our bubble who simply do not know how powerful and vital the arts are.

To support the NEA is to support people. Those hoping to cut our funding might think they don’t need us now, but they’d certainly miss us if we were gone.