Gov. Charlie Baker’s approval of the final budget means the Massachusetts Cultural Council will receive the biggest investment in arts and culture since 2002. The $18 allocation is an increase of $2 million over the 2019 fiscal year budget.
The MCC's newly allocated funds will serve to increase funding to 400 nonprofit cultural organizations by nearly 20%, said Executive Director Anita Walker. The funds will also allow for the council to continue to provide grants to schools, artists and arts organizations throughout the state.
“We are not just a grant-maker, we are a service organization, and every single dollar that we send out of the Mass Cultural Council is really part and parcel of an array of services that help our organizations be sustainable and strong by providing the best they can for their community," said Walker.
The usually quiet budget process grew more complicated this year after a proposed House budget specified that the MCC could not use funds "for travel costs." The unusual stipulation stemmed from a series of Boston Herald stories and opinion pieces that criticized the MCC's conference travel in the latest fiscal year — a total of less than $13,000 for a statewide agency that manages a $16 million budget.
The final budget did not call for travel restrictions, only a stipulation that an MCC spending plan be submitted to the state treasurer, the secretary of administration and finance, the House and Senate Ways and Means committees and the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development by Oct. 1, 2019.
Walker said the 19-member council meets in August every year to come up with spending guidelines, and always made them available to the public.