Michael Bobbitt stepped into his new role as executive director of the Mass Cultural Council after just 1.5 years as artistic director for Watertown’s New Repertory Theatre.
A strong anti-racist advocate, Bobbitt is committed to creating a more inclusive environment at the state arts agency, elevating the commitment to racial equity that already exists. “I think that this world is demanding that we are inclusive in our decision-making process,” he says. “So I love collaborating and hearing from everyone, especially those who are the most marginalized, most oppressed or who don't have a lot of voice in the room.”
Speaking of his experience, Bobbitt says, “One of the things that is frustrating for me as a Black man is that we have been betrayed by this country for years and years. And people that say they believe in anti-racism and yet there is no action to show that they are anti-racist.
“To me, it feels like more of a betrayal because it signals that you are aware that there may be problems in the world. But if you don't do anything to solve those problems, then you are complicit.”
Bobbitt is excited to get to know the team at Mass Cultural Council. He wants to see how they “come out of these dual pandemics, the pandemic of racism in this country and the coronavirus pandemic,” and is committed to making the arts accessible to all through grants, programs and advocacy.
With COVID-19, Bobbitt worries about what’s been lost. “There’s a huge concern about losing generations of artists and what that might do for the future of what I believe is the creative age,” he says.
At the forefront of his priorities is helping artists and arts organizations recover from the devastations from COVID-19. “We’ve gone through the industrial age and technological change and now I think the problems of the world can be solved through creativity,” he says. “I hope that everyone will see the benefit of having creators at the table.”
Bobbitt also wants to get to know the team fully before setting a clear vision, but he adds, “If I do have a vision, I think it’s the same as my vision for the world, which is to have well-supported arts organizations that are equitable for all.”
When he was 29 years old, he shifted his focus to teaching and learning more about theater management. He also learned more about administration, fundraising and advocacy. “What inspired this shift was my kid, you know, when you're a performer, you’re doing shows every week and every night. So I was missing bedtime rituals and on the weekends, I had show days,” he says.
By shifting focus from performing to leading, Bobbitt learned a lot about what he naturally gravitated toward. “I liked the process of putting on the play much more than the actual performance aspect, he says. “The performance aspect felt like a job. But I loved going to rehearsal, you couldn’t get me out of rehearsal.
“I loved watching the artists in the room solve problems and the creativity behind how they solve problems. I just found it inspiring, I always found myself gravitating towards the leaders in the room, just soaking up their energy and noticed how they managed the room or collaborated with people.”
This shift in careers is emotional for Bobbitt, as he moved to Massachusetts specifically for the position at the New Repertory with his then partner (now husband) Steve Miller. The staff and patrons from the theater became almost like a family for them since they didn’t know many people when moving here.
Although he will miss his New Rep community, he’s looking forward to bringing processes established there into his new role, specifically, his work surrounding anti-racism. “I think that what New Rep did was coming out with action and a real stance on zero tolerance on racism and that was remarkable,” he says.
Mostly, Bobbitt really wants to continue to learn how to best support artists because he believes that they can change the world. “I think that if you want creative solutions, get artists in the room. Get artists in the room when you’re looking for how to roll out vaccines — I’m sure they’ll have ideas.”