Will Call #47 — Governor Slashes Arts Funding, Part 2 with Van Shields of the Berkshire Museum

Governor Baker's veto hacks approximately fifty five percent from the FY2017 budget of the Massachusetts Cultural Council

Governor Baker’s veto hacks approximately fifty five percent from the FY2017 budget of the Massachusetts Cultural Council

Governor Charlie Baker issued a budget veto on July 8 that would slash funding for the arts, humanities, and sciences through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) by more than half. The cut would exceed the value of MCC’s two largest grant programs, reducing state cultural funding to levels not seen since 1994.

In this episode, we speak with Van Shields, executive director of the Berkshire Museum, about some of the ways that programs supported by the MCC have had an impact on the lives of residents across the county and state. Shields points out the now universally understood link between early exposure to the arts and educational and personal achievement.

Van W. Shields, Director of The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Mass. (submitted photo)

Van W. Shields, Director of The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Mass. (submitted photo)

Governor Charlie Baker issued a budget veto July 8 that would slash funding for the arts, humanities, and sciences through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) by more than half. The cut would exceed the value of MCC’s two largest grant programs, reducing state cultural funding to levels not seen since 1994.

Read the MCC’s Fiscal 2017 Budget request, with a detailed breakdown of expenitures.

On July 1, the Legislature approved a state budget for FY17 that included $14 million in funding for the arts, humanities, and sciences via MCC. The veto would reduce that by $7.7 million, to $6.5 million. That funding level would put Massachusetts in league with states such as Nebraska and South Dakota in per capita support for arts and culture. The proposed cut of $7.7 million was included in a larger set of $256 million in vetoes.

“If it stands, this budget would cut many of our core grant programs to the bone,” said MCC Executive Director Anita Walker, “and likely force us to eliminate some programs entirely. It would cost jobs in our nonprofits, choke off revenue from cultural tourism, and close arts education opportunities for thousands of kids in schools and youth programs across the state.”

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MCC’s two largest grant programs are its Cultural Investment Portfolio, providing core operating support for 384 nonprofits, at $4.6 million in the last fiscal year; and $3 million for 329 Local Cultural Councils, which support more than 6,000 public programs statewide.

MCC will work with MASSCreative, Mass Humanities, the Mass Artists Leaders Coalition, and advocates statewide to encourage members of the House and Senate to override the veto when they consider responses to the Governor’s actions this week. Stay tuned for updates as the process unfolds.

Van Shields, Executive Director Berkshire Museum

Van Shields was appointed the Executive Director of the Berkshire Museum in September 2011. Since arriving, the Museum has completed a $2.4 million in facility improvements and launched several new initiatives including the WeeMuse early childhood education program, Learner’s Lab and BeMuse series for adult and family audiences, and increased collaboration with area cultural institutions. In 2013 the Museum became the ninth New England organization to join the Smithsonian Affiliations program.

Before coming to the Berkshires, he was the founding CEO of the Culture & Heritage Museums, created in 1997 by a consolidation of three cultural institutions serving the greater Charlotte, North Carolina metropolitan region. In 2009, the Culture & Heritage Museums created the Main Street Children’s Museum to focus on early learners. Prior to his time in the Carolinas, he spent seven years at New York City’s Museum of the Moving Image and his experience includes stints in small business and serving as an Air Force officer.

He has served on the boards of numerous organizations from planning to social services, tourism, economic development, media, and the arts. He currently serves on several local governing and advisory boards including Berkshire Visitors Bureau, 1 Berkshire Strategic Alliance, Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., Berkshares, and Pittsfield Promise, among others.

He and his wife the artist Peggy Rivers live Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

About the Massachusetts Cultural Council

MCC is a state agency that promotes excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and sciences to improve the quality of life for Massachusetts residents and contribute to the vitality of our communities. MCC pursues this mission through grants, services, and advocacy for nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists.

MCC’s FY16 budget is $15.7 million, which includes a $14 million state appropriation and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. MCC also runs the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF) in partnership with MassDevelopment. CFF is supported separately via the state’s capital budget.

About the Berkshire Museum

Berkshire Museum offers a unique array of exhibitions, activities, and attractions for visitors of all ages. From fine art and ancient objects to fossils; from an aquarium of native and exotic creatures to Spark!Lab and the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, the Berkshire Museum is a community museum: a place where everyone, from toddlers to elders, can learn, play, explore, innovate, and be engaged. Founded in 1903, the Museum integrates art, history, and natural science in a wide range of programs and exhibitions that inspire educational connections between the disciplines.

Finding Raven: Art and Stories of the Northwest Coast is on view through October 30. Tiny Titans: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies is on view through August 28. Living on Earth: The Work of Robert Hite, a solo show of sculpture and photography co-presented by the Berkshire Museum and Hancock Shaker Village, is on view at both venues through October 30. Little Cinema is open year-round.

Berkshire Museum is located at 39 South Street in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and is open every day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 on Sunday. For information on the many programs and events happening every week, visit www.berkshiremuseum.org or call 413.443.7171.

In addition to their website, you can follow Berkshire Museum on Facebook and Twitter.

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