As public funds for the arts in Massachusetts hits a 30-year high, the man responsible for doling out that money has an unrelenting commitment to diversity and equity.
Michael Bobbitt, the executive director of Mass Cultural Council for the past year, has spent almost half that time crisscrossing the state—evangelizing about arts funding to the typically underfunded. There is about $34 million allocated for arts in the current fiscal year, distributed to grant applicants in 24 areas of the arts.
“We are going to work really hard so that the funding we receive from the state Legislature is dispersed equitably,” Bobbitt told NBC 10 Boston as he made a visit to arts organizations in Lawrence.
Bobbitt’s arts equity plan includes rewriting grant applications, so they are less bureaucratic—particularly to those for whom English is a second language. He’s also very focused on community engagement. New staff were hired from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds and given the mission to find artists and art projects that are as diverse as they are. Then, those who are found, are assisted through the grant application process.
Bobbitt also lives the community engagement mission himself, getting out to see as many art communities as he can across Massachusetts in his first year.
“One of the staff members at Mass Cultural Council counted up all the miles I put in my car. I think it was close to 2,00 miles,” he said.
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The pandemic has not made in-person visits an easy task, but COVID relief funding is a potential source of new money for the arts. By July, Massachusetts arts funding may go even higher, and if a flood of new applicants comes in as a result of greater community engagement, the unusually high public support for the arts should have a host of recipients waiting for the assistance.
Information on grant applications can be found on the Mass Cultural Council website. However, officials there say the best way to stay abreast of application cycles is to subscribe to the council’s electronic newsletter.