State Senator Adam Hinds met with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts undergraduate students and faculty last week to hear their concerns about the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts and for the Humanities.
MCLA undergrads and faculty had questions for State Senator Adam Hinds, who’s the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, because they are concerned that President Donald Trump will cut funding for the arts and humanities.
Most of the students are involved in the arts community, like Cate Rowell, who says the proposed cuts would leave her career goals in limbo.
“I was wondering what your, kind of, suggestions are for getting outside of our bubble and advocating for the arts on a more national level, because now the national funding for the arts and humanities is in jeopardy, potentially, and that is a very scary thought for our nation as a whole and I was hoping you had some suggestions for us on what we can do on a personal level to do so,” Rowell said.
Hinds, a Democrat, says in the worst case scenario the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which Hinds says Republican Governor Charlie Baker supports, will still exist and continue to support art and culture if the national funding is cut.
“It is a timely discussion to have with you right now and it’s one that, that is incredibly important for our area,” Hinds said.
He says Berkshire County’s downtown art districts cultivate community and have a strong impact on the region’s tourism and economic development.
“It is exciting that Berkshire County and Western Mass. are able to point and say ‘We are legitimately a hub, we are a Mecca for that,’” Hinds said.
Hinds says art and tourism is the third-largest industry, has created about 135,000 jobs, and generates more than $1.3 billion in tax revenue for Massachusetts. He says it’s also a way to keep Berkshire County’s young people here; the region is experiencing a drastic population decline.
“It really feels like there is something happening and there is a lot of vibrancy and I think creating that atmosphere is a huge role for arts and culture, and creating a space that people want to live in and be a part of,” Hinds said.
Hinds pointed to MCLA’s Downstreet Art program as an example. He also championed the recent establishment of ArtCountry, a collaborative of five leading cultural centers in Berkshire County.
Erin Milne, the director of assessment at MCLA and a singer and performer in the area, says getting involved in school theatre gave her direction in life.
“The way that I saw myself, it changed my dreams and hopes for the future, and it connected me to the Berkshires in a way that has been lasting and meaningful,” Milne says.
Hinds says that is exactly the feeling he wants to get across to the rest of the Senate.
“A feeling that you can shape that. I think that’s a difference here, that when you are in North Adams, or Pittsfield, or Great Barrington, it feels like you can have an impact on the arts scene and the cultural scene,” Hinds said.
He says his goal is to push for about $10 million more for regional arts and tourism funding and economic development.
Hinds says the arts can help turn around the struggling local economy.
“Our median household incomes by town are sometimes, you know, $20,000-to-$25,000 below that of the state average by town,” Hinds said.
MCLA Arts Management Professor Diane Scott says support from the state is vital. If not, she says, rural museums will suffer, leading to further job loss.
“When we lose the governmental support for arts, it hurts the areas that have the least the most,” Scott said.
Hinds recommends the students and faculty continue to question and reach out to their state leaders for help.
He says a person’s civic responsibility is more important now than ever.
Hinds is also on the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs. He says he hopes to secure federal funding despite the White House budget proposal.
“We are going to Washington later this month to be very specific about: what does it mean when the president said he wants to cut the National Endowment for the Arts and for the Humanities, and what are the implications on the commonwealth? It’s going to be significant, it is significant. And so, our next question becomes: what do we do to advocate for a continuation of funding and what do we do to fill those gaps?”
As for Massachusetts, lawmakers are working on the state budget now. Items on the table include giving additional tax credits to artists and funding alternatives.