New state arts director gets a taste of local culture

February 22, 2008
By

DAMOLA CURTIS


Courtesy Photo
Representatives of various creative economy organizations take a local tour with state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez recently. Tour members included (left to right) Noel Torres, Sociedad Latina board member; Tony Tighe, National Endowment for the Arts; Sánchez; Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council; James Farmer, President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and Alexandra Oliver-Dávila, executive director of Sociedad Latina.

HYDE SQ.—State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez gave Anita Walker, the new executive director of Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), a local arts tour of Boston on Feb. 11. He gathered together local nonprofits that serve inner-city populations and do work in the arts to introduce themselves and discuss the special importance of multi-culturalism in Massachusetts’ creative economy.


A round-table discussion before the tour was hosted by the Hyde Square Task Force at its office in the Cheverus Building on the campus of the former Blessed Sacrament Church.

“You fill a particular niche, not only in terms of community development, but because of what you do,” Sánchez told representatives of arts organizations which included the Center of Latino Arts, Sociedad Latina, Discover Roxbury and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

“You make the communities a better place to be, and that brings in other people that keeps our business districts alive, and that promotes a healthy and vibrant community,” he said.

“There are three important parts of the creative economy, and when they come together, that’s when the magic happens—creative communities, creative industries and creative minds,” Walker said. “These are the three essential elements of the creative economy. We’re in a creative community,” she said. “Creative communities are rich in arts and culture. They tap into what’s real and special and authentic.”

The Hyde Square Task Force recently pulled youths and the MBTA together to beautify the Jackson Square T Station. Youths cleaned, provided lights to make the station brighter and painted artistic murals to bring life to the station.

“At the Mass. Cultural Council, we like to invest in creative communities. We invest in cultural organizations, providing organizational support, those incredibly difficult to find dollars that keep the lights on, the utility bills and help pay the staff,” said Walker.

The Hyde Square Task Force has been a recipient of one of MCC’s grants, YouthReach, for a few years. The grant has helped fund Ritmo en Acción, a youth dance troupe that recently received a national award. [See related article in JP Kids section.]

“Art is such an important vehicle to show the uniqueness of each community,” said Brenda Rodriguez-Andujar, director of school-based and cultural programs for the Hyde Square Task Force. “When we talk about the arts, there are all these beautiful murals, and they each tell a story, from dance to music.”

The major funding MCC provides are the Adams Art Program, a fund that creates jobs, income and tourism; individual Artist Fellowships; Creative Schools, which encourages partnerships between public schools and local nonprofits; and the Cultural Facilities Fund, which puts money toward the buildings of cultural organizations, as well as YouthReach.