Sunday, February 6, 2011

It’s not just a pack of lions

Each year, local cultural councils in Massachusetts give grants to over 5000 projects and events. We’ve just found out that one of the projects we helped fund last year is being named one of the 6 best for 2010 by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

This is a tremendous recognition, and I’m really proud that we gave them funding, promoted the event, and nominated them for this state award. I’m proud that a top 0.1% project happened in my town. I’m proud that the Massachusetts Cultural Council has given my town two awards in the past three years. We should be trumpeting this from the rooftops, showing the rest of our local government that our town can properly lay claim to a recognized arts scene, and telling our community that they should be proud too.

And because this project spanned two towns, and was funded by a neighboring local cultural council as well, they should be just as proud. And it gives all of us an opportunity to celebrate together, to construct more connections between our arts communities, and to break down some of the parochial walls that the local cultural council guidelines sometimes encourage us to construct. My conversations with people who serve on nearby local cultural councils have been encouraging, enlightening, supportive, and far too infrequent.

I want to have a party, damn it. I want to invite everyone we can think of, and get it in the papers, and celebrate what the organizers and performers and supporters and funding agencies made happen. I want to encourage our current and future grant recipients by showing them how successful they can be if they set their sights high enough. We can have a combined reception, hosted by both local cultural councils, for our grant recipients and our supporters and our local politicians and us. We’ve done one of these for just our town two years running, so we know what works. People from the Massachusetts Cultural Council would be happy to come and present the award in person at our party, and everyone could mingle and talk and celebrate and feel a sense of growth in this era of endless budget cuts.

But our towns are not equal, and there are class resentments, and perhaps more people would come from one side than from another, and then the balance would be all askew and nobody would have a good time. So the other local cultural council, the one I so hoped to forge connections to, would rather avoid the possibility of some perception of imbalance. Why have a celebration for 100 people when you could have a celebration for 20 instead, and thereby ensure a more perfect sense of equity?

It’s a lost opportunity, and an extremely rare one. The state has never given this award to a project that spanned multiple towns. I’m very frustrated that we are throwing away this chance to tell our story to 100 people. If we’re not even willing to do that, how are we going to tell our story to the 50,000 who live in our town?

A top 0.1% project happened in our town last year. We should be proud.

No comments: