“One of the best ways to be an arts advocate is to participate in the arts. Go to the theatre, visit the museums, and ask a friend to go with you.”–State Senator James Welch
Art makes a difference. It can grow a city from barren to bountiful in every sense—in beauty, in economic stability, in safety, in strength of community. Even more important, as State Senator James Welch pointed out, the arts can expose everyone, especially children, to ideas they never encountered before—and that opening of minds is transformational for good.
State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D-Pittsfield), State Senator James Welch (D-Hampden), and Evan Plotkin, President of NAI Plotkin and founder of Springfield City Mosaic and the Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival joined Assistant Art Curator and moderator Maggie North for a panel discussion on art advocacy April 9th at the Springfield Museums’ Young Patrons Circle.
Each participant eagerly answered questions such as “Why is arts advocacy something you believe in and promote?” Plotkin, whose jazz festival was voted fifth best in the nation last year, was quick to answer.
“When people are engaged, talking to each other as they walk the city sidewalks from store to store, from gallery to restaurant, from restaurant to museum and theatre, then you have a vital cultural center,” Plotkin said. “And that vitality invites even more people to enthusiastically participate, to not want to miss out.” And from that vital center, he added, all other systems with thrive.
Senator Hinds agreed. He told the audience about North Adams, which transformed an abandoned complex of industrial buildings into the largest contemporary art museum in the country: MASS MoCA. “The town increased in energy exponentially,” Hinds said. Also the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development, Hinds spoke to the attractiveness of cultural centers for out of town guests—especially in places far enough away from tourist’s homes to prompt overnight stays. “That just pours money into a region,” he said.
Of course what any region has to offer has to be worthy of interest, Welch said. He pointed out the strength of the collections housed in the Springfield Museums, and the addition this past year of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss. And he spoke up for the many theatres throughout the region offering top-notch plays and musicals.
When a Young Patron asked how they could best advocate for the arts, Hinds told the audience about MassCreative, an arts advocacy group that networks among the many cultural institutions and districts throughout Massachusetts to lobby elected officials, the public, and the media about the importance of the arts. Welch agreed and added, “One of the best ways to be an arts advocate is to participate in the arts. Go to the theatre, visit the museums, and ask a friend to go with you.”