Taking the helm of the state’s largest arts group in the course of a pandemic is not any straightforward activity.
However Michael J. Bobbitt, the chief director of the Mass Cultural Council, stated he’s had some expertise navigating crises — and he’s assured he’ll have the ability to assist the state’s arts establishments get via this one, too.
Bobbitt, a playwright, choreographer and former theater supervisor, joined the Mass Cultural Council in February. On Friday, he toured a number of arts and tradition websites in Hampshire and Franklin counties, together with the Academy of Music, the Northampton Neighborhood Arts Belief, the College of Massachusetts Amherst’s Effective Arts Middle, the Shea Theater Arts Middle in Montague and Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, breaking bread with members of the native arts group and listening to their tales about dealing with COVID-19.
Throughout a go to to Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery, the place he chatted with A.P.E. Affiliate Director Lisa Thompson and Govt Director Anne Woodhull, Bobbitt stated it was his first go to to the area, although he’d pushed via the realm earlier than. He moved to Massachusetts in 2019 from the Washington D.C. space to turn into the creative director of New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, simply outdoors Boston.
“It’s nice to get a have a look at a number of the (creative) locations right here,” he stated, including that the Pioneer Valley has a superb fame within the Boston space for its creative choices. He stated he’s identified Richard Michelson, the poet, youngsters’s e book writer and Northampton gallery proprietor, for a number of years and has spoken with youngsters’s e book writer Mo Willems, who additionally lives in Northampton.
He additionally famous that state legislators, resembling Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, have been key supporters of further state funding for arts organizations (Comerford joined Bobbitt on his day-long journey via the valley).
Bobbitt, whose first entry into the humanities was as a musician, referred to as his place with Mass Cultural Council “the very best job I’ve ever had,” noting that as a lot as he’s loved working inside the humanities, heading the council “offers me the prospect to fulfill so many others who’re within the discipline and to see what they’re doing throughout the state.”
With the pandemic, that position has taken on added significance. In April, the Mass Cultural Council stated about 900 arts organizations statewide had misplaced an estimated $484 million as a result of COVID-19, with greater than 30,600 jobs affected, whereas almost 3,000 particular person artists, educating artists and others within the discipline misplaced greater than $30 million from canceled gigs and different occasions.
Bobbitt stated he’s been working carefully with state legislators and others on Beacon Hill to make the case for elevated funding for the humanities, not simply to assist struggling artists and venues, however to assist companies related to the humanities resembling eating places and motels.
“We need to present that the humanities have an actual financial worth past simply cultural worth — that this may be an financial drive multiplier,” he stated. “Should you put money into the humanities, you put money into so many different areas.”
He stated state funding to date for the humanities has been good, however that the Mass Cultural Council and different organizations are pushing state legislators, in addition to the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker, to earmark $575 million for the humanities from $5.3 billion in funding allotted to Massachusetts via the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Bobbitt stated he had earlier expertise making connections with state and federal legislators over funding choices for the humanities when he headed a theater in Maryland.
“We had some (funding) crises there as nicely,” he recounted, “so I’ve sort of discovered the right way to lean into them, to see them as alternatives to make issues higher.”
Steve Pfarrer might be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.