NORTHAMPTON — Taking the helm of the state’s largest arts group in the midst of a pandemic isn’t any straightforward process.
However Michael J. Bobbitt, the chief director of the Mass Cultural Council, says he’s had some expertise navigating crises — and he’s assured he’ll be capable of assist the state’s arts establishments get via this one.
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 Group Arts Belief, the UMass Wonderful Arts Heart, 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 develop into the creative director of the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, simply outdoors Boston.
“It’s nice to get a have a look at a few of the (creative) locations right here,” he stated, including that the Valley has popularity within the Boston space for its creative choices. He stated he’s recognized Richard Michelson, the poet, kids’s guide creator, and Northampton gallery proprietor, for a number of years and has spoken with kids’s guide creator Mo Willems, who additionally lives in Northampton.
He famous as nicely that state legislators within the space, similar to Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, have been key supporters of extra state funding for arts organizations (Comerford joined Bobbitt on his daylong journey via the Valley).
Bobbitt, whose first entry into the humanities was as a musician, known 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 possibility to satisfy so many others who’re within the area and to see what they’re doing throughout the state.”
With the pandemic, that function has taken on added significance. In April, the Mass Cultural Council stated about 900 arts organizations statewide had misplaced an estimated $484 million on account of COVID-19, with over 30,600 jobs affected, whereas practically 3,000 particular person artists, instructing artists, and others within the area misplaced over $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 similar to eating places and accommodations.
“We need to present that the humanities have an actual financial worth past simply cultural worth, that this may be an financial pressure multiplier,” he stated. “In the event you put money into the humanities, you put money into so many different areas.”
He stated state funding up to now 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 to the humanities from $5.3 billion in funding allotted to Massachusetts via the federal American Rescue Plan.
Bobbitt says he had earlier expertise making connections with state and federal legislators over funding selections for the humanities when he headed a theater in Maryland. “We had some (funding) crises there as nicely, so I’ve type of realized 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.