Every year, Walker Center hosts MASSCreative for a leadership retreat. MASSCreative is a local organization that works with artists, community leaders, and institutions all across the state to build public will and support for the arts. Their on-the-ground work includes advocating for public funding, making sure arts education is accessible to everyone, and building vibrant Massachusetts neighborhoods through public art.
MASSCreative is unique because it lives at the intersection of art and politics. Tracie Konopinski, their program director, told us it’s usually rare for someone to be both an artist and an activist, so one of MASSCreative’s missions is to help give artists a voice and learn to advocate for themselves in the public sphere. Tracie grew up dancing and worked as an environmental organizer, so she understands how closely connected the two worlds really are.
“I think a lot of artists are political in their work, but don’t always engage in the political system,” she said. “We’re inviting a lot of people who haven’t necessarily been involved in politics before to use arts advocacy as the way to advocate for more access, inclusion, and vibrant democracy. I think we’re building a pretty cool movement that doesn’t necessarily include the ‘typical activist.’ When artists are in their studios or actors are on stage, they’re not always thinking about what’s the most important bill in the legislature that can impact their work. So that’s what we do. We help give people the opportunity to weigh in or use their voice for policy.”
Tracie says our democracy is something she truly believes in. Our voices can make change. Therefore, artists should feel empowered to speak out.
“I think the way our country is built is for people to weigh in on what a more perfect union could look like," she said. "Especially as politics get more divisive, people are looking for ways to connect, and the arts provide that. There’ s lots of people who are pushed to the margins who do actually have voice and agency and power, but the way certain systems are set up, they don’t always allow them to, so we’re working to make that more accessible.”
MASSCreative’s leadership council includes various representatives from over 400 member organizations across the state – places like schools, community art centers, and galleries. While at Walker Center this November, MASSCreative was able bring their leadership council together to brainstorm, talk about priorities, and allow members to bond and collaborate face-to-face. Tracie explained that in the day-to-day, the leadership council is busy running their own programs, but when they come together at Walker Center, they finally get to connect with other like-minded people.
“There are really great collaborations that come out of the retreat because there are just really great minds together. Walker Center is a home and it’s got a social justice mission based on its history. It provides a home away from home to allow for thinking differently and brainstorming. It’s really wonderful to break bread with people that you either work with as a colleague or as a partner. It’s nice to have real lunch and meet the people who make it, and you actually sit around the kitchen table together. We don’t always get to [slow down], so we really appreciate the [ambience] the Walker Center provides.”
The Directors' Desk
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