Carlisle’s Cultural Council emphasises local relevance

by Anne Marie Brako

Cultural Council members staffed an information table at the Farmers Market on July 20. Shown in back are: (left to right) Dan Peirce, Cynthia Sorn and Karen Shaver. In front are (left to right) Liz Thibeault and Beth Galston. Not shown is Sara Vuckovic. (Photo by Priscilla Stevens)

When the Carlisle Selectmen named six new members to the town’s Cultural Council in 2012, political veterans Timothy Hult and Doug Stevenson expressed concern about how the complete turnover might impact the board. They needn’t have worried. The new board has enthusiasm and energy. Members have completed state training, studied town interests, and made financial awards to sponsor ten cultural events benefitting Carlisle residents in 2014.

The Cultural Council is one of hundreds of local councils serving the states’ towns and cities. Each year the Massachusetts Cultural Council allocates funds to the local councils to support grants in the arts, sciences and humanities. Local grants support everything from historic preservation projects, to science education, to concerts, art exhibits and dramatic performances. This year the Carlisle Cultural Council received $4,250 to fund local grants.

Chair Karen Shaver explained that the six newcomers put their heads together at their first meeting, and assigned roles based on their prior practical experiences. Shaver, a bio-chemist by education and trade, found her organization skills and experience placed her into the role of group leader. Cynthia Sorn became treasurer and Liz Thibeault took on the role of secretary. Dan Peirce took on press release tasks. Beth Galston and Sara Vuckovic took on active member roles. 

Shaver praised the group for bringing together diverse areas of expertise. But perhaps the single most basic requirement is that all six share a passion for the arts.  

With two council spots remaining open and Thibeault leaving her role next June, Shaver hopes the committee can bring on a few new members in the next fiscal year and looks forward to reinstating staggered terms, so that the veteran members can help train new recruits. Although the results have been good this year, Shaver admits that things would have run more efficiently if all the members weren’t learning the basic procedures at the same time. When pressed about the requirements for prospective candidates to join the board, Shaver quipped, “There are none.” 

Council proves its worth

Make no mistake, however; commitment is a requirement. All new members must complete two to three hours of online training and attend monthly meetings, according tocult cncl Shaver. She noted that the state requires the group to conduct community research every three years, and added that this resulted in more work and many more meetings this past summer. The group meticulously follows the state rule book and guidelines for awarding the grants. Still interested? Contact

Shaver shared the results of the group’s data analysis in 2013: a table of the town interests (see sidebar). 

Culture is more than just numbers to the Council—Shaver enthusiastically talked about what is in store for Carlisle in 2014:

• Hip-hop dancing for seniors on March 20.

• Gleason Library puppet show on April 14.

• “Ed the Wizard” Reading show at the Carlisle Public School on April 14.

• One-person Barrymore re-enactment on June 19.

• Carlisle Community Chorus performances on January 1 and May 14.

• Carlisle events and places featured in “Tracks in Time” video production at CCTV.

• Two community awards in conjunction with other towns to sponsor free admission days, including the Fruitlands Museum (June 21, 2014) and the Discovery Museum (free Fridays June 14 through August 14). Additionally, an award to the Emerson Umbrella for eight free Saturday and weekday events.

• And more immediately, a grant will support two family-friendly concerts by the Concord Orchestra this Sunday, December 8 (see press release, page 12). With music topping the list of the town’s identified cultural priorities, the Carlisle Cultural Council is wasting no time in jump-starting their programming for the coming year. 

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