Friday, October 5, 2007
Getting the frog out of the well: meet Carlisle's Cultural Council
The six members of the Carlisle Cultural Council (CCC) share a common zeal to provide cultural enrichment grants toward solving what Seema Peterson calls Carlisle's "frog in a well" problem. Quoting an old Sanskrit saying, she explains that a frog lives in a well and has a very narrow perspective. Unless he can climb out of that well, he will never experience the wider world beyond his dark and watery home.
Although they all have different ways of expressing it, every member of the CCC sees her job as bringing that wider world to Carlisle. Terry West calls it "raising awareness;" Claudia Veitch wants to "support the great organizations and museums that exist in our region and bring them here to Carlisle;" Pat Koenitzer likes to "see who's out there and what they have to offer;" and Elissa Abruzzo talks about "helping people in the community access this money" both as presenters and as audience participants.
Funded by $4,000 state grant
The CCC is funded by an annual grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC). For FY08 the state council divided its $12.3 million budget between local cultural councils and other grant programs, including artist fellowships, Creative Schools, YouthReach, and others. In addition, it apportions money to its Cultural Facilities Fund, which helps schools, communities, and cultural organizations to repair or expand their facilities. Carlisle's piece of that pie under the grants to local cultural councils is $4,000 in FY08.
If $4,000 seems like a very small piece of pie, or if there is an especially good crop of applications for council grants this year, the CCC can turn to local fundraising, partner with other town organizations or dip into its own coffers for added support.
Each member of the CCC brings a different perspective and skill set, a different educational and geographic background and strong opinions. West provides the CCC with an expertise in journalism and technical writing that demands clarity from applicant presentations, but says she has no specific preferences as to the type or subject matter of the projects. She joined the CCC at the urging of the council's consultant, Andrea Urban, who is her neighbor and was familiar with her interest in cultural activities. Veitch worked at the Discovery Museums and the Massachusetts Audubon Society, joining the CCC a year ago. Council chair, Abruzzo, worked in grants- management at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, and puts this experience to work in analyzing the applications. She and Koenitzer, who brings to the CCC a background in dance and theater, both answered requests for membership that appeared in the Mosquito to win their places on the council. Abruzzo asked Peterson to join, based on Peterson's part in the planning and execution of the "Glimpses of India" program.
Kathleen Coughlin-Horvath is the newest member of the CCC. She has worked in social services and non-profits, with small and large companies, and has volunteered extensively at Carlisle Extended Day, where she was involved in grant writing, as well as in the Carlisle School. All of this experience, she says, has taught her how to bring people together and build programs and consensus.
She feels that the CCC is "a really nice opportunity to allocate some money to bring things to the community that might not otherwise be given a chance to happen." She admits, "I'm green," and says, "Until I'm up to speed, I will defer to those who have experience on the council."
How are applicants chosen?
Dating back to 1984, when its first award went to the Mosquito, the CCC has had a history of applicants from all over Massachusetts and beyond. All of the members say that of late, they have been trying to encourage Carlisle applicants, because "there's so much talent in this town."
Koenitzer says she is interested in supporting not only longtime performers and presenters, but also those just starting out. West adds that keeping an open mind while reading the applications, and being especially open to new kinds of projects to avoid too much repetition are essential. Abruzzo notes that, "We try to award money to serve a broad range of age groups, subjects, days of the week and times, so as to appeal to all segments of our population."
Veitch points out that the MCC provides a framework for judging applications, is "methodical" and feels that objectivity is necessary. "I try to leave my biases at home." There are a few ground rules for the use of the money, all available from online at www.massculturalcouncil.org. The emphasis for local council money is on programming, and other expenses can be covered through donations. For instance, they may provide a grant to purchase supplies, rent space, pay for equipment and custodial fees, but may not contribute to foods served at an event. MCC scrutinizes and approves the local slates of award winners.
Everyone on the CCC agrees that the toughest part of the job is to make those final award decisions. Koenitzer says, "It's really tricky, and everyone has different opinions." West says that although those decisions are difficult and she dislikes "making the final cuts," she enjoys the interaction with the other council members.
Last year the council awarded 12 grants spanning a variety of subject matter, event and audience (see table this page.)
In the recent past, large projects supported by the council include the Chinese New Year program and 2006's "Glimpses of India." The Wingmasters program at the Carlisle School, where the children meet live birds (notably raptors), has won council awards, as has the Discovery Museum's "The Art of Science and the Science of Art" program. This sampling of events and experiences illustrates the range and variety that the council strives for each year in awarding its grants.
Applications for the next round of grants are due on October 15. Call Elissa Abruzzo at 1-978-287-4811 for information.
Support one large event
or several small projects?
Our Cultural Council can choose to either make a series of small grants to provide Carlisle with a variety cultural experiences, or the CCC may embark on a large project of its own, perhaps involving many segments of the community.
Peterson would like to see the council help sponsor a sizeable event in which many cultures are represented through events and programs. They have been kicking around the idea, Veitch said, of a "Carlisle Cultural Weekend, sort of like a First Night, where you would have a map to guide you to the events and programs." She notes, "It would take probably two years to plan this and get it going."
Koenitzer prefers to "spread the wealth" to a variety of smaller events throughout the year, to serve a range of audience interests. As the member of the CCC who does not have children in the school system, she feels a responsibility to consider those empty nesters and young professionals who are, as she puts it, not necessarily "family focused." Both she and Peterson see a need for representation from those groups on the council itself, as well.
Everyone expresses the need for greater outreach into the community: and the public is welcome to come to council meetings and express ideas. Veitch summarizes the CCC's approach and wishes: "There is so much talent in individuals and organizations in our town and region, that we all need to stop and reflect on how amazing it is and how fortunate we are to live here. We need to find ways to link up with these people and bring them to our community with events and programs." In other words, to show Carlisle the wider world.
© 2007 The