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A generation ago, arts funding in Maryland barely topped $475,000. Many parts of the state relied solely on local support. Others simply went without. Driven by the possibility of increased arts funding and broadened arts participation, the late Judge Francis Murnaghan, Jr., founded MCA (Maryland Citizens for the Arts) in 1977. A longtime chairman of The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Murnaghan envisioned a statewide, umbrella organization under which arts organizations from every county and Baltimore City could unite their campaigns for state arts funding, giving birth to our slogan, “One Voice for All the Arts in Maryland.”
When Judge Murnaghan was appointed to the US Circuit Court a year later, he asked Sue Hess, a representative from the Eastern Shore, to chair the organization, which she did for twenty years. Since 1977, state appropriations for the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) have increased dramatically, reaching a high point of $20.3 million in FY 2017, placing Maryland fourth in the nation in per capita state spending for the Arts. In Hess’s words, MCA’s work “helped create a safe environment where the arts can be nourished-not only by individuals and businesses-but by our governor and state legislators.” MCA has grown into a powerful network with thousands of arts constituents statewide for whom it operates as a reliable source of information on all legislation affecting the arts. Through events like Maryland Arts Day and by cultivating legislative partnerships, MCA provides a platform for the arts community to express their voice to elected officials.
Now a network with thousands of arts constituents statewide, Maryland Citizens for the Arts operates as a reliable source of information on all legislation and policy affecting the arts. Partnerships at the state and national levels have enhanced MCA’s efforts to increase bipartisan support for the arts. Our participation in the 1992 Governor’s Commission on the Future of the Arts in Maryland, which brought together leaders from the business, philanthropic and government sectors, set the stage for MCA’s expanded role and two most successful legislative campaigns to-date. The passage of the Arts Budget Stabilization Bill in 1994, followed by the multi-year funding initiative 8/9/10% Plus for Arts begun in 1999, revitalized Maryland’s commitment to funding stability and are responsible for multi-million dollar increases in Arts Council funding, with funding reaching as high as 9% in 2001.
In 1989, Maryland Citizens for the Arts Foundation was created and began to work in concert with MCA to provide a strong educational foundation for all advocacy activities and foster an ongoing, statewide dialogue about the value of the arts. Together, MCA and MCA Foundation have inaugurated numerous arts advocacy and visibility campaigns, recognition programs, regional meetings and conferences. The Governor’s Arts Awards at ArtSalute, implemented by MCA Foundation in 1991, honored over 30 of Maryland’s leading artists, arts educators, patrons and visionaries before being discontinued in 2007. At that time, the formerly biennial event Maryland Arts Day, became an annual event co-sponsored by both organizations. It is the only event of its kind to convene Maryland’s entire arts industry and offer networking and resources for growth in the 21st century. Arts Day is an annual gathering of nearly 500 people involved in the arts—from executives, board members, and staff of art organizations, to artists, concerned citizens and students—for the dual purpose of showing support for the arts to elected officials and of participating in professional development workshops.
In a major step forward for MCA, the Board of Trustees voted on June 18, 2010 to collapse its 501(c)(4) into our existing 501(c)(3). As of July 1, 2010 the organization is functioning as a single entity, 501(c)(3), known as Maryland Citizens for the Arts, Inc. Under the direction of knowledgeable counsel from Maryland Lawyers for the Arts, MCA undertook this process carefully and with full intent to maintain its role as the premier arts advocacy organization in Maryland and work within the guidelines set by the IRS.