Worcester Cultural Coalition Annual Report: 2021

Click here to view a .pdf version of the WCC Annual Report – FY21

As voted on and approved in the WCC Annual Meeting in October, 2020, the fiscal year end date will shift from August 31 to June 30 to better align with other fiscal calendars. As such, FY2021 began September 1, 2020 and ended June 30, 2021.


COVID-19 Response: In addition to acclimating to virtual environments, cultural workers and organizations have had many challenges due to the pandemic, which the Worcester Cultural Coalition (WCC) is working to address in a variety of ways.

Addressing Systemic Racism: In a statement released last summer, the WCC Executive Director and Board Chair encouraged Worcester’s creative community to take action to address structural racism, cycles of violence, and injustices with our own voices and within our own organizations. The WCC is increasing diversity within its Board and staff, actively engaging with creatives and youth of color, communicating and encouraging creation in languages other than English, creating funding opportunities to amplify marginalized voices, and seeking out additional community partners who had previously not been part of our conversations.

Since issuing the statement, the WCC added new members to the Board of Directors representing BIPOC-led cultural organizations, implemented residencies at the JMAC for artists of color and young people, and expanded outreach to BIPOC and LGBTQ community partners.

Education:The WCC Education Working Group partnered with the Worcester Public Schools (WPS) and Worcester Education Development Fund to implement 13 Culture LEAPS in the FY21 school year. Many programs were curtailed due to COVID-19, prompting the WCC to engage Worcester Together in education and other areas. Led by the Worcester Education Collaborative (WEC), the WCC joined the Education Round Table to discuss current educational priorities. This work manifested in:

Cultural Plan: Arts, culture, and creativity are important to Worcester’s vibrancy, sustenance, and growth. The City’s continued commitment to these priorities resulted in increased financial support for arts and cultural initiatives throughout the city, including public art; education; programming; accessibility; paid opportunities for artists, collectives, and institutions; and creative placemaking in multiple neighborhoods during FY21.

To execute the objectives of the Cultural Plan, the City partnered with the WCC and GWCF. The Cultural Plan, titled Becoming Worcester: The Evolution of a Creative City, became public in June 2019. Working groups have been established, and an oversight committee was convened to weigh in on the strategies and impacts of implementation. The original steering committee members are revisiting the Cultural Plan to reset priorities of this living document, with special attention paid to addressing systemic racism, supporting social justice, and developing equitable access and engagement for all voices. Even the oversight committee construct is being reexamined to best accommodate our sector’s evolving needs.

Legislative Advocacy:

Promoting Arts and Culture

Jean McDonough Arts Center

The Jean McDonough Arts Center (JMAC) is home to the Worcester PopUp and BrickBox Theater, a hub for creative culture accessible to the community by design. Though the pandemic delayed plans and complicated in-person engagements, both spaces in the JMAC have been active throughout FY21 – both virtually and in person, with COVID protocol and safety as top priorities.

In the wake of COVID-forced cancellations of over 40 scheduled events, the JMAC team sourced equipment to facilitate streaming programming for use by its presenters. This equipment was used by several WCC members and artists in residence. The JMAC hosted El Salón as its first artist organization in residence in FY21. A vibrant cooperative that celebrates and makes space for BIPOC artists, El Salón used the BrickBox and its support spaces (dressing rooms, green room, and rehearsal hall) for a performance and film screenings, as well as for weekly meetings. The JMAC also made space for Heart of the Arts, a youth-focused program designed to empower young creatives in their own pursuits.

Completion of the BrickBox Theater, and by association of the JMAC, was made possible in part by long-time Worcester Arts Angel Jean McDonough. McDonough passed away in August 2021, and the WCC is proud to continue her legacy in supporting the arts through the JMAC.

Cultural Development Division

Worcester Cultural Coalition Operations

Funding: In FY21, the Worcester Cultural Coalition was funded in part by: the Jean McDonough Foundation, the Barr Foundation, the City of Worcester, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, the George I. Alden Trust, the Hermann Foundation, the Stoddard Foundation, the Pell Family Foundation, WCC membership, and revenue from the JMAC.

Leadership: Tracy Kraus, executive director of the Worcester Chamber Music Society, has served as the Chair of the WCC since 2019. Ms. Kraus will step down in fall of 2021, with a new Chair to be determined.

WCC Board Members

Chair: Tracy Kraus, Worcester Chamber Music Society

Vice Chair: Eric Butler, Worcester County Light Opera Club

Treasurer: Ellen Dunlap, community volunteer

Clerk: Zach Combs, Crocodile River Music

Gloria Hall, Art in the Park

Vanessa de Leon, Guardians of Traditions

Yonca Karakilic, Arts Transcending Borders

Tim Loew, Mass DiGI

Nadia McGourthy, Dresser and McGourthy, LLP

Joy Murrieta, Main IDEA

Anh vu Sawyer, Southeast Asian Coalition of Central MA

Troy Siebels, The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts

Matthias Waschek, Worcester Art Museum

Jen Riley, Worcester Arts Council Chair*

Peter Dunn, City of Worcester Chief Development Officer*

Erin Williams, City of Worcester Cultural Development Officer*

* Ex-Officio Board Member

WCC Staff

Doménica Dillon, JMAC Special Projects Coordinator

Nikki Erskine, Marketing Manager

Yaffa Fain, Programming Manager

Olivia Scanlon, BrickBox Managing Director

Hank Von Hellion, PopUp Managing Director

Erin Williams, Executive Director

Working Groups Facilitators

Advocacy: Erin Williams

Education: Joy Murrieta

Executive: Tracy Kraus

Finance: Ellen S. Dunlap

Governance: Tracy Kraus

Marketing: Nikki Erskine

Public Art: Erin Williams