Mass Cultural Council
About Us Staff Search
Commonwealth Awards
Commonwealth Awards Overview
2015 Recipients
2013 Recipients
2011 Recipients
2009 Recipients
2007 Recipients
2005 Recipients
2003 Recipients
2001 Recipients
1999 Recipients
1997 Recipients
1995 Recipients
1993 Recipients
Award Objects

2007 Recipients

Individual Achievement
Given for overall excellence in the body of work by an artist, humanist or interpretive scientist.

Peter O'Connell
Peter O'Connell In an era of rapid change and technological revolution, the task of bringing history to life for young people is more challenging than ever. The career of Peter O'Connell demonstrates not only that today's youth can engage with the past, but that they can do so in ways that connect deeply with their own values and experiences.

Peter O'Connell is one of the pioneers of history museum education. When he arrived in Old Sturbridge Village in 1972, the field was in its nascent stages. He worked to strengthen the institution's ties with teachers in the region's public schools by working with them to develop lesson plans and bringing their classes to the Village for repeat visits. He promoted role-playing, hands-on activities, and exposure to primary documents to enrich students' understanding of history and complement their classroom learning. Under his leadership, the education programs at Old Sturbridge Village became national models.

Peter took those experiences with him when he moved to the Tsongas Industrial History Center in Lowell in 1996. There, he capitalized on a strong collaboration between the National Park Service and the University of Massachusetts, Lowell to bring new resources to the center. These supported greatly enhanced exhibitions and public programs that conveyed the impact of the industrial revolution on the development of United States, and Lowell's central place in that story. Peter was also a teacher of teachers-training thousands of educators at various stages in their careers in the use of artifacts, historic sites, and primary documents to deepen the knowledge and stimulate the imaginations of their students. Today the Center is a model for experiential learning.

Creative Economy
Given to an individual or group that has taken the lead in integrating arts and culture into successful efforts to spur new economic activity, create jobs, and generate income.

Boston Cyberarts Festival
Lostwax. Image by Jamie Jewett If Boston is the center of the universe for artists working in new technologies, then the Boston Cyberarts Festival is the axis on which that world turns. Launched in 1999 with funding from the Mass Cultural Council, the Cyberarts Festival is the largest festival of art and technology in all media in North America. Encompassing more than 300 visual and performing artists, and 65 organizations in and around Boston, the Festival demonstrates that "a joystick can be put to better use than zapping aliens, and that there is poetry in a well-tuned algorithm."*

Perhaps what is most unexpected about the Cyberarts Festival is its impact on the region, both as an economic engine and as a catalyst for creative industry. The most recent festival generated a regional economic impact of almost $3 million, and created more than 30 full time jobs, according to a study by the Center for Policy Analysis at UMass Dartmouth. The festival has also made a significant impact on Massachusetts' high technology sector, showcasing the field's role in producing tools for the creation of world class visual and performing arts. The Cyberarts Festival has truly bridged the gap between the technology and art worlds, and helped to define Massachusetts as a home for innovation.

*Quote from New York Times review, April 1999.

Given to an individual, cultural organization or school that has developed a model education program in the arts, humanities or sciences.

Express Yourself
Express Yourself performance.One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to help them develop the confidence and trust to express their own creativity. All young people need and deserve the opportunity to explore the creative worlds of music, dance, and visual arts. However, those opportunities can be difficult to find for youths who live in underserved communities or residential treatment facilities. But one organization has taken a stand that young people who live in challenging circumstances should also have the right to develop and express their own creativity.

Since 1989, Express Yourself has immersed such young people in the creative world of music, dance, and visual arts. With a focus on cultural diversity and collaboration, the organization has worked with marginalized youth from seventeen Department of Mental Health residential and inpatient facilities. Express Yourself has worked with artists and celebrities such as Blue Man Group, STOMP, Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, and Broadway dancers, in a culminating performance at the Citi Center for the Performing Arts in Boston. Youth and artists become inspired during a full-year program creating set designs, visual art, and performance pieces for their grand celebration followed by an exhibition. Additionally, Express Yourself directors teach courses at local colleges, train teachers to integrate arts in education, and develop residencies for schools.

Given to an organization or individual that has significantly integrated the arts, humanities or sciences into a community.

Revolving Museum
Cambridge Arts Council, CAC 10th Annual Summer in the City Performance Series, "Carribean for Kids"; photo by Yolanda McCollum The Revolving Museum was founded in 1984 through the energy and imagination of artistic director Jerry Beck. Aiming to redefine what a museum could mean for its visitors, Beck began a now more than 20-year journey to engage people of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities in the transformative power of art. The Revolving Museum's trajectory has spanned multidisciplinary installations in Boston's Fort Point neighborhood, public art projects on the streets of Roxbury, and its now permanent home in the center of Lowell. Throughout, Beck and his numerous collaborators and partners have pushed the boundaries of art and how people express themselves through art.

Since relocating to Lowell in 2002, The Revolving Museum has become deeply rooted in the city’s community life. Staging exciting public art projects, film series, festivals, and youth-initiated programs, The Revolving Museum has furthered its mission in Lowell to foster dialogue about the role that creativity and community plays in people’s everyday lives. In many ways, The Revolving Museum has positioned itself at the center of Lowell’s revitalization efforts providing a renaissance of community celebration. In particular, The Revolving Museum has created a home for Lowell’s young people where they can explore and appreciate art, and develop their talents and potential.

Cultural Organization
Given for an organization's overall artistic excellence and its impact on public life in the Commonwealth.

PloughsharesPloughshares: The Literary Journal at Emerson College, is one of the most influential and respected literary publications in the United States. Its list of guest editors is a virtual "Who's Who" of American letters, including Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Rita Dove, James Alan McPherson, Philip Levine, Raymond Carver, Rosellen Brown, Maxine Kumin, Donald Hall, Yusef Komunyakaa, Mark Doty, and Sherman Alexie. Ploughshares editors have received Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, National Book Awards, MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, and numerous other honors. In addition to its history of working with distinguished guest editors, the journal has, since its founding in 1971, become what critic William Pritchard has called "the major organ in the country where new talent-both in fiction and poetry-may be encountered." Writers whose first or early work has appeared in Ploughshares include Thomas Lux, John Irving, Russell Banks, Sue Miller, Tim O'Brien, Fanny Howe and Robert Pinsky. Every year, stories, poems, and essays from Ploughshares are reprinted in annuals such as Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Awards, and The Pushcart Prize, among others.

Ploughshares is also known for its outstanding service to the field, with its staff editors acting as generous sources of information and encouragement to many other literary journals and organizations.

Back to Top

     twitter icon     youtube icon
© Mass Cultural Council 2018