Our TEDxFenway: GRIT Emcee, ANITA WALKER

smallAnita Walker-2147-Edit-2-Edit

Anita Walker has served as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) since April 2007. Walker is the Commonwealth’s highest ranking cultural official, overseeing a range of grant programs, services, and advocacy for the arts, humanities, and sciences in communities across Massachusetts.

Walker has raised the visibility of the nonprofit creative sector as a driving force for growth and prosperity in Massachusetts. She led advocacy for the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, which over seven years has invested $70 million in arts and cultural building projects statewide. CFF grants are leveraging more than $1.6 billion in spending on arts, history, and science building projects and providing more than 16,000 building jobs - architects, engineers, contractors, and construction workers. Projects provide more than 9,000 full-time jobs and spend $551 million in annual wages and salaries, while helping to restore many of our nation’s most treasured historic structures and attracting more than 15 million cultural tourists to Massachusetts annually.

Walker also launched MCC’s Cultural Districts Initiative to help cities and towns attract new visitors and commercial activity by focusing on arts and cultural activity. And she led the creation of a new Cultural Investment Portfolio for more than 400 outstanding nonprofit arts, humanities, and science organizations that simplified the state’s support system for the nonprofit cultural sector. Coupled with the Massachusetts Cultural Data Project, it is helping organizations better understand their finances and become better advocates for their work and the sector as a whole.

Under Walker’s leadership, MCC also has put new emphasis on the role that creativity and arts education play in student achievement and youth development. She led the effort to include the arts as part of the Massachusetts Board of Education’s recommended core curriculum for high school students. She launched the Creative Minds Afterschool initiative, through which MCC has expanded its reach to provide arts education to more Massachusetts schoolchildren outside the traditional school day. She also led a partnership with the Bank of America Foundation to create the Big Yellow School Bus Program, which has helped schools send more than 150,000 students on field trips to Massachusetts cultural destinations.

Before coming to Massachusetts, Walker was director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs for seven years, serving simultaneously as executive director of the Iowa Arts Council, administrator of the State Historical Society, and the state historic preservation officer. Walker is a native of California and a graduate of Arizona University. She lives in Boston.