Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Michael Ahn

Second Advisor

Michael Johnson

Third Advisor

Erin O'Brien


Cultural policy in the United States is characterized by its federal political system, in which multiple actors, from the governmental and non-governmental entities, all play a role. The latter consists of individual artists, nonprofit cultural organizations, and the private market. The state governments and their respective state arts or cultural agencies are identified as players of increased prominence (Shuster, 2002). A mixed-methods case study of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) was conducted to analyze its role, policy goals and instruments, and the perceived effect of its policy. The theory of new institutionalism, which acknowledges the impact of the political system on policy outcomes, frames this investigation. The data was primarily collected from interviews with 33 stakeholders and 11 observation sessions. An additional analysis was conducted on secondary sources, including documents, archival records, spatial information, and survey data from the Cultural Data Profile, which consists of financial and programmatic data from participating nonprofit organizations. A novel typology was conceptualized to classify the policy orientation of the MCC according to the benefit of culture and the societal attitude toward it. The study results show that the MCC is perceived as a key influencer, though its impact is not transformative due to resource constraints. Its position under the office of the Treasurer and Receiver- General, independent from that of the governor, buffers it from the political turnaround. This structural arrangement safeguards its autonomy, which contributes to the lasting nature of its policy and programs. The MCC utilizes policy instruments of grantmaking and constituent services to support a wide range of arts and cultural organizations. It methodologically builds a close relationship with its constituencies, who reciprocally advocate for the continuous public funding of its programs and services. Guided by its leadership, the MCC also innovates its operation by incorporating collaboration and technology to aid in its public mission. These strategies help the agency stay relevant in the political arena. Empirically, the findings present a vital lesson for other agencies to improve their practice. Theoretically, these study results insinuate the critical role of the institutions in safeguarding public values in the process of policymaking.


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