Arts Education Gaining Traction in Baker Administration

Arts education in public schools will soon have a new champion! Thanks to the advocacy efforts of MASSCreative and its Arts for All Coalition partners, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has created a full time Arts Coordinator staff position--a first in the history of the department. The Arts Coordinator will help drive a statewide arts education that is rigorous, inclusive of multiple genres and cultures, and relevant to students’ lives in Massachusetts schools.

Commissioner Jeffrey Riley informed the DESE Board at their September board meeting that he had recently filed a request with Secretary James Peyser for a full-time arts education coordinator. At the same meeting, Emily Ruddock, MASSCreative’s Director of Policy and Government Affairs, testified in favor of hiring a full-time arts coordinator.

The arts curriculum frameworks, which have not been updated since 1999, will incorporate advances in artistic disciplines and include media arts curriculum. Since last spring over 75 arts educators worked with DESE staff to create new arts curriculum frameworks and volunteered nearly 600+ hours of expertise to the project.

“This is a big win for arts education in Massachusetts” said Ruddock. “For the first time, arts education will have a dedicated full time staff person at DESE. Not only will they help ensure students receive quality arts education, but they will have a hand in shaping the evaluation tools we use to measure the impact arts education has to overall student success.”

Ruddock also praised Dr. Lurline Munoz-Bennett who, until her recent retirement, served as the Arts Education & Equity Coordinator at DESE. “Dr. Munoz-Bennett’s depth of experience and contribution to arts education was significant, and  we thank her for her work.” As the Coordinator of Arts Education and Equity, Dr. Munoz-Bennett spent fifty percent of her time on arts education and equity efforts respectively.

Sources close to DESE expect a formal job description to be released on the MassCareers website November 19th. DESE will review applications after the job description has been posted for two weeks.

Updated 11/29/10: The position was posted November 27th and can be accessed here.

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48 Hours of Artistic Inspiration: My Trip to Seattle 

Emily Ruddock - MASSCreative Director of Policy and Government Affairs

In compiling a list of the country’s top 10 influential and arty cities, Seattle would make nearly everyone’s top five. It’s exported coffee, Jimi Hendrix, and Dale Chihuly to the rest of us.

But the emergence of a creative culture didn’t happen by accident. Faced with the Great Boeing Bust of the early 1970s and an unemployment rate of 17 percent, Seattle’s then Mayor Wes Uhlman revived a demoralized and out of work population by creating a citywide arts commission. His reason? “We have to give people hope.”

Since then, Seattle has become one of the leading U.S. cities when it comes to public investment in art and creativity. Last month, I travelled to Seattle for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Learning Journey. The two-day event drew 24 policy planners and local elected officials from around the country interested in learning how Seattle has been so successful in making art and creativity an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life.

Over the course of two days, we took tours, sat through presentations, and participated in panel discussions. Our first stop was the Luke Wing Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, located in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District.  Housed in a former community center built by members of the Chinese American community, the Museum takes a community-driven approach to its programming. Exhibits are created with input from the community, and this approach means that every nook and cranny of the museum makes the Asian-Pacific American communities of the area—and their lived experiences—visible.

Next, we learned about Seattle’s commitment to arts education during a panel discussion about The Creative Advantage, a public-private partnership working to make arts education available to every student in Seattle public schools by 2020. Driven by working artists, arts organizations, school leaders, and Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, the initiative is a strategic investment in the future of Seattle.

As Rebecca Lovell of the city’s Office of Economic Development put it during the panel discussion, “the future of work is creativity, empathy and computational thinking” and Creative Advantage is working to make sure each child is fully prepared for work and community leadership.

Next, we heard about the region’s approach to space, culture, and equity.  Seattle, like Boston, is experiencing a population boom. Every nine minutes someone moves to Seattle and every 28 minutes a new unit of housing is built. Supply is not meeting demand, and the housing crisis is real in Seattle.  Each panelist spoke about the struggle of simply keeping communities intact and preserving non-traditional cultural spaces.

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Escaping a Burning Culture, Baso Fibonnaci and Jean Nagi, part of the SODO Track @3414 4th Ave S.

Our first day ended with a walk along the SODO track—a two-mile stretch of murals painted by artists from across the world. Organized by 4 Culture, the cultural funding agency for King County, the SODO track was created over three summers and transformed the backside of the SODO business and warehouse district into a colorful, thought-provoking space that fires up the imagination. The SODO track is also the path for Seattle’s light rail connecting Seattle to the airport and southern region of King County. As a result, the SODO track is the welcoming portal for travelers and commuters into the city. For me, a highlight of the tour was seeing murals created in partnership with Urban Artworks that connected the mural artist with underserved youth in the area.

On our second day we travelled to Washington Hall where Duke Ellington, Afrika Bambaataa, and Bill T. Jones once performed and which was the site of 17-year-old Jimi Hendrix’s first public show. Years of neglect left the the building was in disrepair. Historic Seattle took on the renovation project and restored the space.  Historic Seattle’s Executive Director, Kji Kelly, pointed to the anchor tenants of Washington Hall as the reason the space continues to be of and for the community: 206 Zulu, Hidmo and Voices Rising all focus on connecting young people with artists, building coalitions, and developing the next generation of community leaders.

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The facade of Washington Hall

After the official program was complete, I took advantage of my remaining hours in Seattle to visit The Chihuly Garden and Glass museum next to Seattle’s Space Needle. As I wandered through the exhibits and saw examples of Dale Chihuly’s evolving artistic style, I reflected on the trip.

What sets Seattle apart from other cities of similar size is the care it takes to lift up cultures, encourage creativity, and create art that is accessible to everyone. As many others have pointed out, Seattle is a lot like Boston. It has a healthy private sector, a spirit of technical innovation, and storied cultural institutions. But where Seattle has distinguished itself is with its significant public investment in the creative sector. Artists, cultural leaders, and the creative community are a true partner in the design and implementation of the public policies that make Seattle a place where people are healthier and happier—and have “hope.”  

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View of the Space Needle from inside Chihuly Garden and Glass museum.



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Come Volunteer with MASSCreative!

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As MASSCreative gears up for Advocacy Day and other events in 2019, the staff is looking for volunteers to come into the office to help make these events a success. Please sign up here if you are interested in helping out.

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MASSCreative is Hiring

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MASSCreative is looking for a full time Development Manager to take a lead role in the organization’s foundation and donor outreach, solicitation, and stewardship. Come join our team to help build a more vibrant, healthy, connected, and equitable Massachusetts.

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In the News

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Take a look below to see what's trending on social media.

Where the Seats Have No Name: In Defense of Museum Benches Read More

These Two Women are Building an Arts Hub in Worcester and Found Empowerment Among Female Entrepreneurs in the Process Read More

Arlington, Massachusetts Combines Design & Art to Launch Better Bus Experience Read More

Swampscott Couple Gives 5 million to Youth Arts Organization Read More

Breaking Down Barriers in the Arts for People with Disabilities Read More

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MASSCreative Statement on Question 3

November 6, 2018—Today, Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 3, which preserves a 2016 law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in public places. MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson offered the following statement in response:

“We congratulate transgender residents and their families, as well as the rest of the state, on this important electoral defense of the 2016 civil rights law. Transgender people must have the same basic protections enjoyed by everyone else in Massachusetts so they can live their lives with safety, privacy, and dignity. Although much of the focus on this law centered on access to public restrooms, the law also prohibits discrimination in museums, theaters, and art galleries.

“Creativity in all its forms helps build more vibrant, equitable and connected communities and every resident, regardless of gender identity, must be able to safely access the spaces in which we display, express, and showcase art. Today, the arts community joined others across the state in voting yes on Question 3, and we are proud of our participation in the coalition to preserve civil rights protections for transgender residents.”

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Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Jay Gonzalez Meets with Create the Vote Coalition

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez met with members of the Create the Vote 2018 Coalition at the American Repertory Theatre’s Loeb Drama Center on Monday, October 15. The discussion touched on a number of topics including education, how to increase investment in art and creativity, and the ways in which culture can strengthen community. The session was recorded and what follows is an edited transcript.  

Question from Matt Wilson, executive director of MASSCreative: In a time when our political leaders and our technology are working to pull us apart and isolate us, many of us are looking for community and a sense of belonging. Can you talk about the ways in which art, culture, and creative expression can do this?

Jay Gonzalez: I don’t have a creative bone in my body but know from personal experience what a positive impact arts can have on people. My dad, growing up, used to play his guitar in Spanish—Spanish songs—to us. It’s one of the most vivid childhood memories I have. It’s one of those experiences that brought our family closer together and it also connected me to my Spanish heritage in a way that is very special for me.

The arts connect us. They’re a vehicle for having a shared experience where when we go to watch a performance, it’s something we share that we can engage about. Take an art class or participating in making art with other person is another shared experience. It strengthens our bonds and keeps us sharp and uplifts us. It is a good antidote to social isolation. I think about my wife’s grandmother, who is this very sweet older woman, she has Parkinson’s and she lives in Holyoke. Every day she goes to Mercy Life for a day program and part of what they do every day, which is her favorite part of the day, is art. When she talks about it, she lights up, she would otherwise be staying home alone.

Question from Matt Wilson: Over the past 25 years, education reform has focused on the core subjects of English, math, and science while arts education has taken a back seat. Now policymakers are focused on the 21st century economy where creativity and innovation are core to success. Yet many of our students don’t have access to arts education What would you do to increase access to and participation in arts education in our schools?

Jay Gonzalez: Two things. Increase funding so schools have the resources to provide a well-rounded education, including arts. And de-emphasize the importance of MCAS and how we access student and teacher performance. One of my daughters just graduated from high school last year where she had joined the school newspaper and become the layout editor and found that she really loved graphic design. That put her on a team where she learned to collaborate to solve problems—which is an important 21st century skill that isn’t on the MCAS.

A great public education is about more about than basic literacy and numeracy skills. A great public education is also about preparing our students to be successful in a 21st century world, which includes being able to work collaboratively with others to solve problems, it includes having good communication skills and leadership skills. A great public education is also going to enable our young people to explore the world and to explore themselves and find who they are.

Question from Catherine Peterson, executive director of ArtsBoston: In Greater Boston, four times as many people go to the arts every year as go to the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, and Red Sox combined. There’s a wide base of support for the arts. Can you talk about what you would do to make sure that the money that goes to the Mass Cultural Council is increased and what would you do as governor to work with the legislature to make sure that the increase goes through.

Jay Gonzalez: Funding for the Mass Cultural Council is important—we need to support our creative community. I understand the governor has repeatedly tried to cut funding for the Mass Cultural Council. I know it’s now at $16 million—I will not make it worse, and I will try to make it better, I will try to add more to it. On the Cultural Facilities Fund—I oversaw the state’s capital budget when we first started investing in the Cultural Facilities Fund. During the Great Recession—the worst fiscal crisis we’ve faced—we had a lot of challenges and had to make a lot of tough decisions, including the Mass Cultural Council line-item. We knew we had more flexibility with capital projects, so we really ramped up the investment in the Cultural Facilities Fund because it was easier for us to do more there. And we were intentional about it—I have a record of being intentional in trying to do better. I think we can get to $15 million in the Cultural Facilities Fund, maybe better. I’m going to aspire to do that for you.

Question from Laura Mandel, executive director of the Jewish Arts Collaborative: Access for veterans, for the elderly, people with addiction—how do you see growing opportunities for arts therapies and arts opportunities for these communities?

Jay Gonzalez: I would ask my Secretary of Health and Human Services to do an inventory of our programming at the state level that are supporting all these populations that you mentioned to see whether we’re being intentional about including arts as part of the programming. Speaking of inclusivity and underserved communities—we’re one of the most expensive states in the country right now for childcare and most families can’t afford it. The evidence is clear—this is game changing for young kids—particularly from lower income communities. I have made it a huge priority of mine to make childcare and preschool affordable and high quality for every child and family in the state. That’s part of the reason why I’m being honest that we’re going need to raise more revenue from the wealthy in order to pay for that. I would see and expect that part of the programming for that would be exposing young people at the most formative period of their lives—where 90% of brain development happen—to arts. And education—properly funding our public schools—so that there aren’t public schools that are cutting or don’t have any art programs. This isn’t in Brookline, Lexington, or Wellesley where this is happening—it’s in lower income communities where disproportionally kids of color, immigrants, English language learners are being left out of all of this. I’m offering a very different approach than our current governor who has no plan for investing tax dollars in education or early childhood or Mass Cultural Council or any of these areas.

Question from Laura Reeder, Associate Professor of Art Education at MassArt: How will you get folks to come to the table—state education, union leaders, organization, businesses, cultural organizations?

Jay Gonzalez: It’s a really important role of government. Government is the one institution that represents all of us. It’s one of the things I love about it. And I think I philosophically have a difference of opinion from our current governor about the role of government. I see it as our instrument, not our enemy. It’s the vehicle through which we empower each other, support each other, and protect each other. And one of the ways we make it effective in representing all of us is being a convener, a collaborator, and bringing different stakeholders together.

One of the important roles of government to be a convener. In this area, I plan to appoint a high-level person who would report directly to the Secretary of Economic Development whose sole responsibility would be our creative economy and who would wake up every day and think about nothing but this. Part of his or her job responsibility will be to convene this community around what we can be doing to work with other stakeholders to support this community and to make sure we’re supporting our creative economy.

David Libbey, Digital Graphics and Design Fellow, A.R.T.: The A.R.T and its mainstage home, the Loeb Drama Center, are owned by Harvard. How will your plan on taxing large endowments of higher education institutions possibly affect arts institutions, especially since education is a big sponsor of the arts?

Jay Gonzalez: I made a proposal to impose a 1.6 percent tax on the endowments of the wealthiest universities in the state that have endowments over a $1 billion. It would affect nine universities, including Boston University and Harvard. It would generate $1 billion in new revenue each year for the state to invest in education and transportation. I believe this is a fair proposal because these institutions have been able to accumulate enormous wealth because of our public policy not to tax them.

I appreciate Harvard and Boston University—they are huge drivers of our economy, and really important assets for our innovation-oriented ecosystem here. It’s great that they provide financial aid to their low-income students but I believe they can afford this tax and still do everything they do today. I don’t want to hurt these institutions, but as important as they are to our economy, nothing is more important than our people. They are the most important asset to our economy and we are letting them down right now with a transportation system they can’t depend on to get to work on time, one of the worst in the country. And an education system that is failing way too many of our children in this state, so they are going to be my top priority. I believe this is a fair way to raise meaningful new revenue we desperately need to make sure our economy is working for everyone in this state and not just those at the top.

Melissa Nussbaum Freeman, artist and founder of Red Stage Stories: I’m a performing artist and a teaching artist and I barely make a living. I took my social security early, I get food stamps, I live in an apartment with three other people in Dorchester, but I manage to pay my artists, even for their rehearsals, because that’s their time, that is how they make the art. We all scramble as artists in this city doing public engagement work for a $2000, $5000, $10,000 grant or stipend. Whoever you have waking up thinking about art has to be an artist. I want artists at your table.

Jay Gonzalez: I think you’re right, we need to be informed by people who are living in this world. I want to speak to the broader point you made about the challenge artists have sustaining themselves. Unfortunately, it’s not unique to artists. My agenda is about helping not just artists but everyone who is facing the same challenges. Early ed providers who are supported by government make about $25,000 a year. Forty percent of them are on state assistance. Many people who work in our human service agencies, taking care of the most vulnerable among us who take home about the same amount. Twenty-nine percent of people in Massachusetts make less than 15 dollars an hour. I am running to make a difference for all of these people—the artists and everyone else—all the little guys who are being left behind by our economy.

By not only looking to increase the minimum wage and wages, but to make childcare and preschool affordable, to make housing more affordable, to make health care more affordable. All these costs that hold people back and make it harder. I’m not being shy or coy about saying I’m going to ask the wealthy to pay more in taxes. We need government to invest in our people. All these working families are being left behind and artists are among them. I often get asked—we need special programs or loan programs for artists or nurses or different people—we’re in this together. Artists are really important and we need to support them. There are lots of others who need support too.  As governor, you—artists and everyone else who are being left behind—are going to be my top priority.

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Earlier in 2018, members of the MASSCreative Leadership Council met with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez and his campaign manager to discuss arts and creativity. Read about the sit-down meeting here

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Artists, mayors, organizations to mark ‘Arts Matter Day’ Oct. 26

More than 600 artists, organizations, advocates, and leaders statewide will participate to celebrate creativity in our communities

October 3, 2018—MASSCreative announces that Arts Matter Day, an online celebration of arts, culture, and creative expression, will take place Friday, October 26. More than 600 artists, arts and cultural organizations, creative leaders, and advocates across the state will mark the day by holding events or participating in the #ArtsMatterDay social media campaign to celebrate creativity in our communities and show the power of art in our lives.

“With competitive campaigns underway for governor and the Massachusetts Legislature, this year’s Arts Matter Day is an opportunity for voters to share their passion for arts, culture, and creativity with the candidates, and for candidates to also share why art matters to them,” said Matt Wilson, executive director of MASSCreative.

On Arts Matter Day, the Jewish Arts Collaborative will present Arts Matter Shabbat, a celebration of Jewish journeys through the arts at local synagogues and organizations in Boston, Brookline, Needham, Newton, Sudbury, Swampscott, Wayland, and Wellesley.

In New Bedford, the New Bedford Art Museum, AHA! New Bedford, Destination New Bedford, and New Bedford Arts and Culture are organizing local artists and politicians to gather for a community photo.

“It’s hard to imagine community life without creativity. Concerts, plays, and even displays of student artwork in public places brighten our environments,” added Wilson. “Community-based arts organizations are integral to educating our children, growing local economies, and creating places and experiences that strengthen our neighborhoods and improve our quality of life.”

Last year, the creative community shared more than 15,000 photos, videos, and messages on social media showing why arts matter. Launched in October 2014, Arts Matter Days are an opportunity to educate the public and political leaders about the need to support artists and arts organizations. Past Arts Matter Days have featured a host of arts programming around the Commonwealth, as well as social media campaigns targeting candidates for gubernatorial, legislative, and municipal office with emails, videos, and posts demonstrating the impact of arts and culture in Massachusetts.

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#CreatetheVote: Candidates and Voters Talk Culture, Creativity, and Connection

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“Who do you see as the champion in the Massachusetts Congressional delegation for the arts?” Ayanna Pressley asked a group of artists, cultural sector leaders and advocates during a recent gathering. “Because I want to best them. This is important to me. I want this to be an ongoing dialogue.”  

The meeting with Ayanna Pressley was part of MASSCreative’s Create the Vote 2018, a statewide effort to connect candidates and voters and address the role the arts play in our communities. During two separate 90-minute  meetings - just days before the September 6th primary - Pressley and her opponent Michael Capuano listened and responded to the concerns and needs of artists and cultural leaders across the 7th district. At the top of the list were the financial obstacles working artists in Massachusetts face. As noted in For Artists, By Artists, a recent survey co-published by Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition and Artmorpheus, 75% of professional artists/creatives respondents cannot or do not earn their living entirely from their creative practice. The artists surveyed are highly educated, yet earn below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level — in most cases less than $40,000 a year.

Pressley, noted that she includes the needs of artists in all of her anti-poverty work, including affordable housing, education, and access to health care. “We need permanent housing stock for working artists,” she said, adding that many people think of artists as young, independent contractors, not realizing that many artists also have families.

Capuano pointed out that Congress has largely stopped funding housing initiatives and it will take new political leadership for it to get back on the agenda. If it does, he said that housing for artists should be included as a priority. Until then, it was up to local officials to come up with housing deals in economically depressed areas.

As part of the statewide campaign, a Create the Vote questionnaire was distributed to candidates running for Governor, Congress, and the State Legislature. These questionnaires seek information from candidates about the role that arts and culture currently plays in their district; ideas they have for using art to spur economic development and address social problems; and whether they support increased public investment in the arts through the Massachusetts Cultural Council and passage of a Percent for Art Program in the Commonwealth.

Here are 3 things you can do before you vote on November 6:

  1. Read what the candidates are saying about arts and culture and share with your networks. Don’t see a questionnaire response from a candidate you want to hear from? Reach out to them and ask them to fill it out.
  2. Show the candidates you care about arts and culture. Raise your hand, tweet at the candidates, email them, and post questions to their Facebook pages about their positions on arts, culture, and creativity.
  3. Sign on as a Create the Vote Partner and help us engage more candidates and voters.

The topic of championing the creative sector came up during meetings with candidates running to replace former Senate President Stan Rosenberg in Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester. Rosenberg, a long time arts champion used personal political capital to help increase the Mass Cultural Council budget over time, Given the historical leadership by former Senate President Stan Rosenberg for the creative sector, meeting participants were especially interested in how each candidate would approach increasing public support for community art and cultural exchange in the district.

Jo Comerford, the winner in the Democratic primary, acknowledged Rosenberg’s status as an arts champion. Rosenberg’s successor, Comerford said, will have to quickly build strategic relationships to continue delivering for the community.

In the Berkshires, affordable and reliable transportation was a focus of conversation with State Senator Adam Hinds.Hinds, who represents the largest geographic territory in the legislature and an area with a significant creative economy met with creative sector leaders at the Clark Art Institute. Hinds spoke about his vision to better connect the Berkshires and its cultural amenities, noting that infrastructure helps the creative sector thrive and emphasized the need to set up rail access to the region. Hinds co-chairs the legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, a post he said he requested because of what the arts and culture sector has done for his district: as its third largest industry, it brings money to the area, improves its reputation and attracts visitors. Senator Hinds won his primary race against challenger Thomas Wickham on September 6th and is unopposed in the general election.

As we turn our attention to Election Day, MASSCreative will continue to work with voters and candidates to elevate arts and culture on the campaign trail. Lookout for more completed Create the Vote questionnaires as well as candidate town halls and forums at Create the Vote partner organizations on our website.  

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Help Put Arts Education Front and Center for Our Kids

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Notebooks, lunch boxes, and sneakers aren't the only new things you'll find in school this year.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has been busy designing a new School Report Card to help families, teachers, and community members better understand how schools and districts are performing on a number of measures - including arts education.

Last year, the Arts for All Coalition was successful in advocating for arts education to be included on the new School Report Card. Before the Report Card gets finalized and launched later this year, we need to make sure that both access and participation in arts education is being measured and shared in a comprehensive, accessible, and transparent way.

With the support of educators, parents, and advocates, we can ensure arts education is available to every student in Massachusetts regardless of zip code.

Please take a moment to fill out this quick survey so that the arts are featured prominently in the Report Cards.

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