Your Personal Connection/ Arts & Culture in Your District
We've all had defining moments in our lives. What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity has had an impact on your life and your view of the community?
Art and culture plays a role in the Commonwealth from Boston and the Gateway Cities and our rural and suburban towns. Please provide us with a story of the impact a local arts or cultural institution brings to your district.
Being born and raised in the Berkshires, the Arts and Cultural Events are woven into your soul. I can remember being a tyke and going faithfully to hear the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood. My uncle was the volunteer organist, and my grandmother's house rang with music. By the time I was in college, I was hired to work at Tanglewood for the Boston University Tanglewood Institute as a Resident Assistant. That summer I heard every concert, and had the honor of meeting Phyllis Curtain, YoYo Ma, and seeing Leonard Bernstein preparing what would be his last rehearsal in Lenox under the shed. Years later, I spent a summer in between years teaching serving as the Assistant House manager. From the South Mountain Concerts to Jacob's pillow, south county brought the arts alive. In more recent years, I have thoroughly enjoyed Barrington Stage, performances at the Mahaiwee and Colonial Theaters, plus the Williamstown Theater Festival just a few minutes drive from my home. As a child, my grandmother lived in Housatonic, and I learned about that "wild" Arlo Guthrie -- and knew the back story of Norman Rockwell. As kids, they were part of the community, it wasn't until years later that I realized how famous they were. As an undergraduate English major, the authors fascinated me the most. Learning that Starkfield was Lenox, or seeing Hawthorne's mistress homes, visiting Chesterwood, wandering through the Clark Art gallery, or simply visiting one of many museums -- made life come alive. The vein of our area that makes our hearts beat with creativity centers in our rich history brought about by artists, and their expressive works. It is nice, to have a real conversation, with costume designers. I adore Arthur Oliver, and his contributions to the Moscow Ballet, the Met, and other works are what drives inspiration and creativity.
To be fair, not everything is roses. Most recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Ventford Hall. It broke my heart to see the decay of the Mansion, that once housed artists and philanthropists. My area needs to preserve our artistic culture. Our scenery provides a backdrop that reaches the souls of people across the world -- and it must be preserved. If you visit us, there is always a workshop or an original work being created. Most recently, Pittsfield has revitalized an Arts District, and has shown a commitment to excellence. I was deeply angered by the recent cuts to our Arts budget, and had I been in office -- I would have done just what Smitty Pignatelli did and vetoed the governor. To suppress expression in any form, whether it be by censorship or by financial means, is a violation of speech.
The culture of my districts must be recognized with our Arts being the flagship of the state and region. On this issue, I will not budge -- especially after I saw how the FREE Shakespeare in the park was so well received in the Berkshire Common this summer. If you are wondering where I stand on the Arts as a Republican, I will support them and find money to make sure that they will never be lost for our area.
Addressing District-wide Issues
Just as any other part of the state, we face many economic and social issues here in the district. Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving social problems? How would you use our community to drive economic development in the district?
As a resident, who supports the arts and has friends in the arts, there are quite a few issues that need to be addressed.
a. The Arts needs greater funding
b. School Districts must funnel as much money into the arts as possible
c. There can be no suppression of artistic expression
d. More funding must be put into the library pass system so that local residents cannot be denied opportunities due to socio-economic circumstances
e. More money is needed to upkeep buildings and help restoration
f. I would like to see more visiting artists
g. I would like transportation made more readily available around the county with subsidy grants so that all people have more equity to courses or performance training in the arts
h. I want places like MASS MOCA to have expansion areas which encompass modern performance genres
i. We need more programs that incorporate media graphic arts, screen writing, and that help the disabled have more access to ground breaking performance based art
j. Parent groups, such as the one I belong to at my children's school, should have more money so that performance areas can be used by youth -- instead of having condemned auditorium stage areas due to asbestos.
k. We need better medical facilities for artists as well as repurposed areas for expression, such as writing retreat areas
l. We need better infrastructure helping tourists get to the area so that they can have better opportunities
m. I love the 1/2 price tix, but would strongly encourage a "GO CARD" system much like that of Hawaii, Maui, NYC, and Washington
n. We need to eliminate some of the tourism taxes, so that more people come to support our Arts.
o. We need more endowments, better marketing strategies, and stronger security to protect patrons and artists.
p. Funding in general is an issue -- so, I would like to see collaboration to pull in as many grants, and to see what federal funding for traveling programs could be allocated to us for expansion.
Arts Education and Programs for our Youth
Art instruction increases achievement across all academic disciples and develops the whole child. While many communities have access to quality arts education, many youth are still being left out of the creative community. Changes in federal law under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers Massachusetts an opportunity to include arts education in the restructuring of the Commonwealth’s accountability and assistance systems for schools and districts. Do you support including assessments based on student access, participation, and proficiency in arts learning and creative learning experiences in these new accountability frameworks?
Back in the day, I won the Art Medal from my high school three years in a row. My son is now into the Arts, and it has been his saving grace. Recently, he made the final cuts for auditions with Karen Allen. Although, he did not receive the part, I was able to listen to him discuss the work and share abstract thoughts on pan sexuality as it applied to the work. He has been in the summer DARTS program hosted by Boston University in conjunction with Tanglewood. This is his second year, as a participant with Shakespeare and Company's fall production with the local schools. Matter of fact, I have cleared my calendar just to watch the Master class with the students' involved from the area schools. It is amazing to watch the unity, creativity, original interpretation, and critical thinking of our youth in action, when watching them interact with these phenomenal programs. Matter of fact, the other night I met a mother who told me how her daughter didn't want to be on stage, but yearned to be a fashion designer. Shakespeare and Company were offering her opportunities to work with the costume designers. Another mom popped into the conversation, how her son was returning to learn more about lighting. My daughter has taken jewelry classes, painting classes, pottery classes, and despite my size -- I have taken dance. I will never be Fred Astaire, but because of the Berkshires I learned to Tap Dance as a kid. Our top schools such as Mt Greylock and Monument Mountain thrive with the arts programs. Last year, I watched the Pittsfield schools put on a performance that rivaled the Broadway version. Arts education and youth equals diversity, cultural understanding, and an area that allows developing youngsters to express unique views. As a former teacher, I cannot tell you how many times the arts saved the lives of students --- This is an area which I will promote because it is the backbone which can create future artists.
The Commonwealth’s Support and Role in the Creative Community
This year, the Massachusetts Legislature invested $14 million in organizational support through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) for the creative community, ranking it ninth in the country. This provided level support for the creative community and overturned a 55% cut in funding by Governor Baker. In 1988, the MCC gave out more than $27 million in grants, nearly twice what we do now. At what level would you fund the MCC?
Supporting the Community, especially the Arts, is a moral and ethical obligation in our area. The Arts change lives, and through diverse expression we grow. If one looks at multiple intelligences, it is quite evident that the arts serve as the core of our creative being. Because of all of the exposure over the decades to the arts, I fight censorship -- and actually have a picture of Larry Flynt autographed in my home. Art is interpreted, and should not be denied due to another's beliefs. As a constitutionalist, it is the core of our speech. When you suggest cutting the arts, it reminds me of a book I studied while being an exchange student in Salzburg, Austria. In the book, the Nazis took away the painter's tools. They tried to suppress him, but he learned that they couldn't strip him of his art. Instead, he lifted his finger, and painted invisible pictures in the air. People who cut funding from the arts, are like those Nazis. They are shutting down forms of communication. The arts address social issues. About a year ago, I attended a play that was written over a hundred years ago, but still held relevant to the issues facing the Housatonic River today. Artists touch us with universal themes, and the arts stretch the limits to test the conscience of society. If one doesn't support the arts, then they are no different than a brain-dead patient on a machine breathing. There is nothing making the mind live to its fullest. Do you have my support? Whole heartedly and overwhelming my answer is YES.
Percent for Public Art
Public art helps build vibrant and connected neighborhoods and the arts community plays a vital role in the development of cities and towns. The other 5 New England states and an additional 22 have a Percent for Art Program, which establishes that design and public art will be an integral piece of all new state construction. Last November, Gov. Baker vetoed the Percent for Art Program after it garnered support from the Legislature in two separate votes last session, once in the state budget, and then in an amended version. Will you support the Percent for Art Program next session?
Depends on allocation budgets, but I have just looked at a real deep economic plan to cut taxes so that more money is in people's pockets to spend, and the ability to attract business is more competitive. When you have industry and growth, you have more spending -- and people want to be exposed to cultural elements that are meaningful. We have established very meaningful artistic venues, and as such we need to give to these budgets. Personally, I am for a woman's right to choose, but I think the $5.6 million given to publicly tax funded abortions should be reallocated to our infrastructure, with a good percentage going back to the arts -- which develops lives instead of eliminating them. We need more incentives and we need to give more to the arts, by changing our area from a place to visit -- to a destination area year round. I will work with budgets to make sure you get your fair share, because without you we don't have a society.