Thomas McGee's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

Your Personal Connection
1. We've all had defining moments in our lives. What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity has affected your life and your view of the Lynn community?

The “Beyond Walls” mural festival was incredibly powerful for me. The experience of walking through downtown streets, enlivened by colorful murals, led by a marching band, was not only fun but unifying. It reinforces the positive difference that arts and culture can make in a city like Lynn. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed attending the many festivals that celebrate the city’s diversity with most recent examples being the successful Khmer New Year festival in April and the commemoration of Juneteenth on the Lynn Common which started this year. Last year, I was honored to host an exhibition of LynnArts studio artists at the State House. Finally, there’s nothing quite like attending a live performance at the Lynn Auditorium.

Arts and Culture in the City
2. Lynn is blessed with a rich mix of arts and cultural organizations. What are two places where you have had personally significant arts and/or cultural experiences in our city?

I am continually impressed by the great work RAW Art Works does to provide young people with opportunities to express their creativity in a safe, welcoming space. The Lynn Museum does a terrific job of promoting the city’s rich history.  

Addressing Citywide Issues
3. Lynn’s current challenges include a recent increase in violence, the opioid epidemic, and city finances. How would you integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving these challenges? Please give one or two specific examples.

We can build stronger partnerships between the Lynn Public Schools and our cultural organizations, particularly in terms of offering after school programs. When the school day ends, it is imperative that our kids have a variety of options that keep them safe while building on the learning that takes place inside the classroom.  

4. How would you use Lynn’s arts and culture community to revitalize the city so that businesses and customers flock to it? Please give one or two specific examples.

We’ve only scratched the surface with regard to the role arts and culture can play in bringing new energy to the community. The Lynn Public Library is an asset that should be fully integrated into the city’s cultural planning. I will also work with the Downtown Lynn Cultural District on a plan to bring arts and culture activities into the city’s neighborhoods. The Lynn Community Path group, for example, has already worked with RAW to bring public art to the proposed trail and has discussed creating performance space that can be utilized by groups like Arts After Hours, Cultura Latina Dance Academy, and Building Bridges Through Music. By bringing our tremendous downtown assets into other parts of the city, we can forge new bonds of cultural engagement while emphasizing the opportunities for greater investment throughout the entire city.

The New Administration’s Role in the Creative Community
At a time when the Trump administration proposed dismantling the National Endowment for the Arts and the State Legislature chose not to increase investment in the Mass Cultural Council, we need local leadership and support for arts and culture here in the city--now more than ever. Describe how you will address these funding concerns in the following areas:

5. What three revenue sources will you create or use to increase the city’s financial investment in the creative community?

This is a challenging question, especially considering the uncertainty surrounding the city’s finances. If elected, I will undertake a thorough review of the city’s current financial situation to determine what additional resources can be allocated and/or developed to support continued investment in the creative community. I will continue to fight for increased cultural funding at the state level as I have throughout my time in the Legislature. Additionally, I will leverage my relationships with the Essex County Community Foundation, the Barr Foundation, and the Boston Foundation, to begin conversations as to how they can work with Lynn to build a sustainable infrastructure for our arts and culture initiatives.

6. How will you modify or expand the city’s current administrative structure to support the creative community?

The success of the Downtown Lynn Cultural District is vital to the overall economic development of the community. To that end, I will explore the feasibility of bringing the Cultural District Director into City Hall.  

7. What are your program priorities and where will the funds be allocated?

As stated above, arts and culture will be a high priority of my administration. Once I determine the true state of the city’s finances, I will have a better handle of what funds can be made available to increase that investment. A logical starting point is to bring the Cultural District under the auspices of City Hall and explore opportunities for additional funding.  

An Arts Destination
8. While Lynn is growing as a community, the city has yet to fully leverage the strength of our arts, culture, and creative community as a means for branding and attracting residents, employees, and visitors. How would you integrate the arts into your plan to make Lynn a place where people want to live, work, play, and visit?

I would look to communities like Boston and Somerville, who have made significant commitments to integrating arts and culture into their economic development planning. “Boston Creates” is an excellent example of how community creativity can be harnessed into a multi-year planning process that establishes meaningful creative goals which highlight the city’s institutions and reflect our ever diversifying population. We should explore a similar initiative here in Lynn, where all residents can have a say in how we create a vibrant, sustainable arts and cultural community that tells a compelling story for all who live, work, and play here.  

9. The Downtown Lynn Cultural District is a core driver of DTL’s revitalization--yet it currently lacks the infrastructure, budget, or city leadership advocacy it needs to thrive. What would you do to significantly support the District?

We need a significant public infrastructure investment that emphasizes walkability, reviews traffic and parking planning, and establishes better wayfinding for the DTL’s many cultural assets. We also need to work with and incentivize businesses to work with us on keeping the DTL clean. Trash is a significant issue that can be mitigated with proper collaboration between City Hall and the DTL community.

Arts Education and Programs for our Youth
10. Studies indicate that art instruction should be a critical part of education across all academic disciplines, as it develops the whole child. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has pledged to update the Commonwealth’s arts education curriculum and report on arts education in schools and districts. What will you do as Mayor to support arts education in the city’s schools and our community?

I am closely following the DESE’s progress and am encouraged by their willingness to revisit the importance of arts education in our schools. As Mayor, I will work with the Superintendent of Schools to identify the needs of our own hardworking Fine Arts Department and explore funding opportunities both inside and outside the budget. As a champion of after/out of school time programs, I believe it is essential that arts education be integrated into our students' lives both in and outside the classroom.

Your Priorities
11. The start of a Mayor’s tenure often sets the Administration’s tone and priorities. When elected, what actions will you take in your first 100 days to provide support and resources to the creative community?

  • Explore the feasibility of bringing the Cultural District Director into City Hall at the earliest possible opportunity.

  • Work to create a nonprofit entity, similar to the Lynn Business Education Foundation, which can support the Cultural District and the city’s arts and cultural entities.

  • Convene key stakeholders throughout the city to create an “Arts and Culture” plan that will provide goals and priorities for my administration.

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