Quinton Zondervan's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

Your Personal Connection
We’ve all had defining moments in our lives. What personal connections with the arts and creative expression have had an impact on your life and views of the community?

Ever since I was a child I’ve had a strong connection with the arts. I had some talent in drawing and watercolors, and have found much solace in my life creating drawings and paintings. My aunt was an active community theatre participant, so she exposed me at an early age to the theatre. In college, even though I was convinced I had no talent, I joined a performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and fell in love with the theatre all over again. I also took up guitar lessons (classical) and drumming (percussion and drum set) as lifelong hobbies. I was always drumming on kitchen counters and door frames, driving my family nuts. When I started taking formal lessons it became clear to me that I was meant to be a percussionist, and I’ve been collecting drums and learning how to play them ever since. I exposed my kids to music at an early age in turn, and my daughter fell in love with singing. She is now the co-lead of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin all-girls a capella group Sassafras. 

City Investment in the Arts
As a City Councilor, how would you ensure Cambridge arts and creative community receives the funding it needs to fully realize its potential as a driving force in the community? While city investment in the Cambridge Arts Council has increased over past few years, direct support to the arts and cultural community does not meet the demand. Would you support a dedicated funding stream to provide funds for the creative community? At what financial level should the city invest in the Cambridge arts and creative sector? 

I do support more direct investment in the arts, especially in ways that create jobs and career opportunities for people. When the arts flourish, our community is enriched and revitalized. Having a vibrant arts culture literally saves the lives of young people who would otherwise see no future for themselves. I was struck by the story of a young man I recently met through the Central Sq. Theatre. He grew up in the nearby housing project, ended up in the theatre one day and asked them what they did there. He became interested and inspired to become an actor. Today he is a local celebrity in the theatre scene instead of the street thug he says he was on his way to becoming. His story is emblematic of the kind of life-saving opportunities a thriving arts and creative community can provide.

Supporting a Diverse and Inclusive City
Cambridge is a diverse and thriving community. How would you use the creative community to build connections that maintain and support the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity that makes this city thrive?

Arts bring us together, allowing us to overcome our differences and forge a new culture together that is inclusive. I grew up in Suriname, in South America, one of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth. Without leaving my hometown, I could experience Javanese Jarang Kepang, South Indian Bharatanatyam, West-African derived dancing and drumming (the descendants of runaway African slaves have forged their own unique culture in the jungles of Suriname), Native South-American dancing and drumming, and western culture (paintings, music, theatre, TV and movies). This experience gave me a very balanced perspective where I realized from an early age that all human cultures are unique and rich in their own traditions and creative expressions. Because we all shared a country, a language and a common identity, I’ve always known that it was possible for us to live together as one, if we created a shared art. Suriname has its own creole language, music traditions (Kaseko, Kawina, Suri-pop) and shared cultural items. No matter where in the world you are, you will know that you are in the home of someone from Suriname, because they will invariably have hanging on their wall somewhere prominently a wood carving of a Native South-American figure, made out of the different kinds of wood that grow in the rainforest. No matter the ethnic history of the person, they will have this wood carving in their home because it identifies them as Surinamese. Needless to say I have one hanging on my wall. When I met my wife, who happens to be from India, we bonded in part around our sharedmulti-cultural heritage and our love of the arts. She is an accomplished amateur painter and North-Indian folk dancer in her own right. Growing up partially in the US and partially in India gave her a sense of the possibilities of forging a new cultural identity that is not limited by our cultural origins. It is this expansive, open-ended world of possibility that art creates for all those who are sufficiently and expertly exposed toit.

Public Art and Creative Placemaking
Cambridge’s public art program is the oldest in the country. The city has a long history of supporting public art, yet caps and limits on funding have hampered artists’ abilities to fully engage and serve the communities.Would you consider expanding the program to require a percent for arts on private development projects, as well as public ones? Would you support expanding the use of % for arts funds beyond visual arts to performing arts?

Yes!

Space to Rehearse, Create and Live
The lack of affordable studio space and housing makes it hard for artists to stay in Cambridge. How would you keep artists of all backgrounds in the city and provide the support necessary to thrive? 

Affordable housing is a huge crisis that affects all communities in Cambridge, including artists. I don’t think there is a special case solution for artists, though of course increased funding will help at least some artists make a better living. But overall we need to aggressively counteract displacement, and I have outlined on my website, votequinton.com, some ideas for how to do that. I recently published an article in cambridgeday.com based on an analysis I conducted of publicly available data on our housing situation. In short, our current policy of building 90% (now 80% going forward) luxury-priced housing is making the problem worse, not better.

Counteracting private land banking via a transfer tax on large transaction and implementing a foreign-buyer’s tax to dissuade speculation, are some of the policy solutions I’m exploring with State Rep. Mike Connolly (because we are a home rule state we can’t unilaterally implement such policies without state house approval). We also need to explore other models, like housing co-ops.

 There are creative opportunities to provide space, e.g. the Foundry Building gifted to the city, but it’s not been given sufficient priority and urgency, and has been stuck for years. I would work with my colleagues to push this forward to a conclusion so that we can use the space productively, including for art.

Public Events
Some community institutions and artist groups have problems gaining access to public spaces in which they can gather, perform, create, and connect with the public. Would you encourage ways to allow more activity in community spaces?

Definitely. 

Youth Engagement
Engaging students with the arts in school and out of school is essential to educating the whole child. While the CPS arts education curricula provides access to many, we need more participation in arts education.

Cambridge’s out of school youth arts organizations continue to service thousands of kids, yet struggle to raise the resources needed to meet student demand. How would you invest in arts education for students of all ages, both inside and outside of school to ensure all youth in Cambridge have a connection to the arts?

I firmly believe in universal pre-K and also want to see universal after school programming available to all Cambridge students. Arts has to be incorporated into that. As a graduate student at MIT I participated in an afterschool program in Dorchester for at-risk youth that included mandatory music lessons (the students could pick any instrument). It was a great way to enrich their lives and they took great pride in their accomplishments as musicians as they matured. I want that kind of programming available for all students in Cambridge!

Corporate and Institutional Support for Arts and Creativity
Cambridge is home to many large corporate offices and world renowned educational institutions, whose workers and students enjoy Cambridge’s cultural assets. What responsibility should these institutions have in supporting arts and creative expression in Cambridge?

They should support the arts more, and they can be induced to do so if asked properly. I’ve worked in both the software and biotech industries as an individual contributor, executive and entrepreneur. I’m ideally positioned to talk to these booming industries in Cambridge about arts and culture (as well as sustainability which is my other expertise). I co-founded the Climate Action Business Association which has over 100 member businesses taking action on climate change. As a member of the CEO Roundtable I’ve had the privilege of interacting with world-renowned poets, musicians and actors. I’m actively supporting the candidacy of Olivia D’Ambrosio for city council as the only artist and strong advocate for the arts running (she’s a theatre professor at MIT). I am the ideal candidate to take this message to the business community: you need the arts, and the arts need you!

Your “Go to” Places
Cambridge is blessed with a rich mix of arts and cultural organizations. Please tell us about two places where you have had personally significant connections to the arts and/or cultural experiences.

Central Square Theatre, where I have experienced amazing plays, and participated in after-the-show dialog events as a speaker, and the Vuk School of Groove (founded by Berkeley graduate Christopher Vuk) where my kids and I took music lessons for years.

 

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