Mindy Domb's Response to the Create the Vote Questionnaire

1. The Role of Arts, Culture, and Creativity

What role do arts, culture, and creativity play in your life, your family, your community? What impact does it have?

In my life the arts have not only served as a source of reflection, but also a way for me to connect to other people, communities, and cultures. I am inspired by the arts and by the way creativity is expressed. In my family, it has played an important role: one child is an image maker and photo editor and the other is a musician, and as a family we have enjoyed attending, supporting and enjoying the arts. In our community, arts and culture plays an important role not only because the 3rd Hampshire District attracts artists and others in the creative community, but it is home to several museums, galleries, studios. The schools in the 3rd Hampshire District are known for their dedication to the arts. I am a strong advocate for funding these school-based programs for their academic value and benefit, and the opportunities they provide students to reflect and express themselves, build critical reflection, team-building and other applicable skills.

 

2. Addressing District-wide Issues

Just as any other part of the state, we face many economic and social issues here in the district.

What are your priority issues? What role can the creative community play in addressing these challenges?

My priority issues include full funding for education, reducing economic inequality, protecting the environment and responding to the climate crisis, being a more welcoming, just and fair community. The creative community plays a critical role in addressing these challenges by connecting the community through shared experiences and affording welcome opportunities to increase our understanding of each other, and discover our shared values.

 

There is a growing body of data and science that’s telling us that loneliness is more prevalent than we thought. Former U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy even compared the mortality effect associated with loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

What do you think the creative community can do to address social isolation?

I have seen the role that the creative community plays in addressing social isolation. In my position as the executive director of the Amherst Survival Center, we have worked to sustain a monthly program that brings musicians into the Center to offer live music performances for Center visitors and volunteers. These performances are not only an “excuse” to visit the Center, they are crucial spaces for community members to come together, share an experience, and build connections with each other.

 

3. Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Research has shown that arts education increases achievement across all academic disciplines, enhances student engagement, and fosters development of critical thinking and learning skills.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is currently redesigning school and district report cards to include measures for arts education participation. In addition, DESE is updating arts curriculum frameworks for the first time since 1999.

What will you do to increase access and participation in arts education for youth both in school and out of schools?

I will be a strong supporter of arts education for youth in and out of schools. For many youth, participation in the arts is what keeps them engaged in school. As a State Representative I not only will support funding for the arts for youth, but I will proactively promote these opportunities, attend related events, and help to promote these events within my constituency. I will work with the programs to identify other possible areas for support. I will work with programs in the 3RD Hampshire District to showcase art developed by youth in the State House. I will fight to fully fund public education and protect the budgets for public schools. This will, in turn, protect arts programs from funding cuts. I will advocate for after school arts programs which can generate significant positive results for low-income students.

 

4. The Commonwealth’s Support and Role in the Creative Community

Public investment in the arts strengthens local economies, attracts additional investment, and ensures resources serve the public interest. For the past three years, the Legislature has level funded the Mass Cultural Council, investing $14 million in organizational support for the creative community. In 1988, the Mass Cultural Council gave out more than $27 million in grants, nearly twice what we do now.

At what level would you fund the Mass Cultural Council?

I will seek $17 million for the Mass Cultural Council to support artists and organizations. In the 3rd Hampshire District, our museums and cultural institutions have benefited greatly from the Mass Cultural Council as have other nonprofit organizations, like the Amherst Survival Center’s Tunes@Noon live music program. I strongly believe that the creative economy is a necessary component of the region’s economic development and strengthens our communities.

 

Created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2007, the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund has granted $110 million in matching grants to help restore the Commonwealth’s most treasured historical and cultural landmarks, and fund visionary capital projects that revitalize our communities. As the Cultural Facilities Fund comes up for reauthorization in 2019, there’s interest to increase the Fund to $75 million for five years, allowing the yearly allocations to increase from $10 million to $15 million and meet the increasing demands of projects.

At what level do you suggest the Commonwealth fund this program?

I will work to increase the Fund to the $15 million level annually. Museums in the 3rd Hampshire District praise this program as it has helped them address many of their capital needs while reserving their development and fundraising efforts for programs and operations, which are much more appealing to donors. The Cultural Facilities Fund helps to strengthen the cultural infrastructure, allowing organizations to focus on, and meet, their missions.

 

5. Space for artists and arts organizations 

Active arts organizations and artists make neighborhoods safer, more welcoming, and improve overall quality of life. Yet, as Greater Boston’s development boom continues, the creative community is consistently being priced out of space to live, create, and present art.

From the eviction of artists at the Piano Factory in Boston’s South End and the EMF building in Cambridge, to the possibility of the Huntington Theatre losing its mainstage home on Huntington Avenue, Boston is in danger of losing the vibrancy and cultural diversity which make the area a desirable place for businesses to move and people to live.

How will you work to ensure artist live work spaces are included in development plans?

I will be mindful, proactive and vocal in supporting artist live work spaces in new developments. I believe that the creative economy is key to economic development in our region, and that means we need to ensure that artists can live and work in the region. In my early work in the 1980s in New York City, I was involved with supporting loft tenants to stay in the spaces they helped to create and design. In those situations, artists took otherwise unused spaces, transformed them into work/living units, and improved their neighborhoods and communities. I will strongly support and advocate for such a transformation and to artists being able to remain in these spaces. I support the collaboration between artists and community development corporations.

 

How will you encourage the development of affordable rehearsal, exhibition, and performance space for artists and cultural organizations?

The 3rd Hampshire District and the Pioneer Valley overall is uniquely positioned in this regard. The five-college area (three institutions reside in the 3rd Hampshire District) hosts exhibition, rehearsal and performance space. I will actively support the sharing of these spaces with local community organizations and artists. I will support the development of these spaces across the Commonwealth.

 

6. 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 rest of New England and 22 other states have a Public Art Program, which establishes that public art will be an integral piece of all new state construction. The Legislature is considering The Massachusetts Public Art Program, legislation that would invest approximately $2 million a year in the creation and preservation of public art on Commonwealth-owned properties.

What will you do next session to help get the Massachusetts Public Art Program to the finish line?

I will support and advocate for the Massachusetts Public Art Program’s goal to create and preserve public art on Commonwealth-owned properties, especially those properties in the region of and surrounding the 3rd Hampshire District. Public art gives community members a new way to experience their community and the art, and in doing so, this new perspective can generate new ideas, conversations, and efforts to build community as well as new attachment to one’s community. Public art installations are similar to public parks and the New England Commons, providing the public with an accessible and shared art experience.

 

7. Art and Public Health

Expressive art therapy is a proven and effective treatment to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, help cope with traumatic experiences, decrease depression and anxiety, and aid addiction recovery.

How would you ensure veterans, young people in the juvenile justice system, the elderly, and those suffering from addiction are able to access art and creative therapies?

I will seek out partnerships and relationships to the organizations in the 3rd Hampshire District who are looking to integrate the arts and creative therapies with a variety of vulnerable individuals. I will advocate for these programs to be in place and also to identify ways to support the development of these programs in the district. Art can play an important therapeutic and healing role, and I will welcome opportunities to support its inclusion in a variety of settings.

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