Ayanna Pressley's Response to the Create the Vote Questionnaire

Ayanna Pressley met with the Create the Vote Coalition in August to discuss arts, culture, and creativity. Read about the meeting here.

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?

The arts play an incredibly important role in my life, both personally and professionally. On the Boston City Council, I have been a steadfast ally of the artistic community in Boston and beyond. Personally, our family values the arts immensely, by encouraging our daughter, Cora, to participate in the arts both in and out of school. For our community, access to high-quality, local artists, musicians, and creatives is culturally enriching and an incredibly important celebration of the artistic community in Boston and beyond. The arts, culture, and creativity is not simply enriching in and of itself -- it is a critical driver of our community’s culture and economy, and throughout my time on the Boston City Council, I have worked to treat the creative community as the integral part of our economy and have advocated for policies designed to increase affordable housing for artists, as well as economic supports for artists, musicians, and other members of the creative community.

 

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 in Congress will remain what they have been throughout my entire adult life -- reducing inequality in all forms, eradicating poverty, and creating sustainable pathways for empowerment for women and girls. The creative community can play an incredibly important role in addressing these issues in numerous ways -- by providing paths to economic independence for talented artists, by supporting local economies, and by enriching the cultural composition of our communities.

 

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?

Violence, trauma, and social isolation produce cycles of negative outcomes, from poor educational outcomes, poor economic outcomes, and social isolation. The creative community can help address social isolation in many ways -- by hosting events, by providing outlets for people to come together around the arts, and by encouraging members of the creative community to share their talents.

 

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.

In accordance with the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is currently redesigning school and district report cards.

These reports cards will 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?

On the Boston City Council, I led the establishment of Boston Arts and Cultural District and the Literary Cultural District, and I worked to elevate the role of the arts in our public schools, because artistic education and experiences are critical components of learning and healthy development. With much of the focus on STEM education, we should be cognizant of including an intentional focus on the arts and revising the acronym to STEAM. In Congress, I will support increased funding for local arts education through the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which includes a specific focus on the arts in career and technical education programs, and Rep. Barbara Lee’s resolution calling for greater and more equitable access to STEAM education. Additionally, we must create opportunities in after-school, summer, and other programs for students to pursue the arts, literature, music, and other programs.

 

4. Public Access to the Arts and Humanities

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are the nation’s vehicle for supporting the creative sector and providing public access to diverse opportunities for participation in the Arts and Humanities. The Trump Administration’s FY18 and FY19 budgets recommended eliminating both the NEA and NEH. However Congress, in a bipartisan show of support, rejected the Administration’s proposal and instead authorized a $2 million increase to both agencies.

How will you protect national funding for the arts and humanities and work to increase opportunities for everyone in your district to access art, culture, and creativity?

In Congress, I will work to protect the National Endowment for the Arts from budget cuts. I will also work to expand funding for community arts, the national endowment, public broadcasting, and block grants for state cultural councils. Congress also should expand per-capita state arts agency appropriations. Finally, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s affordability formula must be updated to include living spaces for artists so that they are able to create within communities who benefit immensely from their talents.

 

5. 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?

Our healthcare system is in major need of an overhaul, as countless families face bankruptcy due to medical bills, have insurance that does not provide for their basic needs, and are faced with choosing between treating illnesses and paying bills. I support the passage of a Medicare-for-all system, and within that legislation, federal funding for creative therapies in the arts must be prioritized in any reform of our healthcare system.

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