Julian Cyr's Response to Cape Cod Arts and Cultural Questionnaire

Arts and Culture in Your District

Cape Cod is blessed with a rich mix of arts & cultural organizations. Please name two places in the district where you have had personally significant arts and cultural experiences.

Arts and culture are an integral part of my identity as a Cape Codder and have always been. As a child, I spent pre-school and then every summer at Rudelle’s, a well-loved education center and camp in Truro. Since as early as I could remember, I would paint, draw, write, sing, and act in a myriad of mediums. My first play was ‘Le Trois Petit Couchons’ at age 6 and I appeared in at least one production every summer well into my teens. I started piano lessons with Pat Marsh in 2nd grade and by 3rd grade I had taken up the violin, an instrument that my grandfather also played. As an otherwise shy child, the arts and theater were a space for me to build confidence and find my voice.  

The music program at Nauset Regional High School profoundly influenced my sense of self and my interest in public service. As a sophomore I auditioned - and got into - the school’s much acclaimed Honors Chorus. Under the baton of director Allison Beavan, we performed with the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra, at Carnegie Hall in New York, and Symphony Hall in Boston. In 2003, deep proposed cuts to the school budget spelled elimination of much of Nauset’s arts and music programs, including the layoff of Mrs. Beavan. As a high school junior, I led a student-based effort to convince voters at Town Meetings to support a Proposition 2 ½ override to restore funding. Our student-led initiative to save these programs was successful, and in the process I realized that I could step into my community and instigate change. My candidacy for state senate 15 years later stems from that seminal experience.   

My first academic pursuits at NYU focused on arts advocacy and later public policy and the arts. In summer 2006, I interned at the Fine Arts Works Center (FAWC) under then Executive Director Hunter O’Hanian. Again arts and culture on the Cape shaped the direction of my career. With Hunter’s direction, I met and interviewed over 25 leaders involved in the arts, business, and local government on the Lower Cape. I crafted a 30-page roadmap on how the cultural sector could fuel further economic development in the region.

Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Creativity and innovation are vital skills in a student’s education and in workforce development in our 21stcentury economy. How will you champion arts education? Would you support joining ten other states to make one year of arts education in high school a requirement for admission to the state university system?

Yes absolutely. I have seen firsthand how arts throughout my elementary, secondary, and undergraduate education has made a difference in my life. Evidence is well-established that arts education improves qualitative comprehension and quantitative competence. My only reservation is that such a requirement must not penalize students who attend under-resourced public schools with limited or no meaningful arts education programs. Too often, the public schools with the best arts and music resources are those that serve the most privileged communities.

Economic Development

There are countless vacant buildings and storefronts from Falmouth to Provincetown, including the Hibel and Armory buildings in downtown Hyannis. What incentive might you use to entice landlords and/or businesses to partner up with our local artists to bring new life to vacant main street buildings?

Incentives that encourage landlords to allow for shared space / mixed use space to make renting affordable. For instance, the Cape Cod Chamber Music Society rents a back room in their office to a technology consultant to help pay the rent on their modest office in Eastham. While some landlords might not be receptive to tenants who share space within a unit, such initiatives would help emerging small businesses and scrappy nonprofits afford space. Voluntary programs working through local chambers of commerce may be a good place to start, although some form of tax-deductible incentive may be appealing.

Furthermore, that arts need to be a vital partner -- and very much at the table -- in development and redevelopment projects, particularly within our historic town centers. The blossoming of Dennis Port began largely thanks to the tenancy and attention of mural artist Hans de Castellane. We need more of this.

Nonprofit art and cultural organizations support more than 45,000 jobs, spend $2.1 billion annually, and generate another $2.5 billion of economic activity. How will the legislature foster an environment that supports the creative community and tourism across the Commonwealth, and particularly on Cape Cod?

Support of arts and cultural organizations makes good economic sense. The multiplier effect of economic activity with arts and culture is well established, however the impact of the creative sector on the economic health of the Commonwealth is not reflected in the Legislature’s budgetary priorities. First and foremost, we need to repeat time and again that our region is a desirable destination not simply for our natural beauty, but for our vibrant creative sector. On Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, tourism dollars might be best spent to support new/recent attractions that help extend the hospitality season. Provincetown has had much success in attracting visitors in the off-season with creative offerings such as the Tennessee Williams Festival. Additionally I’d like to see an expansion of grants for cultural institutions that help cover fixed costs (e.g. space, administration, electricity). Often contributions from supporters will be designated for a particular program and not cover the basics of running a nonprofit art/cultural organization.

Addressing Cape Cod’s Socioeconomic Issues

Cape Cod faces many economic and social issues, among them homelessness, addiction, and limited services for both youth and seniors. Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving the district’s social and economic challenges?

We need to be innovative about how we utilize existing and new public spaces. Public buildings that solely serve one constituency (e.g. seniors, students) often go unused during certain hours of the day. Partnership between town departments, local non-profits, and creatives could help realize better use of existing resources (e.g. senior center, communal sharing of van resources). Again arts and culture should be at the table when it comes to addressing the challenges we face as a region -- from affordable housing to revitalization of historic downtowns to addressing the opioid epidemic and homelessness.

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