Candidate would tie arts and culture to social justice policy
BOSTON, September 4, 2014—Continuing its series of sit down meetings with candidates for governor of Massachusetts, members of the Create the Vote coalition met with gubernatorial candidate Don Berwick to talk about Berwick’s views on the arts and cultural community and the role it would play in his administration.
The Coalition—a collaboration of Massachusetts arts, cultural, and creative institutions convened by MASSCreative—met with Berwick via conference call July 11. Representatives from The Art Connection, Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, Boston University Arts Initiative, AHA! New Bedford, StageSource, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New Repertory Theatre, The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, Berkshire Creative, and The Cultural Center of Cape Cod questioned Berwick about his vision for the arts in the Commonwealth.
Berwick said that he supported the arts for its own sake. “I am deeply committed to what you are trying to accomplish,” he said. “To me, art isn’t an add-on, it’s the point.”
Your Personal Connection
We've all had defining moments in our lives. What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity had an impact on your life and your view of the community?
I am a lifelong fan of literature, music, and theater, but perhaps my most inspiring personal connection to the arts came from my children. As students in the Newton public schools, two of my four children fully immersed themselves in the after-school theater program. Engaging with the arts was instrumental to their academic and personal development, and it began a lifelong passion for the arts that I am convinced turned them into better citizens. Their invaluable experience was made possible by a public commitment to the arts. I am running for Governor because I believe in the principles of social justice, equality and compassion, and I am committed to providing all children, regardless of wealth or geography, the same opportunities to thrive that my children received. I will fight to ensure that exposure to the arts remains an integral part of such opportunity.
Arts Education and Programs for our Youth
Creativity and innovation are vital skills in a student’s education. While many communities provide access to quality arts education, many of our youth are still being left out of the creative community. What will you do as Governor to champion arts education for our youth both in our schools and in our communities? How will you balance the importance of arts education with the constant pull to “teach to the test”? Would you support joining ten other states in making one year of arts education in high school a requirement for admission to the state university system? Do you support adding arts into the Commonwealth’s STEM to transform it to STEAM?
I support the need to align our school curriculum with the needs of employers, but I believe that a narrow focus on STEM is too restrictive. I favor turning “STEM” to “STEAM” because public education should equip every student with the skills to become a well-founded citizen, not just a successful employee. We also ought to recognize that the arts represent the Commonwealth’s third largest employment sector. Thriving arts communities in regions such as Berkshire County, Cape Cod and Boston, present major opportunities for growth. I am open to a variety of strategies that will place arts back at the core of our education curriculum, but I also want to make sure that we do not inadvertently harm low-income schools. Before we mandate that a year of arts education is required for admission to our state university system, we need to guarantee that every school has the resources necessary to provide such programming. This will take investment and a recommitment to equity in our education system. This may be a fight, but it is a fight I am eager to have on behalf of the progressive agenda.