Ed Cameron Response

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?

While I’ve always been interested in music, photography, and art, I really didn’t have much exposure to artists and musicians until college in Worcester and living in Boston in my early 20s.  Learning how to play guitar when I was 24 - through a class with the Boston Adult Education Center - opened up a whole new world to me and gave me an understanding that at least a little talent lies dormant within many of us.  Living in vibrant cultural communities like Jamaica Plain and Newburyport leaves a person with an expanded view of possibilities.

 Arts and Culture in Your District

Art and culture plays a role in the Commonwealth from Boston and the Gateway Cities and our rural and suburban towns.  Please provide us with a story of the impact a local arts or cultural institution brings to your district.

The First Essex House District is comprised of the communities of Amesbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury.  All three communities share closeness with nature, beautiful river and beachfronts, and local forests and parks. These natural assets inspire participation in art and music. 

Being from Newburyport, I’m most familiar with the impact of local institutions and events like the Firehouse Center for the Arts, the Newburyport Literary Festival, and the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival.  Since its opening in 1991, the Firehouse Center for the Arts has been instrumental in bringing music, drama, art, and many other cultural events to Newburyport. The Firehouse would not exist without state participation in funding.

Amesbury’s downtown district has become a destination for artists and musicians seeking studio space. Open studio evenings and weekends are an attractive feature of this district, attracting hundreds of visitors a year.

Salisbury’s Blue Ocean Music Hall, and other musical venues, attracts thousands of visitors to the town, encouraging cultural participation.

Besides offering the intrinsic values of all art and culture, these institutions are a real economic driver for all three communities.

 

Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Creativity and innovation are vital skills in a student’s education. While many communities have access to quality arts education, many youth are still being left out of the creative community. How will you 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 to make 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 program to transform it to STEAM?

Arts education in the school, along with music, is essentially a problem of priorities and funding.  I’m a strong advocate for reforming funding formulas and the raw amount of dollars that flow from the State to local districts so that art and music and theater can again be strong part of the regular curriculum.  Testing is important but less easy to quantify creative skills are just as important.  I support a minimum of one year of arts education in high school and arts should be included in STEM teaching.

Economic Development

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 ecosystem which supports the creative community and industry across the Commonwealth?

I favor increasing cultural support from the State to at least $12M.  One idea for fostering a positive atmosphere for the creative community is for the legislature to fund workshops in how to start a creative business, including funding, marketing, etc.  This could be run in conjunction with local chambers of commerce. Another is to encourage a marriage between technology and the arts, a natural pairing now that so many artistic endeavors can be aided or accomplished by computer programs. In addition, any program that helps small business owners is helpful to the creative business community.

Addressing the Commonwealth’s Socioeconomic Issues

Massachusetts faces many economic and social issues, among them workforce development, public safety, and health care. Can you provide examples on how you would utilize the arts, cultural, and creative community to address the Commonwealth’s social and economic challenges? 

Workforce development has become a key item in our thinking about economic growth. I support encouragement of the arts in our community colleges, a key player in workforce development, adding another possibility of employment to students. 

In many communities senior issues are a pressing challenge. Harnessing the energy and experience of our senior citizens to offer educational programs and workshops to community members would take advantage of a much-overlooked resource.  In reverse, employing artists of all sorts to help with senior issues in our senior centers and care facilities would provide residents with creative outlets to aid in healthy day-to-day living.

The Commonwealth’s Support and Role in the Creative Community

  • Last year, Massachusetts invested $12 million in organizational support through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) for the creative community, ranking it ninth in the country. In 1988, the MCC gave out more than $27 million in grants, more than twice what we do now. At what level would you fund the MCC?  

At least $12 million. We need to work toward at least our previous levels.

  • For the past two years, Governor Patrick allocated $15 million in matching grants through the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund to support the maintenance, repair, and rebuilding of the Commonwealth’s cultural facilities. At what level do you suggest the Commonwealth fund this program?

Again, we need to work to increase our support especially for communities such as Newburyport, Salisbury and Amesbury, where the arts are a significant part of our local economies. We cannot continue to maintain and expand our cultural venues, as well as encourage creative spaces such as artists’ studios and living spaces, without sufficient state support.

  • Would you develop or dedicate a revenue stream to provide a sustainable and stable funding stream for the arts, cultural, and creative community?

Absolutely. The health of the arts community that is so important in making our area, as well as the entire state, a real arts destination, depends on the expectation of stable funding.

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