Evan Falchuk's Response to the Create the Vote Questionnaire

PDF version

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?

Creativity is a kind of risk-taking.  It is driven by a unique conviction of truth, and a passionate desire to express that truth through actions or words.  It is, above all, a reflection of the aspiration to be free, to connect with others, to question accepted norms, and to live life on your own terms.  It may be expressed through arts or culture, and it may be expressed simply in the way you live your life.

I grew up surrounded by a family that was imbued with this kind of spirit.  Storytelling as a way of not just recounting life experiences but as a way to find meaning in them was – and is – a central part of my family life.  This spirit has always has been a core element of my personality and soul. 

My father’s father, Solomon, was born in Ukraine in 1905.  When he was 14, much of his family was murdered because they were Jews.  He escaped, and made his way across Europe, looking for passage to America.  He ended up in Cuba, alone and penniless.  He lived on the beach for a time, and ate mangoes that grew nearby.  He worked odd jobs, and eventually was able to move to Venezuela, where he started a business.  Over time, he saved enough money to reach his goal – making sure his sons were educated in the U.S.  And so, when my father was, in turn, 14 years old, my grandfather sent my dad to live with relatives in New York.

I was so lucky that my grandfather lived to be 101; he passed away in Venezuela in 2006.  His story and his personality were enormous influences on my life.  For hundreds of years, Jews had been subjected to these kinds of murderous events in Europe, and for hundreds of years, so many of them decided that they had no alternative but to stay and rebuild and be resilient in the face of tragedy.  My grandfather, even as a 14-year-old, determined he would not be a victim of circumstance and would live life on his own terms.  I am deeply aware of the reality that I am able to fill out a questionnaire like this one because of his ability to see a different, better future, and his dedication to making it a reality. 

My mother’s father, Murray, grew up in New York City, the son of a Polish immigrant and tailor.  As a young man, Murray worked in his father’s business, making and selling men’s clothing.  By the time he was 30, he was running the business with his father, and quickly began to transform a traditional clothing manufacturer into a creative, forward-thinking custom clothing designer and manufacturer.  Murray traveled the world in search of unique fabrics and designs, and developed a whimsical and imaginative brand and marketing approach.  Murray always questioned conventional wisdom, and it meant his customers would wear beautiful and meticulously designed clothing, apparel that others would recognize as being uniquely interesting and noticeable.

Given these creative, problem-solving role models, it should be no surprise that so many people in my family have chosen career paths outside the “norm,” or which have involved seeking out challenges to take on.  My father became a doctor and a professor, but also started a highly successful business based on a visionary understanding of medical care.  My mother was a nurse, but also became the President of a global charitable organization called Hadassah, leveraging her talent for inspiring others through stories.  My brother, as the co-creator of Glee and American Horror Story, has poured his creative spirit into the creation of stories that speak to deep – and for some, uncomfortable – truths. 

In my case, I spent the first few years of my career as a lawyer doing work that was enjoyable, but ultimately unsatisfying.  What became so clear to me during those years was the absolute importance of doing work that was inspiring, about which I could feel passion and meaning, and hopefully have an impact on the lives of others.  I learned that my own creative spirit was driven by a desire to be part of building and organizing people around ideas and purpose and meaning – particularly ideas that call into question widely held preconceptions, that force people to think for themselves about a problem.

In my 13 years as on the executive team of Best Doctors, most recently as President, I traveled all around the world speaking to audiences, employees, sales prospects, government groups and others about the importance of seeing health care from a completely different perspective.  While most people want to think about health care in terms of dollars and cents, I challenged people to consider a much more fundamental issue – getting the right diagnosis.  The very best way to connect with skeptical or even hostile audiences is, on the one hand, to present data, but a much more effective approach is the ability to share stories about real people. It makes all the difference in the world to connect with people on a personal and emotional level.  That is, in my view, the clearest path to a shared understanding of a larger truth, to build consensus on difficult subjects, and to compel action. 

This spirit, above all, is what has motivated me to found the United Independent Party in Massachusetts, and it is the rationale for my seeking to serve as governor.  I believe the political process is not set up to generate or breed leadership that seeks out these shared understandings, that is brave enough to take on our most difficult challenges, or to take meaningful action to solve them.  I also believe that there are many, many people in our Commonwealth who share this view, and who together form the basis of a coalition of those who feel the current system no longer represents their interests.  It is a coalition of people who feel their issues are not taken seriously, or who feel, as people, that they too often are not treated seriously by the very people they elect to serve. I’m a voter – and I’ve felt this exact way myself, for some time now.

In many ways, the level of importance that the arts community is afforded by our state government is a reflection of a deeper problem with American culture in the early 21st century.  There is a mentality of needing to manage scarcity, and to divert those limited resources preferentially to politically connected, money-making activities.  While it is clear that the arts community generates money and jobs, it is also clear that so much of the value of the arts is not directly measurable in dollars and cents, and, I would argue, should not need to be.  What is required is leadership that has a fundamental understanding of the importance of creativity to the development of thriving communities, to attracting and retaining innovative and dynamic people of all ages from all around the world, and building on the strengths of Massachusetts.


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?

Many parents believe that an over-emphasis on testing gets in the way of the kind of learning that students need to be successful, happy, contributing members of society.  It is important to learn the skills that a STEM-based curriculum teaches, but the greatest set of tools we can give students are the skills of critical thinking, independence, resilience and “grit” – the belief that you can overcome any obstacle you face. 

The creative arts are one of the most powerful ways to teach students these skills.  Unfortunately, programs of creative arts have been significantly cut in recent years.  While this may be motivated by a lack of appreciation of the importance of the creative arts, I believe that it is a rational response to educational funding formulas that prioritize STEM-based learning.  To address this – and a host of other issues – it is critical to re-assess the state’s Chapter 70 funding formula.  In particular, I am calling for near-term “triage” of the needs of cities and towns by updating the school funding formula to reflect the realities of educating students in the second decade of the 21st century, including the need for increased funding for creative arts education.  I also strongly support efforts to transform STEM to STEAM. 

Further, I want to provoke an important conversation and concrete plan of action around re-imagining our educational system, based on what we want it to look like in 2035.  As I believe this educational system should be producing the outcomes I describe above, it is clear to me that specific graduation requirements regarding creative arts education are needed, and I will champion making the creative arts an integral part of the high school curriculum.


Addressing the Commonwealth’s Socioeconomic Issues

Massachusetts faces many economic and social issues – job creation, public safety, education. Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving the Commonwealth’s social and economic challenges? How would you use the creative community to drive economic development across the Commonwealth – from major metropolitan areas to the Gateway cities, rural towns, and suburbs? What are the metrics of success?

I believe the arts, culture and creative community cannot be considered separately from the resolution of these important social issues.  Building the kinds of thriving communities that allow us to make serious progress on the serious socioeconomic issues we face requires not just creative thinking, but a broader based culture of innovation and inclusion, an ability to bravely challenge the status quo, and an engaged and dynamic citizenry, confident in their ability to succeed.  The arts, culture and creative community represent a critical part of infusing that kind of spirit of pride in these endeavors.

The barriers we face are clear. 

The cost of living in Massachusetts has continued to skyrocket, even as median incomes remain flat.  The two biggest drivers of this problem are health care costs and housing costs.  Health care costs have been rising fundamentally because of the continual mergers of hospitals into giant, monopolistic hospital systems, that increase their prices as they see fit and cost consumers and businesses dearly.  Housing costs are driven by the failure of the state to deliver a plan that aligns the interests of cities and towns with the demand for the production of thousands of new housing units each year. 

The high cost of living in Massachusetts makes it increasingly difficult for young people to live here, to move here, or to stay here.  This is a particular problem for people in the creative economy, who face the challenges of finding affordable housing, appropriate work- or performance space, in an environment in which state funding for the creative arts has been so constrained.  As governor, I believe tackling the serious problem of the cost of living in Massachusetts will make a very significant impact on supporting the work of artists and the creative economy. 

In addition, I believe that artisans of all kinds drive economic growth by making our communities into something more than just places with a predictable collection of shops and restaurants.  By bringing their individuality and creativity, they transform communities into places where something is “going on,” where interesting, unpredictable and unexpected things are created and happen.  The interplay between this kind of energy and the business community is the kind of thing that makes people want to live in and be a part of thriving, dynamic communities.


The Administration’s Support and Role in the Creative Community
Last year, Massachusetts invested $11.1 million in organization support for the creative community, ranking it ninth in the country. The current level of in the Massachusetts Cultural Council is less than 41% of what it was 25 years ago.

  • At what level would you fund the Massachusetts Cultural Council?

The amount of money invested in supporting the creative community is not aligned with the significant importance of the creative economy.  For example, in Quebec, which has an economy of roughly the same size as Massachusetts, the equivalent provincial agency has approximately $90 million in funding, focused on its mission of “supporting artistic and literary research and creation, experimentation, production and dissemination in the realms of the visual arts, the arts and crafts, literature, the performing arts, the multidisciplinary arts, the media arts, and architectural research. It also seeks to broaden the influence of artists, writers, arts organizations and their works in Québec, the rest of Canada and abroad.”  The Massachusetts Cultural Council should see its work in that same light in terms of Massachusetts artists and organizations.

I oppose efforts to cut funding to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and I support the current effort in the legislature to increase its funding to $16 million.  However, I believe that at the $16 million level this funding is still insufficient for promoting such an important sector of our economy.  For this reason, I believe it is essential, early in my administration, to convene a Task Force on the Arts, devoted to building a strong public policy agenda related to the arts, and to empower the Chair of the Massachusetts Cultural Council with responsibility to work with the legislature to make this agenda a reality.  As Governor I will work hard to advocate on behalf of the arts community, as part of the larger vision stated above to drive down the cost of living in Massachusetts.

In addition, I believe the private sector can do more to support the arts community on a voluntary basis.  Those business that have received significant tax breaks from the Commonwealth should be asked to devote either direct funding, support for public art displays in, near or on new construction or refurbishment, or other in-kind support (such as work or performance space) to the arts community.

  • At what level would you fund the Cultural Facilities Fund which supports the maintenance, repair and rebuilding of the Commonwealth’s cultural facilities?

Refurbishing old spaces, and creating new spaces, for creative activity is an important responsibility of our state government.  I support the effort to reauthorize the Cultural Facilities Fund for an additional seven years, and to increase the annual outlay of capital funding to $15 million.

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

Yes.  I propose that up to 1% of all tax breaks given to large corporations (such as the $300 million tax break given to Intel) should be devoted to funding the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

  • How would you strengthen the Commonwealth’s current administrative structure to support the creative community? What parts of your administration would work closely with the MA Cultural Council?

I will task my Lieutenant Governor, Angus Jennings, with implementing our Thriving Communities Action Plan.  This plan is based on aligning the interests of the state with cities and towns and the private sector on the production of housing of all kinds throughout the Commonwealth.  The goal of this plan is to reduce the cost of living and, more fundamentally, to aggressively attract and retain dynamic, innovative people, particularly young people, to live and work in Massachusetts.  By definition, this includes the creative community, and our Thriving Communities Action Plan includes investing in (or encouraging local investment in) spaces for artists to live and work as an integral component.  I expect the Massachusetts Cultural Council to have an important role in this regard, and to work directly with the LG and, by extension, me, in ensuring that these priorities are implemented.

  • What are your program priorities and where will the funds be allocated?

My highest priorities are to reduce the cost of living in Massachusetts, in order to make it affordable for more people – including additional dynamic, innovative people – to want to stay or move here.  In health care, this will involve the creation of an all-payer, equitable fee schedule modeled on what has been created in the state of Maryland.  If such a fee schedule drives out just 5% of wasted hospital expense, that equates to $2 billion a year, which will go back into the pockets of consumers, businesses and municipalities across the Commonwealth, where it belongs.

On housing, the largest funding issue is state funding for education.  While there are other important funding priorities that will help align the interests of cities and towns with the Commonwealth’s goal for more housing, properly funding Chapter 70 to accurately reflect the realities of educating students in the second decade of the 21st century is the critical factor.  Housing is a jobs issue.  Cities and towns are not irrational in their concern about adding new housing because of insufficient funding from the state for education.  If we can fix that problem, we can begin to reverse long-term cost increases that have driven too many people out of the market, or out of the state.

  • How would you promote public-private partnerships to support the creative community?

As in many areas of Massachusetts, there are great numbers of people engaged in important, innovative work at solving issues we face.  Often these activities are happening in the private sector, in a wide variety of not-for-profits, schools, and other areas.  I believe one of the purposes of government is to find ways to facilitate this kind of innovation.  An organization like the Massachusetts Cultural Council can act as a kind of “clearinghouse,” helping improve connections among private sector organizations so they can leverage each other’s work, helping provide funding either from the state or other sources, and promoting overall the artists and arts community of the Commonwealth.  As governor, I will work to ensure that I have people working for me in these important positions who understand the importance of this role, and act accordingly.

  • Which states provide programs – regarding policy, or public-private investment, or other elements of an active arts and culture agenda – that might serve as models for your administration?

While it is not typical for a Massachusetts native and Red Sox fan like me to look to New York City for examples of something being done right, I believe the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs represents a comprehensive and strategic approach to an arts and culture agenda.  We should look to it as a model of what a robust program of civic engagement on the arts looks like, including, for example, its funding of public art installations.


The Creative Economy
Innovation is one of the major drivers of Massachusetts’ economy. As Governor, how would you work with creative entrepreneurs and broaden your administration's commitment to the creative economy as part of an economic development strategy? How will you foster an ecosystem which is reflective of the up and coming independent creative community across the Commonwealth?

Our Thriving Communities Action Plan is based on the premise that innovative, forward-thinking people want to live in innovative, forward-thinking communities.  These communities are often in urban areas, but may also be in multi-family, transit-oriented housing in suburban communities, or in refurbished mill buildings or other locations in Gateway Cities.  We believe that a combination of reducing the cost of living in Massachusetts, increasing housing production of all kinds, and providing robust support for the arts community is a critical component of our overall strategy for growth in the Commonwealth.  The kind of innovative housing approaches that will help build this ecosystem of creativity includes not only such things as microapartments, but also multi-generational housing that recognizes the increasing desire among seniors to “age in place.”  Seniors are and can be an important component of that creative ecosystem in Massachusetts, and when they are unable to afford to live here, or unable to pursue creative endeavors in their retired years, the creative economy loses out on an important opportunity for learning, engagement and experience.


A World Class Arts Destination

While Massachusetts is known for its hospitals, professional sports, and universities, the Commonwealth has yet to fully leverage the strength of our arts, culture, and creative community as a means for tourism and branding. How would you utilize your administration to market the Commonwealth as a world-class cultural destination?

The marketing of Massachusetts as an arts destination needs to be substantially changed.  I believe much of the Marketing of Massachusetts is based on a tactical approach, fueled largely by advertising of various features of Massachusetts as a tourism destination.  The website for www.massvacation.com, for example, contains an excellent portfolio of individual arts programs across the Commonwealth.  While this is valuable, it is different from taking a strategic approach to marketing.  This involves understanding the customer, determining what approaches will best engage the customer, and deploying tactics that can have the result of causing more people to visit Massachusetts as an arts and culture destination. 

While I greatly respect our artistic and creative history in Massachusetts, one of the important roles of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, working together with the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, must be to develop a comprehensive branding and marketing strategy for Massachusetts as a cultural destination that more aggressively highlights our current artists, as well. If Massachusetts is framed as the arts destination everywhere from our world-class museums to busy sidewalks, scholastic arts programs seasonal shows, and even culinary arts, we do ourselves a favor by highlighting the Commonwealth as a truly standalone destination when it comes to its burgeoning creative pulse.

We have an opportunity to make our marketing appear and translate as the anti-marketing campaign. It can be totally different from what potential visitors see so often from states’ typical marketing efforts. It can be fresh, young, edgy and vibrant – but appealing to visitors of all ages and backgrounds.


Your Priorities

The start of a Governor’s tenure often sets the Administration’s tone and priorities. Which actions do you see as the most critical to initiate in the area of arts and culture within the first 100 days of your administration?

Reducing the cost of living in Massachusetts is my number one priority, and I believe that addressing the issue of the cost of living is a critical component of supporting the arts and culture.  As such, introducing legislation to create an all-payer fee schedule for hospital care, and legislation to update and fully fund Chapter 70 education support will be my top two actions.

With respect to items that directly impact state leadership in the arts community, and in the event the current lead does not continue in her role, I plan to appoint a new lead for the Massachusetts Cultural Council.  I believe the person in that role must be an individual highly regarded in the arts community as someone who understands the needs “on the ground” of people in the arts community, and who is looking to aggressively work to address those needs.  I believe the arts community has a fundamentally important role to play in creating smart, brave reform in Massachusetts, and I look forward to working with the community actively in this campaign and beyond.

Do you like this post?

Community Impact

The Drama Studio is one of a handful of youth theatres in the United States that offers quality, range, and depth in its acting training programs. For Springfield-area youth, the Studio's conservatory program offers an unusual opportunity for training that prepares its graduates (all of whom are college bound) to...