Your Personal Connection
We've all had defining moments in our lives. What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity has had an impact on your life and your view of the community?
To me the arts are a critical part of expression, communication, community building and beyond. I believe the arts enhance and are a fundamental aspect of every part of life. This includes enhancing individuals experiences of a place, attracting people to a location, expressing stories and beyond. In my work with at risk populations I find that art therapy is another area of importance and in my current job we have promoted a Teen Writing Workshop for this purpose.
Personally, I have found I turn to the arts when I am processing major life events. When I first returned from living in Baghdad for nearly two years I spent evenings writing a one person play/monologue. While in Baghdad a second time I bought a guitar because I found it became an important way to release at night and connect with colleagues.
Arts & 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.
Arts and culture have long been central to the story of the Berkshires. Whether it’s seeing the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform at Tanglewood in the summer or checking out the latest art installation at MassMOCA, when people think of our region, they think of these cultural landmarks. For North Adams and Pittsfield in particular, arts and culture have been a gateway to revitalization and reuse of spaces. For Western Massachusetts as a whole, these venues, galleries and performance spaces enrich our sense of community.
Addressing District-wide Issues
Just as any other part of the state, we face many economic and social issues here in the district. Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving social problems? How would you use our community to drive economic development in the district?
Arts and cultural attractions are one of the biggest draws for our region so investing in these institutions is a must. Making it known to potential visitors that the Berkshires hosts world-class cultural facilities helps bring in tourism dollars. To that end, funding for Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (MOTT) marketing initiatives needs to become a priority again.
Arts Education and Programs for our Youth
Art instruction increases achievement across all academic disciplines and develops the whole child. While many communities have access to quality arts education, many youth are still being left out of the creative community. Changes in federal law under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers Massachusetts an opportunity to include arts education in the restructuring of the Commonwealth’s accountability and assistance systems for schools and districts. Do you support including assessments based on student access, participation, and proficiency in arts learning and creative learning experiences in these new accountability frameworks?
Yes. We want to ensure that every child in the Commonwealth has access to opportunities for cultural enrichment in the course of his or her education.
The Commonwealth’s Support and Role in the Creative Community
This year, the Massachusetts Legislature invested $14 million in organizational support through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) for the creative community, ranking it ninth in the country. This provided level support for the creative community and overturned a 55% cut in funding by Governor Baker. In 1988, the MCC gave out more than $27 million in grants, nearly twice what we do now. At what level would you fund the MCC?
MCC funding has been tremendously beneficial to our district. Most recently, The Clark’s expansion into a modern state-of-the-art institution was made possible by the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund which is collaboratively administered by MCC. While I would want to hear from our arts community on their needs before committing to a specific figure, funding for cultural sites is a priority of mine.
Percent for Public Art
Public art helps build vibrant and connected neighborhoods and the arts community plays a vital role in the development of cities and towns. The other 5 New England states and an additional 22 have a Percent for Art Program, which establishes that design and public art will be an integral piece of all new state construction. Last November, Gov. Baker vetoed the Percent for Art Program after it garnered support from the Legislature in two separate votes last session, once in the state budget, and then in an amended version. Will you support the Percent for Art Program next session?