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 was the chair of the Local Cultural Council for the two years before I was elected State Rep. My son actively participates on stage in the local theater group. I am an avid nature photographer and long ago was thrilled when one photograph was used on a post card at a nature center in Florida. My father taught drama in high school for many years until his death in 1991. I was a journalist by trade out of college as I found inspiration in writing, and found a way to make money with it. My ability to express myself with language led the way to my first career (a sportswriter), my second (in law) and has helped me communicate effectively as a state representative.
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 Burlington Players brings together some of the best community theater activists in the state. These volunteers make use of a small, shallow space but they have a 75 seat venue to call their own. They produce wonderful musicals and stage plays that are shown to sold out shows. My son participates in the children’s programs and the holiday show that is presented for two weeks each December. This group has brought culture, music, and joy to members of community, including many seniors, at a low price and without a large commute. I am proud to sponsor a trip for the local senior group to dress rehearsal for the December play and I have sponsored a group of children who perform a patriotic skit at the town common on the Fourth of July.
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?
You can see below for my involvement in children’s theater in my district. I am proud that the two school districts that comprise the majority of my district, Burlington and Bedford, boast strong arts, music and theater programs. Burlington’s music program was recently named one of the seven top music programs in the country among public school systems by the National Association of Music Merchants. On a personal level, my son finds his art and music classes the outlet he needs to help him address the stress of the STEM curriculum that he enjoys, but finds challenging. I would support substantial funding for the arts in school. I am just a little hesitant to require arts education as admission to a state school. I believe it should be available and an immersion or orientation program should be offered so the students know what they can choose, but forcing it on a student who may be more interested in a technical skill, or a physical skill may not be helpful in promoting arts education. But I am up for discussion.
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?
Actually, the reach of arts on economic development is even greater than your question implies. I represent one of the fastest growing high-tech areas of the state. One reason companies choose to locate here is access to culture in the form of wonderful architecture, libraries, theater, music (including free concerts on the common) , the DeCordova in a neighboring town. Culture is a magnet for the type of business we desire and I will support it, as I have, with requests for support for MCC and more.
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?
The arts are a terrific way to communicate. My son was bullied last year. He was encouraged by his principal to produce a video showing the effects of bullying on a fifth-grade target. He did a wonderful job and I showed the video in the State House. Arts can address emotion in a way other communication cannot.
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?
- 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?
- Would you develop or dedicate a revenue stream to provide a sustainable and stable funding stream for the arts, cultural, and creative community?
This question is very hard to answer in a vacuum, because there is a balance between worthy causes. I can’t really name a level to fund any particular program without balancing with the needs of other programs and our revenue level. All I can say is that I lobbied for an increase in MCC funding over the H1 budget proposal to the level sought by the MCC. I supported the governor’s Cultural Facilities Fund. I believe we should designate an income stream for arts and I am open to discussing it.