Eric Lesser Response


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?

The arts and culture have always been apart of my life, I have strong memories of attending the Springfield Symphony as a child. In the Senate, I'm fortunate to be Chairman of the Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development where I have the opportunity to serve as champion of the arts and culture. I believe that the arts and culture enrich our lives and deepen our understanding of the world around us. I'm proud to have worked to support the efforts of artists, musicians and so many others through my work in the Senate. I'm a proud champion of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and I'm a strong believer that by investing in the arts and culture we are driving economic development and growth within our communities

ARTS & CULTURE IN SPRINGFIELD

Art and culture play a role in Springfield in numerous ways, ranging from public education to safety and economic development. Please provide us with a story of the impact a local arts or cultural institution brings to your district.

Springfield is fortunate to have a grouping of world class museums, a symphony, and a new cultural district that is working to weave culture into new building projects and re-energize our neighborhoods. Through the last two budgets, I have worked with my colleagues to both secure increases and restore funding to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, monies that help fund the work of the Springfield Central Cultural District, not to mention other cultural institutions throughout Springfield like the Springfield Museums, the Community Music School, and CityStage/Symphony Orchestra. These assets provide our young people with access to new experiences that will enrich their lives, provide them with support and structure to be successful. I'm proud to champion the arts and culture on Beacon Hill and I'm proud to support them at home.

ADDRESSING DISTRICT-WIDE ISSUES

Just as any other part of the state, we face many economic and social issues here in Springfield. Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving social problems? How would you use our cultural community to drive economic development in the district?

Springfield’s cultural identity is a key to the success of its economy. That’s why I worked to bring the placemaking agency Futurecity to Springfield. In the Futurecity model, arts and culture are integrated into planning and economic development efforts. I believe that every Massachusetts community should follow that model and empower its cultural communities to participate in and lead economic development projects. 

ARTS EDUCATION AND PROGRAMS FOR OUR YOUTH

Art instruction such as that at the Community Music School and Springfield Libraries increase achievement across all academic disciples 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. 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?

During the current legislative session I was one of the State House’s most vocal advocates for arts education funding in schools. I also recognize that arts education happens outside the classroom, which is why I secured funding for bilingual educational programming for children and families who visit the Dr. Seuss Museum.

THE COMMONWEALTH'S SUPPORT AND ROLE IN THE CREATIVE COMMUNITY

This year, Massachusetts invested $14 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, nearly twice what we do now. At what level would you fund the MCC?

$20 million

In FY14 and FY15, then-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. In FY16 and FY17, Governor Baker allocated $10 million to the Fund. At what level do you suggest the Commonwealth fund this program?

$15 million.

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

Yes. During the current session I worked the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to create a dedicated funding stream for the tourism economy, and I believe we should do something similar for arts and culture so essential programs are not susceptible to drastic year-to year cuts.

Do you support creation of funding for marketing and economic development efforts in MCC-designated Cultural Districts, such as the Springfield Central Cultural District?

Yes. These districts have an authenticity that makes them prime locations for economic development efforts.  And they create jobs that cannot be moved!

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 rest of New England and 22 other states have a Percent for Art Program, which establishes that 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. What will you do this session to help get the Percent for Art Program to the finish line?

Last session I sponsored an amendment to a supplemental budget that would have expanded Governor Patrick’s proposed Percent for Art program to cover the entire state. That idea garnered support in both the House and the Senate, but it was a new concept for many legislators and we were unable to override the governor’s veto. Next session, I will work to build a broader, more passionate base of legislative support for the Percent for Art program. The simplest way to get the program across the finish line is by securing a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate. We aren’t far away from achieving it.

 

For a side by side comparison of the 1st Hampden and Hampshire candidates, click here

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