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?
Living abroad with a Spanish family is probably the most culturally significant experience I have had. While in Spain, I completely had to shift my way of living to that of my host family--from the food they ate to their work schedule to their strong emphasis on the arts and culture, their norm was very different than mine. This experience provided me with a deeper appreciation for life and the diverse and unique way different communities approach it. I gained a different perspective which allowed me to notice the beauty and uniqueness of my hometown.
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.
On March 8, Saugus Public Schools held their first annual March With The Arts, an event that brought together people from across the district to celebrate the artistic achievements of Saugus students. Students produced original work and unlocked their creative potential. Artwork of various kinds - from paintings to choral performances to drama - were on display that night from kids of all ages. An eighth grade drama class put on an original play, a high school acapella group performed a polished pop medley, and the second grade Lynnhurst Elementary School chorus wowed everyone in attendance. What struck me most about the March With The Arts was that it was organized by teachers. These teachers care about their students and value their talent so much that they felt the entire community should come see what they had to offer. When I was at Wellesley I took a course on education policy that changed my life. I learned that a “quality education” is measured by more than just test scores; a quality education means empowering students by instilling a sense of value in them. Teachers are the agents of change, who are able to cultivate quality education, and spur students into success. March With The Arts is a cultural institution that I hope continues for years to come. As the State Representative of the 9th District, I will fight every day to provide the sense of value that March With The Arts brought in one night, to all students in both the 9th Essex District and statewide.
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?
Education has the ability to address the most socially and economically disadvantaged members of our community. Education can encompass a broad range of topics; especially the arts, culture and creative disciplines. Through art and culture, we can create a unique learning environment that encourages critical thinking skills and fosters a deeper understanding of different cultures. The inclusion of the creative community in academics will enhance a multitude of skills that will later be advantageous in the job market. There are countless ways to engage students and the community with the arts, through workshops and exhibitions, to foster learning and enjoyment with the arts culture. Additionally, public art improves our public spaces and makes our commercial areas more attractive. Building a vibrant art and culture scene would serve to increase foot traffic in our downtowns and bring business to these areas. Cultural events bring people to our towns, as well as foster a sense of community among our neighbors.
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?:
Unfortunately, many young Massachusetts students have not been given the opportunity to be exposed to the rich diversity found in arts education. Massachusetts offers plenty of art and culture for students to absorb and learn from, which should be encouraged and supported in our schools. This was brought to my attention as a Girls Inc. mentor, a non-profit “sisterhood of support,” organization stretching back to the Industrial Revolution. I saw that passion is not missing from young girls, but rather tools and hands-on assistance from teachers and state leaders is lacking. Thousands of young women were able to set a path of success through goal setting and bravery in the face of opposition. I would support including arts education in the state’s accountability systems, which would promote the development of strong art and culture programs in our schools and benefit all students. This year, four Massachusetts charter schools were ranked in US News & World Report’s List of US “Best High Schools,” and an elementary school in Newton Centre ranked 25th out of Best 100 Schools in US by NeighborhoodScout. It is not that Massachusetts is under performing, but progress can be made to further expand opportunities throughout the state to all students.
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?
Massachusetts is rich in diversity and culture, coupled with being the state with the best public education in the nation. If we are to maintain our place in academic excellence and the burgeoning amount of art and culture we bring from every corner of the commonwealth, from the Berkshires to Boston, the arts must be supported and prioritized. It would be worthwhile to take a fresh look at the funding now being provided to the MCC and set a plan for bolstering its funding to an acceptable level, which is not where it is at now, especially in relation to the $27 million it was allotted back in 1988. I would support a full level of funding for these programs to ensure that art and culture continue to grow throughout the Commonwealth. Governor Baker’s cuts to the budget would significantly injure the impact of art on our students and towns. Art and culture hold a pivotal role in our communities and enhance the lives of everyone from children just starting their educational careers, onwards.
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?
Percent for Art Programs are essential to creating dynamic and attractive public spaces that ultimately drive more foot traffic and economic activity in our cities and towns. I would absolutely support a Massachusetts-wide Percent for Art Program in the upcoming legislative session. The city of Cambridge has their own municipal Percent for Art Program that I believe serves as an excellent model for the rest of the state. Over 200 works of public art have been sited in Cambridge that engage the community and create a distinct sense of identity and place. I believe public art has a critical role to play in communities across the Commonwealth, and I will fight to pass a Percent for Art Program that will benefit both the 9th Essex District and the Commonwealth as a whole