Kathleen O'Connor Ives Response

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?  

The historical preservation of the cultural heritage that exists throughout the Commonwealth has been an interest of mine long before I became State Senator. Massachusetts has a rich cultural history set in the very foundation of the country. Many of the historic homes and structures across the state provide a direct link to our beginnings and mark some of the greatest achievements of the Commonwealth. Not surprisingly, these cultural assets are some of the largest attractions in our state. I am proud of the efforts Massachusetts has taken to preserve those assets, and look forward to every opportunity I have to build upon those efforts in the future.


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.

I have had the opportunity to aide in the creation of two local cultural districts in the First Essex Senate District, one in Newburyport and another in Haverhill. In both cases, the cultural district has served as creative hubs in the community, allowing for increased attention towards and promotion of the local cultural offerings and a boost to the creative economy.


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?

The first step to expand arts education is to ensure our schools are receiving enough funds to run quality programs for both traditional academic courses, as well as artistic programs. I have worked hard to increase Chapter 70 funds and reduce financial burdens on school districts. With access to adequate state assistance, school districts will have the ability to restore cuts to their art programming. Before we mandate one year of high school arts education for admission to our state university system, we must work to ensure the funding is available to our local communities to provide art instruction. This funding should be a priority because art education is a valuable learning opportunity for students. Incorporating the arts in the Commonwealth’s STEM program is a laudable goal because exposure to the arts should make part of a well-­‐‑rounded education, alongside math, science and technology.


Economic Development

 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?  

Through the many hearings I conducted across the state as the Senate Chair on the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development, it became clear that the creative industry is an economic driver in the state. While the tourism industry is the third largest industry in the Commonwealth, historical, cultural, and artistic offerings make up some of the largest attractions for tourists. We as legislators must identify and remove regulatory or other obstacles which may hinder artists, non-­‐‑ profits and cultural organizations from starting and growing their businesses or thriving in the community, as well as help facilitate connections between stakeholders focused on downtown revitalization and other civic goals, and artists seeking opportunities to participate in the creative economy.


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?  

Art is often an underutilized tool that can effectively help encourage resolutions for some practical problems the state faces. For instance, organizations in cities across the state are using creative, community-­‐‑based projects to help deter youth gang involvement and increase public safety. Cultural Facilities grant funds have the opportunity to provide construction work or jobs within the creative industry for the long term unemployed. One organization in my district that works with individuals with developmental and physical disabilities recently enhanced their programming with an art-­‐‑based therapy program aimed at increasing participants’ communication skills. Programs like these, working in participation with more traditional problem-­‐‑solving techniques, enable organizations to utilize creative alternatives to approaching long-­‐‑standing issues in the state.


The Commonwealths 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?  

 In the Fiscal Year 2015 Senate budget, I worked  to reverse the downward trend of funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and was the lead sponsor of the amendment to secure a $12 million allocation that was included in the Legislature’s final budget. I look forward to continuing the momentum to further increase the investment to this important agency in the FY16 budget.

•     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?

Generally, funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund should be increased because demand far outstrips available funds for important project work throughout the state that would help many local economies. I will advocate for additional resources so more grants may be awarded in the future.

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

Over the last year I co-­‐‑chaired the Legislature’s Tourism Fund Commission, which recommended that the Legislature revise the tourism funding formula to more efficiently allocate these important funds. Fortunately, the Legislature adopted our recommendations. As a result, the Legislature created the Massachusetts Tourism Trust Fund, which allocates a significant amount of money to regional tourism councils for the purpose of promoting programs and events, including artistic and cultural offerings.


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