Joseph Petty's Response to Worcester Cultural Coalition's Questionnaire

Arts instruction increases achievement across all disciplines and develops the whole child. What will you do as a School Committee member to champion arts education for our youth both in our schools and communities? How will you balance the importance of arts education with the constant pull to teach to the test?

  • I have been an advocate for STEAM training since becoming mayor and will continue to advocate for more arts and music in our schools. Our budgets are set almost entirely by the state, and the Legislature is currently working through crafting a new foundation budget, which will make for a more equitable formula for education funding. Ultimately, we need to make it a priority on both the local level and the state level to make sure that arts instruction and enrichment are properly funded. 

The start of a mayor’s tenure often sets the tone of the City Council priorities. When elected, what actions will you take in your first 100 days to provide support and resources for the creative community? 

  • I have enjoyed watching the murals go up downtown and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We need to allow more public art. Making sure that we are putting in place policies that make it easier for artists, festivals, and the creative community to program our parks and public spaces, beautify our city, and for residents to enjoy it. We need to make sure that when we discuss marketing our city that we are talking about all the opportunities that our museums and theaters create. 

Just as any other city, Worcester faces many economic and social issues. Can you provide examples as to how you would integrate the arts, culture and creative community in solving social problems? How would you use the creative community to drive economic development in the city?

  • The creative community needs to be engaged when it comes to addressing the issues of gang violence and school programming. After the two years of successfully keeping kids engaged over the summer months, with Wheels to Water and most recently with Recreation Worcester, we are seeing the positive result of keeping students involved and busy during the summer months. I would like to see further expansion of this programming and increasing the engagement of creative opportunities for students in our parks. The creative and craft economy is burgeoning here in Worcester and it needs to be encouraged. I am pleased to see Worcester Wares finally open at the DCU Center, and this will help activate that edge of the building. But further I would like to see our creative and craft economy working more closely with our high school students and schools. The skills that our students are acquiring at Worcester Tech and many of our other high schools, directly translate to these sectors. Just as a student learning to solder and weld could be a helpful apprentice in artistic ventures. Likewise, with the printing facilities at Worcester Tech,
    I would like to see more artists using that valuable and affordable option for all their printing needs.

What revenue sources will you create or use to increase the city’s investment in the creative community?

  • One of the things that will come out of the final sale of the courthouse is $250,000 for our small business associations to apply for micro-grants for things like block parties, neighborhood gatherings, and programming. I would like to see those business associations apply for funds for commissioning public art works. Further, we need to allow for greater access of city parks and facilities to see what sort of events our creative economy can come up with. I would like to see the Mullaney Plaza and the amphitheater at Columbus Park used for concerts and even stage productions, and the city should subsidize these productions. 

We’ve all had defining moments in our lives. What personal experience with arts, culture and creativity has had an impact on your life and your view of the community?

  • As the mayor, I have been so pleased to see the profile of our city’s creative community rise, most recently with the donation of the McDonough Foundation, and seeing those stories appear in Boston and New York papers has made me so proud. I remember being in the car and hearing a story on NPR about the samurai exhibit at the art museum and I was so pleased to hear the great work of our institutions getting the recognition they deserve.

Worcester is being touted as a creative city with public art, festivals and dozens of cultural organizations. Through the WOOcard program, the Worcester Cultural Coalition is trying to brand Worcester as being creative and to leverage the strength of our members to attract more residents, college students, and visitors. How would you utilize the creative community to make Worcester a great place to live, learn, work and play? 

  • Working with City Manager (Ed) Augustus, we have been able to create a new understanding and appreciation for both programming and place-making here in Worcester. Beautifying a city, making it more walkable and accessible, putting up murals and improving streetscaping and planting trees, all contribute to making our city into the one that will attract and retain visitors, businesses, and residents. 

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