Ted Phillips' Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

1. 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?

My formative years at Sharon High School were spent as a member of the Sharon High Drama Club, as well as being in the High School Choir, Show Choir, and Tenor-Bass Choir. I wouldn’t be where I am in politics were it not for the lessons learned in these programs and the friendships made because of them. They helped me find my voice and provided a strong support system on which I could rely. Sharon has always been extremely supportive of its arts programs, which I feel contributes to its desirability as a place to live.

2. Arts & Culture in Your District

Our district is home to a rich mix of arts and cultural organizations. Please provide us with a story about the impact of a local arts or cultural institution in our district.

I’m a big fan of the Mansfield Music & Arts Society. Under Ken Butler’s leadership, they’ve become a strong regional institution that has greatly contributed to the ongoing economic development of Downtown Mansfield, and have even branched out to hosting a Farmer’s Market and partnering with outdoor enthusiasts on their new property near the Xfinity Center. They have been, and will continue to be, a strong and positive presence in Mansfield and the surrounding area. In 2010, I was proud to facilitate an MMAS performance of the musical ‘1776’ in the House of Representatives Chamber at the State House in Boston, which I feel was great opportunity to showcase the unbelievable amount of talent that we have to share right here in the Bristol & Norfolk District.

3. 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?

Studies have shown that a strong arts scene has a direct effect on thriving downtowns; just this week, an Americans for the Arts study released this week showed that the arts scene in the town of Medfield provided the equivalent of 125 full-time jobs in 2016 and created $3.1 million for the local economy! That tells me that some of these projects should qualify for more grant programs through the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development as we try to replicate successes like Medfield throughout other downtowns across the district. As far as solving social problems, the Norfolk County District Attorney’s office and some of our school systems have had great success in enlisting theater-based programs to come into schools and tackle challenging issues like bullying with younger students (middle & elementary age); I support programs like that which can engage our youth to discuss these problems before certain negative behaviors or patterns become ingrained in our kids.

4. Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Art instruction should be a critical part of education across all academic disciplines as it develops the whole child. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has pledged to update the Commonwealth’s arts education curriculum as well as report on access and participation in arts education in schools in districts. How will you support arts education in the Commonwealth’s schools?

As discussed in the first question, I am the product of a strong arts background in our schools and can attest to their impact, and I look forward to seeing DESE’s proposal to update the arts curriculum and their adjoining report. I will not, however, entertain any recommendations to cut back on these programs in any way, and will work with our schools to provide as many resources as the Commonwealth can to ensure their continued growth.

5. The Commonwealth’s Support and Role in the Creative Community

In Fiscal Year 2017, the Massachusetts Legislature invested $14 million in organizational support through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) for the creative community, ranking it eighth in the country in per capita spending. In 1988, the Massachusetts Cultural Council gave out more than $27 million in grants, nearly twice what we do now. At what level would you fund the MCC?

We find ourselves at a very difficult point fiscally; weak revenue growth leaves us waiting to see what the FY18 Budget Conference Committee will propose as a compromise between the House and Senate to send to Governor Baker. Were I serving as Senator during Senate budget deliberations, I would have signed on to MASSCreative’s efforts to fund the MCC at $16.5 million dollars for FY18, a $2.5 million increase. It is my fervent hope that through modest increases each year, we can eventually get back to funding the MCC at 1988 levels; in the meantime, I think we should be getting creative by opening up more grant programs, like those in economic development, for arts programs to qualify for funding.

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