John Rogers 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?

“My 9th Grade Teacher, Ms. Michelle Eysie of South Norwood, taught a course entitled “Play Production”.  There I took the stage as “Ebenezer Scrooge” in A Christmas Carol and as the “Artful Dodger” in Oliver Twist.  The excitement and enrichment of acting as a method of teaching our fellow students and their parents in the audience the genius of Charles Dickens was an artistic, educational, cultural, and rewarding experience for all of us, players and audience alike.  In high school, I played football in the fall, I wrestled in the winter, but in the spring, rather than play baseball, I auditioned for the high school plays.  The defining moments of 9th Grade inspired me to discover Rodgers and Hammerstein and play “Captain Brackett” in South Pacific, “Vince Fontaine” in Grease, and sing and dance to Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein’s musical revue Side By Side By Sondheim.  Opening Night was always personally enriching for me when I’d peer out from backstage while the house lights were still up to see the faces of my community in the audience .  I was always heartened by the diversity of the crowd, from youth to age, those fellow citizens looking to be enriched themselves by the arts.

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.

 NORWOOD THEATER. The Norwood Theater is where I saw my first movie:  Ian Fleming’s The Man with the Golden Gun where I entranced by 007.  In my 20’s and 30’s, the old movie house transformed like a butterfly into a playhouse known as the Fiddlehead Theatre, a wonderful venue for plays and musicals.  With the coming of the new century, the old theatre needed a facelift in order to compete with other venues, and to Norwood’s dismay, the doors closed for years, leaving many of us feeling like something inside of us closed, too. Until one day, a philanthropist, whose children sang and performed there years before, decided to by the old theater, invest in it, and restore it to its 1927 majesty.  Senator Mike Rush and I sponsored a law to help the theater compete with those other venues and today Norwood Theater is the pride of the community.  Each week, crowds of up to 800 people flock into the beautiful theater to hear live bands, see movies and documentaries, find laughter through comedies and comics, and entertain young ones with family shows.  The area businesses, especially nearby restaurants, are putting more citizens to work because of the foot traffic and local income the theater generates.

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?

As a member of the Legislature’s Education Committee, I support arts education in high school as a requirement for admission to the state university system and also support a STEAM program.

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?

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?

This Response answers both of the above two questions.

As the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, I created the state budget line-item 0640-0351.

0640-0351
For the John and Abigail Adams Arts Program, as established herein, to promote innovations in the arts and humanities within the commonwealth through the disbursement of cultural economic development grants including grants for cultural activities that have the capacity to revitalize communities, stimulate income, create or enhance jobs, and attract tourism; provided, that said funds shall be administered by the Massachusetts cultural council; provided further, that the mission of grant applicants may include demonstrated scholarship or creativity in, or distinguished service to, the arts and humanities; provided, that grants may focus on seed funding for early stage planning or implementation, creation of enduring partnerships among cultural and non-cultural organizations, defined community needs or opportunities, and creation of innovative and sustainable development models that can be replicated throughout and beyond the commonwealth; provided further, that eligible applicants shall include, but not be limited to, not-for-profit organizations and public sector entities; provided further, that collaborating partners may also include private, for-profit organizations, educational institutions and state or federal agencies; provided further, that grants shall not exceed $100,000 and shall be leveraged by not less than $1 for each $1 granted; provided further, that preference shall be given to an applicant with multiple funding sources that can demonstrate project viability, community support and potential for long-term sustainability; and provided further, that 25 per cent of the amount appropriated herein shall be transferred quarterly from the State Lottery Fund to the General Fund $1,000,000

 I did this after reading the Massachusetts Constitution, especially the words written by John Adams in 1779.  Mr. Adams was always inspired by his better half, the very intelligent Abigail Adams, after whom my wife and I named our eldest daughter.  The words below are still as vibrant and alive today as when they were first written.  In fact, they are the basis for the 1992 SJC decision Hancock v. Driscoll and the 1993 Education Reform Act:

Chapter V, Section II.
The Encouragement of Literature, etc.

Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people. [See Amendments, Arts. XVIII, XLVI, XCVI and CIII.]

The line-item was later funded at $1.5 million for FY05 and FY06, but the global recession caused its elimination.  It’s time to bring it back and increase the appropriation to $5 million to generate a total of $10 million each year.

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

Online gaming at the Massachusetts State Lottery would generate $500 million annually.  The current lottery is based upon games of chance, which is a regressive way of generating money from those who can afford little to lose it.  Games of skill are a more progressive and fairer way to generate money to support arts and cultural programs statewide.  If enacted, $100 million could easily be set aside for MCC and the MCF Fund.

 

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