Kate Toomey's Response to Worcester Cultural Coalition's Questionnaire

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?

  • Integrating arts, culture and creative community into solutions to solving social problems is a critical element in providing catharsis, enabling creative thought in problem solving, and provides different perspectives to be illustrated in non- traditional ways. The more we learn about each other, the more we find we are alike. To bridge differences, one common art is music, another dance, yet another song. We see this in the many cultural celebrations we have in the city. I would love to see a world parade day, where every culture of people who are Worcester, are celebrated through song, music, dance and art. I would utilize the cultural and creative communities together by creating an International Marketplace where juried goods created by our Worcester immigrants could be sold to others looking for the familiar from their homeland. At this entity, modeled after the Boston Women’s Education and Industrial Arts Union, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Women%27s_Educational_and_Industrial_ Union) people would be provided resources to assist them in creating their own business and eventually become self-sustaining. 

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

  • We will need to identify new opportunities to create revenue streams to support our investment in the creative community. Perhaps we could add an arts fee to new building projects for public art. Worcester is fortunate to have just received the generous philanthropy of the McDonough Family Foundation in the gift of over $15 million to several of our world class cultural institutions. That philanthropy was not out of the blue. We need to find ways to encourage growth of wealth in our community to be able to see that type of giving, both financially and through deed. We need to embrace new methods of raising funds for arts and culture by utilizing things like crowdfunding, (e.g. GoFundMe). We could establish an urban enhancement public trust fund, soliciting support from our residents and businesses. 

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? 

  • First, I was an art major in college. I taught art in the Boston Public Schools and was also an art therapist, mainstreaming 766 students into a regular education classroom in a high school. My children attended Worcester Arts Magnet School and stayed in the Arts Magnet program through Burncoat Middle and Burncoat High School. I believe in Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, where learning is enhanced: visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic and logical/mathematical. Everyone learns differently and I know that arts enable healing and assist in highlighting and solving complex problems. Second, When I was told a student I had requested be in a gifted program in an elementary gifted art class could not be in it because they were in special needs classes (the child had had trauma from a fire in her home and she became non-communicative.) I appealed to the principal and won. Before the end of the year, the student had begun to open up and talk and was able to make remarkable progress in her classes to enable her to be reintegrated into the regular classroom. Third, growing up third-generation Irish in Boston in the ’70s, my exposure to my heritage was the parade in Southie, which we didn’t go to very often. It wasn’t until I became an adult and was raising my children in Worcester that I had an appreciation for all that my heritage had to offer. But it was in listening to Irish music — in particular, Phil Coulter’s album “Highland Cathedral” and the song, “The Gathering-Bealtaine” — that I truly understood it is the call of the drums that lies within each of us, no matter where we come from. 

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?  

  • I would continue to engage people like Michelle May, and others like her and encourage them to come forward with their ideas about getting the word out about how rich and deep the arts make our city. All of the folks who put together the cultural celebrations, the Start on the Street Group, the Symphony, etc., put so much of themselves out there. Social media is one way that we can encourage attending events, but I would love to see our residents support as much as they can. Even in our schools there is absolutely amazing art happening - theatre, music, dance, displays, even with robots! I love the opportunities out there we have yet to touch. There was an annual boat parade on Lake Quinsigamond, and I would love to see the colleges and neighborhood organizations participate. There were themes and this year the theme was cartoon characters, and it was truly amazing to see people turn watercraft into art! I would love to incorporate successes of other cities, like doing an ice sculpture display downtown, or have beach day on the common and bring in sand and have a sand sculpture contest; have a human chess game on the back portico of City Hall; have people design flower gardens representing each neighborhood of the city and planted in Elm Park. I could go on, but perhaps the best thing would be to have people do it from the bottom up instead of government telling them to do it. 
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