Matt Wally'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?

  • Because of the positive affects the arts and culture can have on a community it is important for government to understand how the creative community can be leveraged in order to help abate social problems. In an urban city such as Worcester it is vital to ensure that any neighborhood revitalization strategy includes the creative community. Utilizing inner city public spaces as venues for public art, providing after school activities such as art and music lessons, and facilitating the painting of murals to replace bleak and barren walls are three ways in which to improve a neighborhood. Improving the aesthetics of a neighborhood, providing positive opportunities for recreation, and creating a sense of ownership for residents are three benefits the arts, culture and creative community can have in order to help diminish social problems. The creative community should be leveraged to help drive economic development in Worcester. Increasing the opportunities for artists to sell their products equates to more discretionary income spent locally. Expanding our street fairs will result in more travel and tourism dollars coming into the city. Real estate investments through the development of artist lofts, studios, galleries and maker spaces will grow the tax base. These are just a few examples of how the creative community can increase job opportunities and help drive economic development in the city. 

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

  • Although it is important for the city to have an investment in the creative community it should be recognized that due to municipal budget shortfalls the investment cannot always be monetary. In those instances when municipal funding is not easily accessible, the city needs to ensure that other investment opportunities are identified. Assistance with the permitting process, guidance with accessing federal grant opportunities, and collaboration on marketing efforts are additional avenues for Worcester to provide investment in the creative community. 

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? 

  • Through work I have been fortunate to witness firsthand the positive impact AS220 has had on the Providence, Rhode Island community. AS220 is an artist-run organization committed to providing an un-juried and uncensored forum for the arts. Credited as a national model for urban revitalization, AS220 has been recognized nationally for its catalytic role in the revitalization of downtown Providence. Offering artists opportunities to live, work, and exhibit, providing at-risk youth a venue for expression, and leveraging $25 million dollars of investments in downtown real estate, AS220 has provided me with a knowledge of how an artist-run, non- profit organization can contribute to the revitalization of an urban city. 

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 utilize the creative community to improve on ways for Worcester to engage our college students better. Worcester has always tried to increase the visibility of our students off campus. Improving transportation and providing incentives for shopping has been helpful and there are students who are currently very engaged. But improvements can be made, and I think the creative community can be leveraged in ways to assist with bringing college students off campus and more engaged with the civic life of Worcester. 

 

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