Christine Barber 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?

One of my favorite weekends each year is Somerville Open Studios. Hundreds of artists from all over the city open their homes and work spaces to display their work and give the community a window into how they make art. This event has opened my eyes to the amazing, diverse, and large arts community here in Somerville. It has given me the ability to buy local art, visit artists each year to see their work evolve, and meet other members of the community. It is one of the activities in Somerville that makes us a community. 


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.

Both Somerville and Medford have successful Arts Councils that are doing incredible work in bringing arts to our communities. I have worked more closely with the Somerville Arts Council, which sponsors events such as ArtBeat and Porchfest – events that bring members of our diverse community out to enjoy and learn about each other and the local artists in our communities. I recently attended Riverfest, an annual celebration on the Mystic River that involves local artists selling their art, local musicians performing, and children creating their own art on the sidewalks. Organizing these kinds of community events make art real to us and help to build our communities. 


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?

I strongly support arts education in schools. Music was a large part of my education and I know that it improved my overall learning and lead to my appreciation of arts later in life. There is currently an over-reliance on standardized testing and one way of learning. Children thrive when they are exposed to the arts, and our communities will suffer if we fail to teach literature, music, poetry, and graphic arts in schools. I will support greater arts education, including making arts a requirement to basic education programming. 


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?

Our Commonwealth’s creative economy is a linchpin of the state. For the Somerville and Medford communities, arts are an absolutely vital component of our lives, and well as major force in our economy. Policy to support arts and culture should not be siloed, but rather integrated throughout the policy process.

Yet state investment in this area is down 60% over the past 25 years. As a Representative, I would join the State House Cultural Caucus so I can work in coalition with other representatives on these issues.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council has been hobbled by inadequate budget allocations for years. I support increasing the state’s investment in the MCC. 


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?

Our creative economy may be able to find answers to social and economic issues that have not been addressed.  As stated above, I do not think that arts and culture should be siloed, but rather integrated into other sectors of public life. For example, the Green Line extension in my district has an Integrated Art Program to allow artists the opportunity to help in the design phase of the project. This can lead to better accessibility, safety, and inclusion for this critical transportation project in our communities.

I strongly support integrating arts into other areas. As a health care advocate, I know that art can strengthen communities and promote public health campaigns. We need to utilize and fund arts and culture organizations and recognize them as a vital part of our communities. 


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?

I would support greater funding for MCC. I know MassCreative advocated for $16m, and I would support that amount or more in future years.

  • 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?

I am proud that Governor Patrick allocated this funding to facilities, many of which are in desperate need of repair. I would advocate for this level of funding to continue in the future.

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

Yes, I would support and work with other legislators to create a sustainable revenue stream to help stabilize and enhance arts funding in our communities.  

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