Christine Barber Response

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?

I played the piano as a child and stuck with it through college. I loved the feeling and emotions that music could translate for me. However, it was a pretty solitary pursuit and I was never comfortable sharing music with many others. In my adulthood, I have found that music, as a live and communal event, can bring people together. It can make an event fun, welcoming, sad, political, emotional or playful. During performances at HONK and ArtBeat and El Sistema in Somerville, the music brings people together in way that I’ve seen at few other community events. It’s what makes us a community - it’s diverse and strange and interesting, and allows for different kinds of people to live together. It’s us at our best.  

Arts & 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.

My district consists of areas of Medford and Somerville. And while Somerville has an immense and diverse arts scene that many cannot imagine life without, Medford’s may be more critical. Medford has been trying to re-energize the Arts Council and arts community at the same time as working re-energize parts of Medford’s community and economy. In particular, Medford Square has become a place that few see as a destination or have a reason to visit, but local arts organizations are working to change that. CACHE in Medford (Coalition for Arts, Culture and a Healthy Economy) started organizing “Circle the Square” arts events every summer month in Medford Square a few years ago. They have grown to become well-known, widely visited, not-to-be-missed events. They bring together other groups, like the Arts Council, Historical Society and Chevalier Theatre and Organ Society. These events bring people to the Square, help people meet other community members, help struggling local businesses and encourage participation in arts events like singing karaoke or creating paper flowers. These have become defining events for Medford over the past few years to help build community.

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?

My communities of Somerville and Medford are already great examples of using arts and cultural organizations to build the local economy. In Somerville, much of our ‘tourism’ is due to arts events, from ArtBeat to the IFFBoston to the Evolution of Hip Hop festival. In Medford, as I mentioned, local groups are attempting to rebuild Medford Square with arts at its very center. This builds community and helps us to get to know one another and our different cultures.

On a social level, two amazing arts programs at Medford schools exemplified helping children learn through the arts. Both mural projects, one at Andrews Middle School depicting the landscape and wildlife of the Mystic River, and one at the Roberts Elementary School depicting flags and images from all of the different countries students come from. Both group projects helped the students understand complex issues and created beautiful lasting artwork that is a permanent part of the community.  

Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Art instruction increases achievement across all academic disciples and develops the whole child. While many communities have access to quality arts education, many youth are still being left out of the creative community. Changes in federal law under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers Massachusetts an opportunity to include arts education in the restructuring of the Commonwealth’s accountability and assistance systems for schools and districts. Do you support including assessments based on student access, participation, and proficiency in arts learning and creative learning experiences in these new accountability frameworks?

As a strong supporter of arts in schools, I know that increased in testing in certain areas has created a challenge to get arts into the classroom. I support greater accountability for school districts to ensure that all children have an arts education. However, I would not like to see this measured through high-stakes standardized tests, which are biased and often punish those districts with the fewest resources. Rather, I support a broader measure of various metrics in holding schools accountable for a diverse mix of creative options.

The Commonwealth’s Support and Role in the Creative Community

This year, the Massachusetts Legislature invested $14 million in organizational support through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) for the creative community, ranking it ninth in the country. This provided level support for the creative community and overturned a 55% cut in funding by Governor Baker. In 1988, the MCC gave out more than $27 million in grants, nearly twice what we do now. At what level would you fund the MCC?

In FY17, I supported an amendment to raise the MCC budget to $15 million in the House, which unfortunately was not successful. However, we were able to hold the line on lowering funding, and I encouraged the Conference Committee to accept the Senate’s budget amount for MCC. I agree that we need more funding for the arts in general, and MCC in particular. A number of important projects and artists in my district have received funding from MCC. However, with limited resources available, it becomes more difficult to support increases in arts funding. I support both the Fair Share Amendment to raise revenue for education and transportation (and hopefully take some of the budgetary strain off of the arts) and additional measures to increase revenue through closing corporate tax loopholes to raise the revenue we need to fund programs we care about.

Percent for Public Art

Public art helps build vibrant and connected neighborhoods and the arts community plays a vital role in the development of cities and towns. The other 5 New England states and an additional 22 have a Percent for Art Program, which establishes that design and public art will be an integral piece of all new state construction. Last November, Gov. Baker vetoed the Percent for Art Program after it garnered support from the Legislature in two separate votes last session, once in the state budget, and then in an amended version. Will you support the Percent for Art Program next session?

I will. The Percent for Art program works well in other states to help develop public art. The cancellation of the arts for the Green Line Extension in my district was blow to the public interest and excitement about the project. The planned arts projects played a role in the long-term community centers that the T stops will become. Given the current Administration’s disinterest in these programs, it may be politically challenging. However, I am happy to support a movement to increase public arts through the Percent for Art program.

Do you like this page?

Community Impact

The Drama Studio is one of a handful of youth theatres in the United States that offers quality, range, and depth in its acting training programs. For Springfield-area youth, the Studio's conservatory program offers an unusual opportunity for training that prepares its graduates (all of whom are college bound) to...