Mike Berry's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

1. 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?

From an early age, I had a keen interest in movies, comedy and acting in general. In the 6th grade, I tried out for the Johnson Middle School version of “Godspell” and won a role. At various times after that, I continued to participate in the school drama club, including productions of “Our Town” and “Grease.” Having also been an athlete, participating in these activities helped me broaden my horizons and help others young teens realize that people from all walks of life can participate directly in the arts.

Having had this experience, I want to make sure all students and youngsters are exposed to all that is out there – be it in art, theater or music.

2. Arts & Culture in Your District

Our district is home to a rich mix of arts and cultural organizations. Please provide us with a story about the impact of a local arts or cultural institution in our district.

The Bristol & Norfolk District is unique in that nearly all of our downtowns have a layout that encourages social gatherings and cultural events. Over the past several years, this feature has allowed the development of farmer’s markets, concerts, theatrical performances, memorial services and holiday celebrations. These activities bring people together and help strengthen the fabric of our communities. And with successful events, more events are surely to follow with new and innovative ideas from area residents stepping forth to weave in new threads in our cities and towns.

3. 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?

By law, Massachusetts cities and towns are allotted funds for local cultural councils. Having been both a municipal official in the Town of Walpole as well as a municipal employee in the City of Marlborough, I have seen firsthand how Cultural Council’s can lead a community’s efforts to support new endeavors that enrich the community in differencing ways. I think LCC’s should feel empowered to think outside the box and identify new areas to direct their resources. As State Senator, my job will be to continue to ensure the state lives up to its obligations to ensure that a steady stream of funding is available annually.

4. Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Art instruction should be a critical part of education across all academic disciples as it develops the whole child. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has pledged to update the Commonwealth’s arts education curriculum as well as report on access and participation in arts education in schools in districts. How will you support arts education in the Commonwealth’s schools?

In general, the Commonwealth needs to do a better job in addressing how it intends to have our children exposed to the arts, music, and physical fitness. I was fortunate to grow up in Walpole at a time when students received enough exposure in each of those areas. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how much I wish I had more opportunities to pursue those activities. I will seek more input from arts and music educators as they are the ones whose advice is most important to this discussion.

 5. The Commonwealth’s Support and Role in the Creative Community

In Fiscal Year 2017, the Massachusetts Legislature invested $14 million in organizational support through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) for the creative community, ranking it eighth in the country in per capita spending. In 1988, the Massachusetts Cultural Council gave out more than $27 million in grants, nearly twice what we do now. At what level would you fund the MCC?

Provided there are some needed reforms put forth in the state budget (particularly in the area of MassHealth), I believe it is entirely realistic to pursue an increase of $1M for FY19. 

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